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Highly Rated Curricula Are Out There. Are Schools Using Them?

By Sarah Schwartz — September 12, 2019 1 min read
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For the past few years, independent curriculum reviewers have positioned themselves as a resource—offering evaluations of how well materials align to standards in order to help districts make informed purchasing decisions.

But have the materials that earned high ratings made their way into classrooms?

That’s the focus of a new analysis from the RAND Corporation, which looked at what curricula, programs, and instructional tools math and English/language arts teachers used during the 2017-18 school year.

Researchers gave a list of materials to a nationally representative sample of K-12 public school teachers, and asked them to choose the ones that they used once a week or more. Then, they looked at how many teachers were using materials that EdReports, the nonprofit reviewer, had rated as “high-quality.”

Overall, math teachers were more likely to be using highly rated curricula than ELA teachers. Within both subjects, middle school teachers were most likely to have used at least one of these well-reviewed options.

Why are the numbers higher for middle school? It could be related to what EdReports has reviewed so far, the researchers write. The organization has given a larger percentage of positive reviews for middle school materials than for elementary school materials, for example.

It’s also possible that some teachers and school leaders don’t know how the materials they’re using have been evaluated. A past data analysis by RAND found that about a quarter of school leaders had heard of EdReports. Of that number, 36 percent said they used the reviews to identify, select, and implement instructional materials.

And many teachers are also creating their own curriculum, or making choices independently from their school or district.

In 2016, RAND surveyed teachers in the 42 states that were using the Common Core State Standards or standards adapted from them. They found that almost all of them used materials that they had developed or selected themselves.

Chart via RAND.

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