New Public Data Tool Lets You See What Curricula Schools in Nebraska Are Using

By Sarah Schwartz — December 23, 2019 3 min read
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Across the country, it’s hard to know exactly which curricular materials schools are using—there isn’t a national directory of districts’ selections. But in a new tool released last week, Nebraska unveiled a searchable database showing the resources the state’s districts have adopted.

The interactive instructional materials map, which Nebraska’s education department debuted on Thursday, shows what curricula districts are using for English-language arts, math, and K-8 science. The map is a project of the Nebraska Instructional Materials Collaborative, an ongoing effort to support districts in implementing high-quality, standards-aligned resources.

It’s rare for a state to collect and publish information on district curriculum choices in an accessible way. While Massachusetts has a similar tool, many districts in the U.S. are in the dark as to what their peers statewide are using. And sometimes, districts don’t even know what their own schools are using. Schools in some big cities, like New York and Los Angeles, have a lot of autonomy in picking resources. Research from Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor at the University of Southern California, found that many districts don’t keep schools’ choices on file.

In Nebraska, though, it’s unlikely that schools would deviate from a district’s pick, said Cory Epler, the academic officer in the state’s office of teaching, learning, and assessment. He hopes that having Nebraska’s data publicly available will expand the conversation around standards-aligned materials in Nebraska—and highlight areas where the state could support implementation efforts.

On the map, users can click on individual districts to see the materials that they’ve adopted. It’s also possible to select a particular curriculum from a drop-down menu, and see which school systems are using it. Providing data for the map was voluntary, Epler said. Currently, they have information for 207 of the 244 districts in the state.

The data show a few bright spots, Epler said. For example, a few dozen districts are using Amplify in elementary and middle school—the only science resource to have received the highest rating on EdReports, the nonprofit curriculum review site.

See also: Science Curriculum Reviews Are Out, and Results Aren’t Great

Having that information can help the state think about how best to support districts that want to use a high-quality curriculum like that one, Epler said.

For instance, he said, the state might want to bring teachers together for PD. Districts could also use the information to form their own networks, share resources, or even just share experiences and tips, he added. “I think it allows us to think a bit more creatively about the types of professional learning we provide, he said.

Still, the map also offered a reality check. “If you look at our map, you’ll notice that some of the most frequently used materials in the state are not green on EdReports,” Epler said.

“I don’t want districts to look at the map and say, ‘Oh, the neighbor down the street is using this, so I’m going to pick it,’” he said. “But it does allow us to perhaps target districts that are using materials that aren’t highly rated and ... provide support and help them understand why that set of materials has the rating that it does on EdReports.”

The state is planning to watch how changes in materials may affect student achievement. “If districts select and implement materials that are green on EdReports, what does that mean for their outcomes?” Epler asked, referring to EdReports’ rating system that designates high-scoring resources as “green.”

“It’s too early for us to know what the trends might be,” Eppler said.

Image: iStock

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