Giving Compass’ Take:
• Researchers are finding after a six-state analysis funded by the Gates Foundation; a curriculum-focused approach is unsuccessful at boosting education outcomes for students.
• How can philanthropists in education pivot from a curriculum-focused approach to a new direction that will impact student learning?
Better curriculum was supposed to be one of the next big things in education.
In 2017, Bill Gates announced his influential foundation would invest fresh energy into helping create higher-quality classroom materials and get them into the hands of more teachers. A good curriculum, he said, “can improve student learning more than many costlier solutions.”
But new research, amounting to one of the largest-scale examinations of curriculum materials to date, suggests that the choice might not matter much — at least when it comes to elementary math test scores.
We didn’t really find large differences in student achievement gains across different textbooks,” said the University of Maryland’s David Blazar, one of the study’s authors.
It’s a surprising conclusion for the six-state analysis, which was funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and released Monday. And though it is just one study — which clashes with prior research — the results raise questions about the likelihood that the Gates Foundation’s curriculum-focused approach will boost student learning in the way its leaders hope.
The researchers examined the 15 most common curricula in those states, including some that were not traditional textbooks, like the New York State–developed online curriculum EngageNY. They linked curriculum data with upper-elementary math test scores in each state to answer a key question: were certain curriculum choices consistently linked to students making bigger or smaller test score gains?
The answer was generally no. “No single text stands out as a consistent high- or low-performer in multiple states, nor in multiple years,” the researchers wrote.
One explanation for the results is that most curriculum options available to schools today are of roughly equal quality and touch on similar topics because many states have adopted shared academic standards — perhaps a victory of the Gates-pushed Common Core.
Read the full article about a study looking at curriculum textbooks by Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat
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