An extensive study on curriculum materials conducted in part by College of Education Assistant Professor David Blazar has received widespread coverage in the media.
The analysis of fourth- and fifth-grade math curriculum materials in numerous schools in California, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington suggested that adopting new math textbooks does not equate to increases in student achievement.
“We didn’t really find large differences in student achievement gains across different textbooks,” Dr. Blazar commented in Chalkbeat.
The research, also covered in Education Week and Education Dive, evaluated the most common curricula in each state. Only two texts resulted in any positive improvement, although that dissolved outside of California, findings Dr. Blazar called “surprising.”
In the study, the majority of teachers surveyed frequently used their textbook, but also regularly used outside sources in teaching. Still, the researchers did not find evidence that textbooks used consistently by teachers made any difference in student achievement. The study did not focus on the quality of teacher training, and some researchers argue that a solid curriculum can help well-trained teachers increase their effectiveness.
“But in order to decide whether that is an efficient policy strategy,” Dr. Blazar told Chalkbeat, “we need to understand how effective those implementation supports are — and at what cost.”
Dr. Blazar is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership. His research interests include economics of education, teacher effectiveness, and accountability policy.