A new group billing itself as a “Consumer Reports for school materials” will soon begin posting free online reviews of major textbooks and curricula that purport to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards—an effort, some say, that has the potential to shake up the market.
The nonprofit organization, called EdReports.org, has gathered a team of 19 educators, about half of them classroom teachers, to conduct extensive reviews of year-long instructional series. The team will start with 21 series for K-8 mathematics and eventually move on to secondary math and K-12 English/language arts curricula.
For the first round of reviews, likely to be published early next year, the group selected some of the most commonly used materials: print products that had at least 10 percent of the market share and print and digital materials that had been recommended by at least two states’ review processes.
Funding for the project comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—which also was a major financial backer for the development of the common core—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Collectively, the three philanthropies have provided about $1 million so far and pledged an additional $2 million. (The Gates and Hewlett foundations also help support Education Week’s news coverage.)
The organization’s launch was spearheaded by Maria M. Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. The fledgling group’s nine-member board includes Ms. Klawe, Maryland schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery, senior officials at the Education Trust and the National Council of La Raza, and several educators.
EdReports.org joins several other organizations that are vetting instructional materials for alignment to the common standards. Learning List, a for-profit company based in Austin, Texas, analyzes digital and print educational resources for common-core alignment but charges a fee for access. Achieve, a Washington-based nonprofit that played a key role in launching the common-standards initiative, created EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products), which trains “jurors” to evaluate the alignment of units and lessons to the common standards. That tool, however, is not currently being used to vet the work of large publishers and does not look at comprehensive curricula.
Coverage of the implementation of college- and career-ready standards is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as Math Instructional Materials Vetted