The Center for Education Market Dynamics • January 02, 2024
Guest Post by Courtney Allison
Chief Academic Officer, EdReports
EdReports launched in 2015 as many teachers across the country were adjusting to newly adopted college and career-ready standards, often without the resources they needed to support these shifts in instruction. In many states, new standardized assessments and new teacher evaluation systems rolled out simultaneously. Little was known about what was actually being used in classrooms, and when districts had to select new curriculum, educators often had to rely on sales-pitches to make a final choice.
At the time, two big things were also unfolding in the world of curriculum: 1) a research consensus gathered steam that instructional materials play a major role in student learning, and that high-quality core curriculum would be crucial to standards implementation; and 2) the market saw an avalanche of new or updated curriculum products, all touting alignment. But it was difficult for consumers and educators to gauge the accuracy of such publisher claims or to easily access credible, independent information about curriculum quality.
EdReports helped cut through the noise. Our educator-led reviews assess the alignment of core curricula to college and career-ready standards as well as other characteristics of high-quality materials; the goal is to help educators nationwide enter a curriculum adoption process with a strong baseline understanding of a program’s strengths and gaps so that they can make the most informed choice on behalf of their students.
In the nearly 10 years since independent information about the quality of instructional materials began shaping the market, we’ve seen big impacts from our work: the availability and use of aligned materials has increased significantly across the country. More high-quality ELA and math materials are available than ever before, with dozens of aligned programs to choose from. What’s more, the percentage of teachers who report using aligned ELA materials at least once a week, for example, jumped from 15% in 2019 to 36% in 2022; for math, from 30% to 48%. As CEMD has also reported, this upward trajectory is sure to continue: CEMD data on K-8 math suggests a market-wide gravitation toward higher-quality materials, with many non-aligned curricula falling by the wayside or being replaced with better-aligned offerings from publishers.
This is great news, and we’re proud to be part of the progress. We also see with clear eyes that this is a market in transition, and that EdReports must evolve along with it. And we’ve already begun; in response to the rapid digitizing of the market, for instance, which accelerated during the pandemic, we provide additional information about the technology components and supports programs provide. We’re also currently exploring the ways in which artificial intelligence will drive curriculum change, and how our reviews will need to address this in the future.
But perhaps even more important than change in the technology that mediates curriculum delivery is the fact that curriculum content must change to reflect the demographic realities in our public schools. Our schools are increasingly diverse, educating huge numbers of multilingual learners and students experiencing poverty. In our next phase, EdReports will more closely examine the ways in which curriculum engages and affirms all learners’ experiences and supports teachers to meet a wide variety of students’ needs.
For example, we’ve spent two years examining how curriculum can and should support multilingual learners with the English Learners Success Forum; criteria related to such support will soon be layered into the EdReports review process. We’re also exploring the landscape of culturally responsive practices in curriculum. Though we’re still studying this issue, we expect this body of work to inform and shape our review process in the coming years as well.
Finally, we’re taking a close look at the increased use of supplemental instructional materials in U.S. classrooms, and the implications for us as a curriculum reviewer. Together with CEMD, we’re investigating data about what the supplemental picture looks like on the ground in districts – with the ultimate goal of developing a strategy that will help education decision-makers better grasp this landscape and make choices that advance more coherent, high-quality academic experiences for students.
In the years since EdReports released its first reviews, the need for high-quality, aligned curriculum in US classrooms has never been more crucial: student learning nationwide suffered huge setbacks during COVID-19, with the most vulnerable students hardest hit. We’re more committed than ever to advancing the cause of high-quality, aligned curriculum and to continually expand our own understanding of exactly what this is, and what it could be.