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The CEMD Impact Core: Why Study These Districts?

Capturing the curriculum selections made by districts creates transparency in the education market. By doing so through CEMD's novel dataset, the Impact Core, we can specifically see the impact of curriculum selection on the nation's most underserved students.

The Center for Education Market Dynamics • October 12, 2023

All CEMD research and analysis centers on the Impact Core, a dataset comprising more than 900 large, influential school districts nationwide. Capturing the curriculum in use across these districts will help us far better understand both the market overall and the picture of underserved students’ access to quality materials.

The Disproportionate Influence of Impact Core Districts in the Education Marketplace

The districts in the CEMD Impact Core aren’t just any school districts; they are a select subset of 934 districts that collectively account for about 52% of all U.S. students, and an outsized number of the students we most want to impact: students who are Black and Latino; students experiencing poverty; and multilingual students. To get here, CEMD intentionally sampled large, urban districts (including all districts with over 10,000 students, as well as the three biggest districts from each state).

The choices leaders make within these key districts significantly shape the learning experiences of over half of our nation’s students. Due to their size and purchasing power, districts in the Impact Core are also disproportionately influential in the educational market – making their curricular decisions a powerful source of information for understanding national trends.

Understanding the Maps: What Does the Education Marketplace Look Like?

The figures above represent school districts across the country, with student enrollment numbers signified by circles of varying sizes. The map on the left shows all U.S. public school districts, marked in orange. The map on the right shows districts in the Impact Core, overlaid in blue. The overlap of large orange and blue circles signifies how the Impact Core sample is concentrated primarily in districts with high student enrollment, which makes these districts influential players in the education marketplace.

Implications and Trends

The curricular decisions of districts in the Impact Core exert significant influence on publishers and providers, which can then impact the development and supply of quality curriculum nationwide. Based on our latest data, district curriculum choices point towards an optimistic, albeit emerging, shift towards selecting more high-quality curriculum. This is crucial in a time when two of the largest states – California and Texas – are set to launch the process of adopting new curricular materials after delays due to the pandemic.

Work is underway to expand the CEMD Impact Core dataset in 2023-2024 and collect additional data to represent more underserved students in different regional and district contexts. Our findings call to all education leaders to prioritize quality in curriculum decisions and to continue pushing for improvement in accessible, public information on district curriculum selection.

To learn more about district curriculum selection in the Impact Core, see our latest reports: K-8 Math Curriculum Quality: The State of District-Led Selection and K-8 Math Curriculum Products and Publishers: The State of District-Led Selection, in which we explore the national footprint of high-quality math curriculum, with a focus on historically underserved students, and the change that’s happening in the market for math products and publishers.

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