Government Job Profile: Curriculum Specialist
Sometimes school teachers feel like they are on an island. They may have a few other teachers on their campuses who teach the same subjects or a campus department head, but for most of the day, they stand alone at the front of classrooms.
Curriculum specialists support teachers by providing the foundation materials for courses and giving constructive feedback on how teachers are implementing those materials.
Sometimes curriculum specialists are called instructional coordinators.
The Selection Process
Curriculum specialists are hired using the normal government hiring process. Depending on the size of the school district, they are selected by the director of curriculum and instruction or an assistant superintendent.
Education and Experience
Curriculum specialist positions often require a master’s degree, preferably in education. Some districts only require a bachelor’s degree. A teaching certificate issued by the state government is almost always required. Some districts require a state-issued education administrator certificate as well.
Districts require curriculum specialists to have significant teaching experience because part of the job requires evaluating teacher performance using observation and data analysis. Teachers are more open to constructive criticism from someone who has years of experience in the classroom than someone with a predominantly theoretical understanding of the profession.
A district may divide their curriculum specialist positions by grade level or subject, so the district may require curriculum specialists to have experience in the grade levels or subjects they cover. Such divisions are more prevalent in large districts than in small ones.
Curriculum Specialist Duties
Curriculum specialists select textbooks and other instructional materials for district-wide implementation.
This helps teachers immensely. Textbooks and other instructional materials provide a foundation for teachers to build their lesson plans. Curriculum specialists set expectations for which parts of the curriculum must be covered within the school year. Teachers use their professional expertise and knowledge of their students to pace the instruction over the year for maximum learning opportunity.
While curriculum specialists select the materials, they do not do so in a vacuum. Many districts get teachers to volunteer on committees that review curriculum options. These committees make recommendations on which curricula to select for particular courses. The curriculum specialist often facilitates committee meetings and has significant influence within the group.
There is always a new trend in education. Seasoned teachers will attest to this. Many get tired of reworking their lesson plans to accommodate new teaching philosophies that are often repackaged philosophies from a few decades earlier. Curriculum specialists stay abreast of trends in instructional methods. When they attempt to implement new ones, they must be cognizant of the almost certain resistance to change.
As new technologies emerge, curriculum specialists learn about them and think of ways to effectively incorporate them into classroom instruction.
As with the general adult population, individuals have varied levels of familiarity and comfort with new technology. Curriculum specialists assist teachers in incorporating new technologies into their lessons.
In any job, professionals need feedback to improve their performance. We all have blind spots that no matter how self-aware we are. Curriculum specialists provide feedback to teachers based on individual observation and student performance data.
In individual observation, curriculum specialists watch teachers deliver a lesson. They take notes during the lesson. After they turn their notes into constructive feedback, curriculum specialists meet with teachers to deliver the feedback. This feedback is also shared with the teacher’s supervisor who may be a subject matter department head, assistant principal or principal.
When curriculum specialists analyze student performance data, they share their analyses with teachers. Teachers with high-performing students may be able to give teachers with low-performing students advice on how to better teach those students. Sometimes students are placed in groups with similar educational performance, so teachers may just be stuck with students who are not going to measure up to others when teachers’ classes are lumped together in the aggregate and compared.
Curriculum specialists also use data to monitor district performance in meeting externally imposed standards. These standards can come from the federal government, state government or respected educational organizations that publish recommended standards.
Grants help districts fund operations or special projects. Curriculum specialists may write grant proposals related to curriculum and instructional matters, ensure their districts follow through with grant requirements, and write documents as required by grant stipulations.
Curriculum specialists generally work year-round unlike teachers who often have summers off. Summers can give curriculum specialists a temporary reprieve from individual observation of teachers so they can focus on their other duties.
According to PayScale data, the average salary for curriculum specialists is $54,343 (as of 2017). The top 10% of curriculum specialists can earn more than $70,000. The bottom 10% earn around $39,000. On average, curriculum specialists make the most in elementary and secondary schools.