Our thanks to Lisette Partelow, Director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at Center for American Progress for presenting on this week’s The Intersection: A Biweekly Education Policy Conversation. Lisette joined us to discuss her recent report Curriculum Reform in the Nation’s Largest School Districts which presents research on curriculum and instructional materials used by the 30 largest districts in the United States. The report provides strong evidence that choosing these materials wisely can be a cost-effective lever for states and districts seeking to improve academic achievement.
Importance of Curriculum | Curricula and instructional materials are central to academic success. One study of textbook adoption found a correlation between adopting effective textbooks for math and increased student achievement of 0.1 standard deviation; this gain equates to the difference between having an experienced rather than a novice teacher. Therefore, choosing these materials wisely can be a cost-effective lever for states and districts seeking to improve academic achievement. Despite their importance, this study found that the majority of large districts were not adopting or recommending highly-rate curricula or instructional materials.
Lack of Transparency| Only 19 of the nation’s 30 largest districts post information about their adopted or recommended instructional materials online. Thirteen of the nation’s largest districts do not provide any information about their curriculum adoption process online. It is likely that this overstates the proportion of all districts that report information online about curriculum since larger districts tend to have more robust online platforms. Increasing the availability and transparency of this information will enable further research and awareness.
Teacher Engagement in Adoption Decisions | The four large districts that were using highly-rated instructional materials (Shelby County, TN; Duval County, FL; Wake County, NC; and Jefferson County, KY) deliberately engaged teachers as part of the adoption process. The report provides a deep dive into the adoption process for a couple of these districts to identify differences in the approach.
“High-quality” may be defined differently, depending on local context | Different populations will require different instructional materials to be effective. Localities with large populations of English language learners, for example, will require instructional materials that are appropriate for this population. Currently, there are only a few publically-available ratings of instructional materials, which limits the study’s ability to get the best possible snapshot of current adoption practices.
For more on our conversation with Lisette, check out the full webinar below!
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