Nearly five years into Common Core implementation, educators across the country continue to struggle to identify and access high-quality instructional materials aligned to the new academic standards, often relying on outdated textbooks or cobbling together multiple sets of materials to get by.

A valuable resource is now available for educators. Edreports.org, a new nonprofit organization reviewing materials for alignment to the Common Core, last week released findings from its initial round of evaluations. The consumer reports-style reviews (conducted by experienced educators, including classroom teachers, principals, and instructional coaches) evaluate curricular materials against three sequential categories, or "gateways"—“focus and coherence,” “rigor and the mathematical practices,” and “instructional supports and other usability indicators”—with only those meeting the first gateway advancing to the second and third. On the whole, findings are not promising. Of the twenty K–8 mathematics instructional series reviewed to date, only one met EdReport.org's criteria for alignment at all grade levels (Eureka, grades K–8), with a second series meeting the alignment criteria in two grades (My Math, grades 4–5). Eureka’s strong showing is particularly impressive, as it didn’t exist five years ago—it was originally created from scratch for the EngageNY website, whose combined math and ELA curriculum modules have been downloaded nearly eighteen million times. Take that, commercial publishers!

Michigan State University’s Dr. William Schmidt comes to similar conclusions in his reviews of thirty-four commonly used math textbook series for alignment to the Common Core math standards, also released last week. While overall alignment results are disheartening, the Textbook Navigator Journal helps teachers identify lessons in their existing textbooks that cover specific Common Core standards, as well as locate lessons in other grade levels within the same series that address certain standards.

Although efforts have been frustratingly slow to provide teachers the materials they need to implement Common Core in classrooms, these recent initiatives represent an important step in the right direction towards helping teachers better evaluate materials’ quality and alignment and make more informed choices about instructional materials.

In the coming months, Fordham will add to this body of work by releasing our own content-expert reviews of curriculum that is supposedly aligned to the Common Core. EdReports.org also plans to begin reviewing high school math and English language arts materials, as well as additional K–8 math materials, later this year.

SOURCE: EdReports.org, accessed March 10, 2015.