Closing the Gap: The Case for Transparency in Curriculum Selection

The education sector suffers from a major information gap when it comes to the curricula that school districts select and implement. In this report, CEMD explores that problem and potential solutions – with a special focus on how state education agencies could help improve this information landscape at scale.

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The Center for Education Market Dynamics • September 28, 2023

Good curriculum is an essential classroom resource.

Experience, intuition, and research tell us that curriculum matters a great deal for student learning. This is especially true for our focus student populations – students who are Black, Latino, multilingual, and/or experiencing poverty – who collectively depend most on their public schools to deliver effective learning experiences.

But to an alarming extent, we lack information about curriculum in context.

In contrast with other areas of public interest in education (school spending, standardized test scores), there is very little in the way of systematic, standardized reporting on curriculum selection and use nationwide. In other words: we don’t know who is using what curriculum, and how it’s impacting student learning.

CEMD has set out to change this, and we’ve learned a great deal about curriculum selection nationwide. But we’ve also run into significant, systemic barriers to full transparency.

We’ve gathered and built a database of curriculum information for over 900 of the biggest districts in the country, and we’re working to disseminate our findings across the sector. But this work is labor-intensive and inherently circumscribed by the happenstance of what districts decide to make publicly available.

States could help significantly improve this information landscape and build our collective understanding of what works best with students.

States are deeply influential players when it comes to curriculum, and they’re especially well-positioned to bring greater transparency to bear in this sphere. We offer practical ideas (as well as a separate, more detailed guide) for states embarking on this work.

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