Where Are Teachers Getting Their Common-Core Instructional Materials?

By Liana Loewus — February 11, 2016 2 min read
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A new study found that teachers are mainly relying on homegrown instructional materials, created either by themselves or their district colleagues, to meet the Common Core State Standards. But as many as a third of the 4th-8th grade teachers surveyed also said they’ve turned to free online platforms such as EngageNY and LearnZillion to implement the new benchmarks.

The study, conducted by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, overall confirmed that the Common Core State Standards really are changing classroom instruction. As my colleague Ross Brenneman wrote, the report includes a series of interesting findings about what teachers are doing differently (they’re putting more emphasis on nonfiction in ELA and conceptual understanding in math, for instance) and strategies that help improve instruction (collaboration is NOT the key, it turns out). Head to his post for more on the study in its entirety.

The researchers also dug into the specific kinds of instructional materials teachers were using.

According to the Harvard study, most teachers surveyed in the five states—Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and

Nevada—have changed out their materials since the common core went into place. Eighty-two percent of math teachers have changed at least half of their instructional materials. And 72 percent of English/language arts teachers have changed at least half as well.

For the most part, the study showed, teachers are really reliant on the materials they develop themselves or those developed by other staff members at their schools. Eighty percent of ELA teachers and 72 percent of math teachers say they use such materials at least once a week. Next to that, teachers say they use materials from the district and from external organizations.

A third of teachers said EngageNY—an online library of free common-core materials managed by New York state—has been “valuable” in aligning their instruction to the common core. A third of teachers also said the same about LearnZillion, another free online source that pays teachers to design common-core-aligned lessons. Fewer teachers are using state department of education websites.

Those results vary by state. Teachers in Nevada are much more likely to use EngageNY or LearnZillion that those in the other four states.

In the last year, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about whether textbooks that claim to be aligned to the common-core standards really do meet that mark. A Consumer Reports-style review of K-8 math materials found that nearly all of the textbook series analyzed were out of sync with the common-core standards (though that review has since come under fire and been revamped). Other researchers have called claims of common-core alignment a “sham.”

So maybe these results indicate that teachers simply aren’t finding what they need in more traditional instructional materials. Or maybe teachers in some states are being encouraged by their districts to look for materials from outside sources. Other explanations are, as always, welcome in the comments section below.

Charts: “Teaching Higher: Educators’ Perspectives on Common Core Implementation,” Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research

Related :

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