Instructional Materials: Who Makes the Choice? Findings from the Annual Survey on Implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

by Frances Reade; Rebecca Perry; Stacy Marple

Jul 1, 2017

Curriculum matters, deeply, for student achievement and for districts to be able to achieve the Common Core State Standards (CCSS; Chingos & Whitehurst, 2012; O'Day & Smith, 2016). Curriculum is an essential element of successful mathematics instruction in any district; it is part of a system of instructional improvement, along with professional development and accountability assessment (National Research Council, 2001; Smith & O'Day, 1990).

In the Math in Common (MiC) districts and across the state, curriculum decisions are initially made at two levels: the state makes recommendations and district leaders then make choices. Still a third level of decision making about curriculum involves individual teachers; in a national survey, four out of five math teachers reported changing more than half of their instructional materials in response to the CCSS (Kane, Owens, Marinell, Thal, & Staiger, 2016). Overall, enormous thought and effort across multiple levels of a district system go into identifying and curating instructional materials to guide instruction. These decisions are likely to have cumulative and widely varying implications for how instruction is organized within and across districts, schools, and classrooms to support student achievement.

Seven years into implementation of the CCSS-M, sourcing and using appropriate, high-quality instructional materials is still a central concern for districts and teachers -- yet there is little information available about what decisions other districts have made and how these choices have played out for students. To understand how instructional materials support, and hinder, educators in their work, we looked at the qualitative and quantitative findings from WestEd's 2017 surveys of educators in the 10 MiC districts (which included over 2,000 teacher and 100 administrator respondents) as well as information gleaned from eight focus groups held with teachers and principals.

Included is a summary of selected findings from the report as well as key takeaways and ideas for action.