Giving Compass' Take:
- Not all textbooks are equally effective, yet many are accepted because of inadequate state and local review processes.
- How can donors advocate for improved review processes? Why does textbook review critical for inclusion in education?
- Learn how curriculum reflects diversity in schools.
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Wouldn’t it be nice if all teachers had verifiably excellent instructional materials at their disposal and if every school and school district had a reliable guide as to which instructional materials are effective, before adopting — and paying for — such?
Clearly, it would be nice. And it might actually help improve children’s education — were such labeling true and based on evidence. Yet the people who brought you the mediocre Common Core are now engaged in convincing everyone that textbooks, simply by virtue of being aligned with Common Core, are necessarily also “high quality” and “effective.” They do it without any empirical evidence of them actually being of high quality or effective, while disparaging the quality and effectiveness of textbooks that were proven as truly effective by successful widespread use.
Before 2010, when every state had its own educational standards, some states attempted to provide such guidance by reviewing and creating a list of approved textbooks from which schools and school districts were encouraged — and sometimes forced — to select. Other states left such decisions to schools and school districts. Neither system worked very well. Textbook publishers had significant financial sway over state and local selections, too often overriding the textbooks’ academic merit. Further, the review committees, particularly local ones, often lacked competent content reviewers and input from parents. Publishers added to the confusion by having multiple versions of essentially identical textbooks customized in a minor way for different states. All in all, not a very good situation, even though some highly effective, even if not fashionable, textbooks such as Saxon Math, Singapore Math, or Open Court Reading managed to survive.
The situation has changed since the adoption in 2010 of Common Core standards by almost all of the country. Now most states have kind-of the same standards so, suddenly, rather than competing with each other over each of the 50 states, textbook publishers could focus on competing at a single national level.
In theory this could have been a boon for improving the quality of textbooks and other instructional material. After all, there are only so many textbooks on the market addressing essentially the same educational standards — Common Core — so seriously reviewing them all should have been doable.
And, indeed, an organization called EdReports was established in 2014 to do precisely that: review textbooks. EdReports is a nonprofit, a major chunk of whose support comes from key promoters of the original Common Core. EdReports is dedicated to reviewing the alignment of textbooks with Common Core, yet its ratings are based only on “paper review,” not on any studies of the textbooks’ actual effectiveness.
Read the full article about textbook effectiveness by Ze'ev Wurman at EdSource.