Looking Beyond the Label: How Aligned Are K-12 Instructional Materials?

By Joetta Sack-Min

School districts are spending a lot of money and time to determine whether curricular resources are actually aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other college- and career-ready standards (CCRS). EdReports.org, an independent nonprofit formed last year, is working with educators across the country to provide a new database for districts to find materials that have been reviewed and meet the criteria for alignment.

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) joined Ed Reports.org to present a webinar on its process for finding and reviewing curricular materials. As CCSS and other CCRS initiatives have been implemented in a “shotgun start,” school officials are finding that selecting curricula is an ongoing problem, said Richard M. Long, executive director of LFA.

The webinar was also designed as a behind-the-scenes look at the complexity of determining whether a material is actually aligned and would be useful. EdReports.org, which is funded by several foundations, ultimately hopes to boost the quality of the materials available, said Executive Director Eric Hirsch.

“Publishers cannot invest in quality if the market doesn’t demand it of them nor reward them for producing it,” he said. “Our hope is that ultimately materials will improve because the market is demanding it.”

EdReports.org uses teams of four educators from diverse backgrounds, including a lead reviewer, to assess the qualifications of curricular materials using a gateway system—a selection has to meet certain criteria before moving to the next round. The reviewers are familiar with the content but have not used the piece of material that they are reviewing.

So far, EdReports has evaluated 22 English/language arts materials in grades 3-8 and reported on 138 K-8 and high school math curricula. More than 200 educators from 46 states and D.C. worked on those evaluations.

According to EdReports.org, 90 percent of school districts say they have difficulties finding CCSS-aligned materials.

Jessica Prayer, an instructional specialist and teacher in North Carolina, praised EdReports.org’s system and database.

“When we have those resources that match the standards, it allows us to plan instruction that enables us to scaffold the needs for our students,” she said. “Currently, the materials we provide don’t allow for that so teachers are spending countless hours searching for resources to make them fit, when if we had those aligned materials we’d be able to tailor the instruction for our students.”

To view the free archived webinar, go to: https://youtu.be/C_bRhg1OvTs.