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Louisiana Posts Curriculum Reviews to Help Teachers, Influence Marketplace

By Catherine Gewertz — March 13, 2014 2 min read
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A couple of years ago, Louisiana turned to the commercial marketplace to find curricular materials for teachers in the state. Disillusioned with what he saw, state Superintendent of Education John White rejected it all and started over. He complained that vendors’ products boasted alignment with the common core, but didn’t deliver.

Now he’s spearheaded an effort to provide other kinds of materials for his districts, but he’s gone a step further: the state is posting its frank opinions of the materials it has reviewed.

Searching for better alternatives last year, the state found a math program, Eureka Math—developed by Common Core‘s team based at Louisiana State University, at the request of New York state—and began offering training in it for teachers. It also offered a package of classroom supports.

Now Louisiana has expanded its suite of offerings, from broad outlines down to the lesson level. The curriculum guides and unit plans are optional for districts, but Superintendent White, who unveiled them with a flourish for reporters recently, urged teachers to view them as powerful tools as they transition to the common core.

Notably, the state is making a high-profile point of sharing its reviews and recommendations for instructional materials. It grouped materials into three tiers—"Exemplifies Quality,” “Approaching Quality,” and “Not Representing Quality"—a powerful signal to educators about what constitutes strong alignment with the standards that they’re supposed to be teaching. All of its reviews are available in a new “classroom support toolbox” on the Louisiana Department of Education website.

In math, Eureka Math garnered a Tier 1 rating. In English/language arts, Core Knowledge’s “skills” strand nabbed that rating at the K-3 level. There are no ELA curricula currently listed for other grade levels in Tier 1. Products by big publishers like Pearson, Scholastic, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are listed in Tier 2, “approaching quality,” along with products by Core Knowledge and engageny.org. Some pretty big names have products listed in Tier 3, “not representing quality,” too: Glencoe, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, among them.

The state also announced another set of training sessions for teachers. Four thousand from around the state will learn how to put the new standards into practice, and then return to their schools and train their colleagues.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.