EdReports to Look at Curricula’s Capacity for Remote Learning

By Sarah Schwartz — June 25, 2020 2 min read
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EdReports, known for its curriculum reviews that evaluate materials against the Common Core State Standards, has started to offer a new resource: a rundown of these curricula’s capabilities for remote learning.

The organization plans to update every set of materials that it has rated as standards-aligned with new information about how students and teachers can use the materials when buildings are closed: whether lessons are available online, for example, or whether assignments are designed so that students can work independently.

Also included are notes on materials’ technological capabilities, like accessibility features for students with disabilities, compatibility with different systems and browsers, and data security and privacy.

The new resource is designed to give schools a better understanding of the capabilities of curricula they’re already using, and to help districts that are going through curriculum adoption select materials that teachers can use in fully remote or hybrid environments, said Courtney Allison, EdReports’ chief academic officer.

Survey data from the Education Week Research Center suggests that schools and teachers have been picking up new resources during the school shutdowns.

In responses collected in June, 40 percent of principals and district leaders said that a major focus of professional development over the past four months has been helping teachers implement new curricula or instructional tools.

EdReports posted the first set of these updated reviews today. The rest will be released through the summer and fall, Allison said.

While EdReports reviews have previously included some basic information about compatibility and functionality, this is the first time that extensive usability notes will be available for materials through the site, Allison said.

Descriptive, Not Evaluative

The reports look at whether students can use materials online, but also whether a curriculum would work in a blended learning environment, or in schools that are doing distance learning with paper-and-pencil packets. The questionnaire also asks about integrated supports for parents and teachers, and technical supports.

For each feature, publishers have to indicate whether it’s included in the core product, or if it’s in development. They can also say that it’s available with “dependencies"—districts might need to make a supplemental purchase, or access the feature through external links.

But EdReports isn’t planning to rank materials based on how many of these boxes they check off. Allison was clear that this new usability information is meant to be “descriptive and not evaluative.”

In part, she said, this is because there’s so much variety in how the same feature might work differently in different sets of materials. For example, two curricula might both have options for differentiation built into their online offerings. In one, this might mean that the system uses adaptive technology, while in the other, teachers manually assign different students different tasks. Each report also has a details section that outlines nuances like this.

Publishers who are currently developing remote learning options for their existing materials will have an opportunity to update their answers to the questionnaire in the fall, Allison said.

Photo: Fourth-grader Sammiayah Thompson, left, and her brother 3rd-grader Nehemiah Thompson work outside in their yard June 5 on laptops provided by their school system in Hartford, Conn. —Jessica Hill/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.