Putting Education Reform To The Test

Studies Find Textbooks Are A Poor Match For Common Standards

As school districts purchase textbooks and other materials for new standards, two studies find much of what is on the market is a poor match for Common Core.

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As school districts purchase textbooks and other materials for new standards, two studies find much of what is on the market is a poor match for Common Core.

Brevard County schools are considering 30 new middle and high school textbooks for the nationally crafted math and language arts standards known as Common Core, Florida Today reports.

The standards are currently used in kindergarten through second grade, and are scheduled to be used in every Florida grade when classes start this fall.

Like Brevard County, school districts across the state that have yet to do so will soon need to make big curriculum decisions. But there’s a problem — researchers are finding many textbooks and classroom materials aren’t a perfect match for Common Core.

A new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looks at early Common Core adopters in Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada and Tennessee. The report finds that many curriculum companies don’t have Common Core materials ready, and school districts were skeptical of what’s already for sale.

“Curriculum publishers were suspiciously quick to proclaim that what they are selling is aligned with the Common Core—and districts are rightly wary of such claims,” the study’s authors, Amber M. Northern and Michael J. Petrilli, wrote. “It takes time to develop and vet high-quality textbook series and other curriculum. All four districts expressed caution about spending limited dollars on materials that were not truly aligned to the Common Core and are delaying at least some of their purchases until they see products that are.”

In the interim, the researchers found teachers were creating their own materials for better and worse. The good? Teachers are more likely to support a curriculum they had a hand in creating. The bad? Some materials were at odds with fundamental ways Common Core is supposed to change lessons, particularly math.

Another study by University of Southern California education professor Morgan Polikoff found many textbooks labeled “Common Core aligned” were, in fact, not. Between 60 percent and 95 percent of many textbooks were used for previous standards, indicating the books had not been updated for Common Core. In addition between 10 percent and 20 percent of the material reviewed had nothing to do with Common Core.

“The results of our alignment analyses…are both stunning and totally predictable,” Polikoff wrote.

And Florida lawmakers could make textbook choices more complicated. A bill (SB 864) would allow school boards to choose textbooks and other classroom materials. In the past, the Florida Department of Education has approved textbooks and districts could choose from that list.

Last year, lawmakers approved a bill that allows district to choose their own texts if they certify the materials meet state standards. This year’s bill would eliminate the state from the process completely.

But some educators worry school districts don’t have the same expertise as the Florida Department of Education to evaluate textbook quality. And if publishers are slow to produce textbooks which actually match Common Core standards, as Polikoff wrote, choosing low-quality textbooks could undermine the whole multi-state venture.


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