Giving Compass' Take:

• Research from the Center for American Progress highlights elements of successful curriculum reform including increasing transparency, focusing on college-readiness, and content-specific teacher training. 

• How can funders help districts shit their practices to evidence-based models? 

• Learn more about prioritizing curriculum materials in teacher professional development

Curricula and instructional materials are central to academic success. A 2017 literature review of relevant research1provided strong evidence that choosing these materials wisely can be a cost-effective lever for states and districts seeking to improve academic achievement. One study of textbook adoption in five states found that use of the most effective textbook—based on achievement results—in fourth- and fifth-grade math correlated with increased student achievement of 0.1 standard deviations.

Analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that 10 of the 25 school districts that responded to the authors’ inquiries and are using rated curricula are not using any instructional materials rated highly by either rating system. But a few districts stand out as having adopted highly rated instructional materials: Shelby County Schools in Tennessee, Duval County Public Schools in Florida, Wake County Public School System in North Carolina, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky, have adopted or are recommending instructional materials that are highly rated by EdReports’ and Louisiana’s rating tools nearly across the board. The next section of this report highlights the adoption and implementation processes of some exemplar districts.

The final section of this report provides policy recommendations for districts implementing curriculum changes.

For example, districts should make information on curricula and instructional materials publicly available for parents and other stakeholders to access, similar to the way student test scores and other school information are currently available. Districts should also take steps to improve their processes to ensure that their focus is on adopting high-quality materials that are aligned to college-ready standards, such as the Common Core State Standards or other similarly rigorous state standards, and that advance student learning. Finally, adoption is only one of many steps necessary for implementing high-quality instructional materials. In addition to adoption, districts need to provide teachers with content-embedded professional development that gives them the opportunity to delve deeply into the materials and deliver effective instruction based on their curriculum.

Read the full article about curriculum reform by Lisette Partelow and Sarah Shapiro at Homepage.