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Taking Materials for a Test Drive

Ask any teacher who has been involved in the curriculum adoption process about their experiences and you’ll likely hear versions of the following:

“How do I know all of the curriculum and related materials are REALLY standards-aligned and rigorous?”

“When will I have the time to review all the materials and get a feel for it in my classroom?”

“It is so expensive, and I know we’ll be using it for years to come–I wish we could try it out with kids.”

Since its founding in 2014, EdReports has provided curriculum material reviews that are free, helping to address the issue of REAL standards-alignment. The information contained within these reports empower educators and districts to seek, identify, and demand high-quality instructional materials so that students at all levels are prepared for college, career and community. The reports also allow teachers, leaders and decision-making bodies to make informed choices regarding their schools’ materials adoption processes. The release of these reports has resulted in greater availability of high-quality materials for schools. The K-12 curriculum market has also seen the emergence of free high quality aligned curricula eliminating the barrier of access.

An urgency exists to bring awareness to educational leaders, school boards and parents to begin asking questions about what materials are being used within their schools and classrooms. Very little is known by the general public about curriculum adoption and procurement of materials at their local schools. Some states provide adoption lists and guidance, but others rely on local decision making. In far too many classrooms, teachers and students do not have access to quality aligned curricular materials. Even if aligned materials are selected, there is no process to ensure that those materials are used every day in classrooms.  Unfortunately, results from the 2018 Annual Report released by EdReports show that only 15 percent of materials used regularly by ELA teachers, and 23 percent of materials used by math teachers, are aligned to the standards.

Requiring the purchase of highly aligned materials should be a non-negotiable for school districts and states. After schools have narrowed down their selection of materials, they should be given the opportunity to test drive their top 2-3 selected materials by teaching specific units. Test driving materials allows schools the opportunity to see how students will react to the materials, to determine what supports are needed for teachers and students, and to gauge the commitment of teachers to the adoption prior to making an investment. When schools embark on selecting these new highly aligned materials, a focused plan should be in place to provide teacher training and professional learning throughout the pilot or implementation. Teachers will need support in order to reach the higher expectations, deeper student engagement, and critical thinking that these curricula provide.

The quality of curricular materials is critical to preparing all students for college and careers. Giving schools the chance to pilot materials before full adoption will ensure it fits the needs of students and teachers and will be an impactful investment for our schools.

Jana Bryant is the district math instructional coach for Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro, Kentucky and is a National Board Certified Teacher in Mathematics. She serves as a 2019 Educators for High Standards fellow and a EdReports Klawe Lead Fellow. She served as 2017-2019 Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) Member for Hope Street Group, an EdReports mathematics content reviewer, and a Standards Advocate with Student Achievement Partners. She is passionate about finding ways to develop state and national leadership teams that have a pulse on the needs and concerns of teachers, students and their families. It is important for teachers to communicate their ideas about education, what is working and what needs changing, to our elected officials and decision-makers. Follow Jana on Twitter at @JanaBryant14.