EdReports Tells Districts Which Materials Make the Grade

EdReports reviews instructional materials for standards-alignment and usability. The nonprofit organization helps educators make informed purchasing and instructional decisions that support improved student outcomes.
The inaugural report published in 2015 showed lots of gaps in middle-grade math. The reports make it clear that some publishers made some edits and added a Common Core-aligned sticker.
Earlier this month, EdReports published their first review of English Language Arts curriculum materials; three series met the grade, three got partial credit and one failed the test.

Comprehensive Curriculum Matters

In a mix and match world, well designed comprehensive curriculum matters according to EdReports Executive Director Eric Hirsch.
“Research concludes that the quality of instructional materials have as large an impact as who is teaching and how they’re teaching,” said Hirsh.
3f0e1bd1-c4d4-4cd3-ad8c-e9fbba60254d_Screenshot202016-09-242013.33.45Formed in response to a need by educators and administrators to identify college and career ready materials, EdReports seeks to inform the marketplace.
States have been modifying standards over the last year, but in most cases standards remain very similar with underlying instructional shifts with a focus on text complexity and gathering evidence.
Even more than English Language Arts, “Math curriculum claiming alignment didn’t reflect the focus and coherence called for in standards,” said Hirsch.
Some grade levels were worse than others. Compared to eighth grade, there were major work clusters in seventh grade that align with standards.
Alignment is typically better for content designed around the new standards rather than tweaking old curriculum. For example Eureka Math from Great Minds gets a green light for K-8. In ELA, the EL Education content gets the green light.
EdReports reviews both print and digital content. Hirsch said they are seeing more hybrid content with both print and digital components.
The shift to digital has certainly expanded options and resources but it’s also caused confusion. A RAND study suggests the #1 place teachers go for resources is Pinterest.
“Piecemeal is a challenge,” said Hirsch. He thinks mix and match content can be a problem but believes, “teachers should be empowered to personalize learning.”

Credible Reviews

Over 90% of surveyed districts report that identifying or developing Common Core-aligned materials is a challenge. EdReports was formed two years ago to meet this challenge with evidence-based reviews of instructional materials.
Expert reviewers are selected through a highly competitive, national application process and receive over 25 hours of training. In teams of four or five, they use review tools and evidence guides to examine materials. Every team member reviews every grade and indicator. Team leads ensure consistent application of the scoring tool.
Eric Hirsch has a great background for the review challenge, having served in executive roles at the New Teacher Center, the Center for Teaching Quality and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The nonprofit is supported by Broadcom and six national foundations.

Next for EdReports

Price point and publisher aren’t important to EdReports, although they do hope to review more open education resources (OER), according to Hirsch.
They have only reviewed year-long core content and haven’t looked at adaptive or supplemental curriculum (unlike sites like Graphite that review apps).
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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Jo-Anne Gross

How does an educator,with all the varied views and different university pedagogical opinions make a decision on what works..how can this process be trusted?


Tom Vander Ark

Jo-Anne, EdReports won't answer questions about which pedagogical strategy is best, but it does appear to have a rigorous approach to checking standards-alignment of instructional materials.

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