Lately, I’ve seen a meme that keeps popping up on social media: “Telling a teacher to use a boxed curriculum is like forcing a chef to cook hamburger helper.”
I was tempted to like it at first; it seems catchy and does hint at an issue that teachers face regularly: maintaining autonomy and creativity, while using materials that are aligned to academic standards and include challenging activities and content for students. But the meme boils down (pun intended) an important topic—aligned instruction and teachers’ access to high-quality materials—into an “either, or” situation. But, of course, it’s actually more complicated than that.
Indeed, the material we teachers use, and the way we deliver it inside classroom walls, is critically important to our students learning, and the use of low-quality, uninspired materials is, well, a recipe for disaster.
The RAND Corporation recently published a report titled “Changes in What Teachers Know and Do in the Common Core Era.” Using responses from their annual American Teacher Panel survey, they looked at changes in teacher instruction and materials from 2015–17 to find out whether the materials teachers are using in the classroom are aligned to higher standards.
Some of the highlights may...