Your Guide to a Successful Curriculum Implementation

Savvas Insights Team


In this blog post, the Savvas Educational Consulting Leadership Team shares their expertise and experience on how to implement a successful curriculum that leads to improved student outcomes and leads to sustainable change. This is the second blog in our Making Your Curriculum Last series.

Now that you’ve adopted a new curriculum, it’s time to begin implementing it throughout your district. You can maximize your investment and inspire confidence that the new program will be successful by thoroughly planning for every part of this process. In this blog post, our Savvas Educational Consulting Leadership Team offers some best practices based on research and their own experience as educators and leaders and in partnering with school districts to successfully roll out a new curriculum.

Bring the Right People to the Table

A successful implementation is done in partnership with all stakeholders in the district, including administrators, teachers, parents and caregivers, and students. When everyone feels heard and respected, your curriculum has the greatest chance to succeed. In order to to ensure that all the right people in the school community are informed and have a voice in the implementation of a new curriculum, the Savvas educational consulting leadership team recommends taking the following steps:

  • Collaborate with teachers about how this new program will support their teaching practices. Show the value of each step in each part of the program, how it all fits together and, most importantly, how it affects student outcomes.
  • Assess your staff’s strengths to identify the areas where the new curriculum can have the most impact in supporting and affirming teachers. It’s important to remember that a new curriculum isn’t an entire transformation of the teaching model. It’s about taking what teachers already know and giving them additional tools to take that expertise to the next level.
  • Establish a focus group of parents and caregivers so they understand the implementation process. This can include holding virtual and/or in-person sessions so they know what to expect and how they can enrich the student experience outside of school.
  • Empower student stakeholders to understand how this curriculum will differ from the previous program and how it will support their learning journey.
  • Create a safe environment that values and solicits feedback from both teachers and students to build trust between groups.
“Year one, everybody starts at the same place, but everybody doesn't move at the same pace.”

Phase the Implementation

Research indicates that a new curriculum should be implemented over a three- to five-year schedule. Creating an intentional plan around phased implementation gives teachers time to get familiar with the program and allows them to adjust incrementally, rather than all at once. It will also help administrators identify and address any opportunities for grwoth that arise during the implementation process, without disrupting the entire district’s roll out. When planning out how you want to phase the implementation of your new program, you should keep the following ideas in mind

  • Align your district’s strategic plan with instructional priorities to put the curriculum in context. Communicating how the curriculum connects with priorities will help teachers feel like the curriculum is being done with them instead of to them.
  • Encourage collaboration so teachers can share experiences, insights, and best practices along the way.
  • Identify desired outcomes for each year of implementation, understanding that year one goals will differ from year two and beyond.
  • Be prepared for the “dip,” where implementation might run into unexpected challenges. Working with a third-party partner that understands when teachers and leaders commonly experience this phase can help you see past the challenge and focus on actions that keep you moving toward your goals.
“A successful implementation is driven by intentionality and begins with the end in mind.”

Provide Professional Learning Opportunities

Make sure all leaders and teachers not only understand the curriculum and their role in implementing it, but also have continuous support as they move through the implementation process. Start by learning each educator’s zone of proximal development (ZPD), or how much they can learn without help versus what they can learn with guidance and encouragement. Knowing their ZPD will help you tailor professional learning in a way that honors the way each teacher teaches and leverages their strengths.

If you can create a professional learning plan that acknowledges each teacher’s ZPD you’ll be able to ensure that both new and experienced teachers get the professional learning experiences they need to be successful.

Here are some other ideas that will help support everyone involved in the new curriculum rollout from the very first training and throughout the school year:

  • Prioritize and protect time for professional learning in all phases of the implementation.
  • Initiate curriculum guides to establish a common pacing and language around how the curriculum will be rolled out.
  • Identify champions, such as teachers, coaches and grade level leaders, to speak positively about the curriculum to their peers and colleagues.
  • Make sure school leaders are included in professional learning since they are responsible for the day-to-day implementation of your new program.

Dig Into the Data

Data most likely inspired your district to seek out a new curriculum. Now that data can help you successfully implement your new program and monitor its progress. Teachers, students, and parents can use data to understand how students are adapting to the new curriculum, while district leaders can extract trends to understand the overall success throughout the rollout.

When teachers can see tangible outcomes for their students, it can help inspire them to keep moving past any challenges they encounter to keep going. Data can also indicate where your implementation strategy might need to be adjusted to ensure success. Use the below tips to make sure all stakeholders understand the importance of data and how to use it throughout the implementation process:

  • Clearly message how data will drive implementation so teachers understand how it will be used to support their efforts. It’s critical that teachers know the data will not be used to criticize their methods, but to champion their progress.
  • Include quantitative and qualitative data to gather evidence and monitor progress. For example, analyzing student work using examples of work from students who are highly proficient can better help you understand outcomes beyond standardized test scores.
  • Launch focus groups to collect evidence from students, teachers, and parents about the curriculum’s impact on student learning.
  • Share feedback and offer time for reflection to make sure educators can analyze outcomes together. Ask your teachers: How did this align to their existing practices? What connections were they able to make? What were their misconceptions? Where were the challenges? And how did those change throughout implementation?
  • Use data to guide next steps within your implementation. For example, the data might show that teachers need additional professional development as the next phase in your implementation journey.
“Data drives and informs every step of what should happen in a classroom.”

Give It Time

Implementing a new curriculum is not an overnight or even a one-year process. It can take up to five years to both initiate and sustain this kind of change in your classrooms. Some teachers will quickly embrace this new program, while others will need more time to build enthusiasm. As new teachers and students continually join your organization, they will also need time to familiarize themselves with the curriculum.

In addition, different educators will need varying professional learning at different stages of implementation. Consider how you continually support educators who have been working with the curriculum for a full year versus a teacher new to the program who needs to learn the curriculum from the ground up to differentiate professional learning that's meaningful and powerful for all educators.

Following these recommendations will help your district successfully implement a new curriculum that will serve your students and positively impact the learning experience for years to come.


Meet the Savvas Educational Consulting Leadership Team

Allison is an educational consulting manager who is responsible for the operational management and quality assurance of consulting services across a region spanning 18 states. She has a background in supporting implementation of successful instructional frameworks both domestically and internationally for over 15 years.

Amber is a Savvas Partnership Plus manager who oversees consultants serving districts as long-term partners (12+ months) as they foster change in teaching and learning through Savvas curriculum implementation support, professional learning, and instructional coaching. She has a 15-year background in education.

Heather is an educational consulting manager for the New England, New York, Liberty, and Mid-Atlantic markets. She has over 27 years of diverse experience at the classroom, building, district, collegiate, national, and international level.

Hershene is an educational consulting manager who works with schools and districts around the Southeast, Florida, Southwest, and Tennessee Valley Regions providing support in the implementation of various core curriculum and intervention programs. She has more than 20 years in education.

La Keshia is an educational consulting manager who has an array of experience in public schools as well as the publishing and assessment sectors of K-12 education. She has served as a district administrator in Detroit Public Schools, supporting school turnaround and in the Office of Innovation.

Lee Anne is the Savvas vice president, educational consulting responsible for leading our team of education consultants that support our national and international partnerships. She has been in education for twenty-two years and brings her passion for serving all students through a differentiated and strengths-based approach to this role.