Curriculum matters

Last year’s Similar Schools, Different Results study by Edsource, American Institutes for Research, Stanford and Berkeley researchers compared high-scoring, high-poverty elementary schools in California with low-scoring schools with similar students. Now the team has found a link between achievement and curriculum.

Open Court, an English language curriculum stressing systematic, explicit instruction in phonics, is associated with higher Academic Performance Index scores, especially when it’s used every day by all teachers, “combined with a coherent, school-wide, standards-based instructional program and combined with the frequent use of student assessment data to improve instruction.”

The study analyzed 5,500 K-5 classrooms in 257 schools in 145 districts. Only one quarter of the schools used Open Court.

Lance Izumi of Pacific Research Institute looks at KIPP’s success in boosting the achivement of low-income minority students in California. In 2003, only 26 percent of fifth graders at KIPP Bridge College Preparatory (BCP) in Oakland scored at or above the proficient level in math on the state test. Two years later, when those students were tested in seventh grade, 74 percent scored at or above proficient.

In Oakland public schools as a whole, 24 percent of fifth graders were proficient or better in math in 2003; in 2005, 18 percent of seventh graders were at or above proficient.

BCP boosted reading proficiency from 16 percent of fifth graders in 2003 to 63 percent of seventh graders in 2005. Oakland students went from 21 percent to 24 percent.

Most BCP students come from low-income families; 80 percent are black and 15 percent are Hispanic.

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  1. [The practices associated with higher API scores] are: [1] placing a high priority on student achievement; [2] implementing a coherent, standards-based curriculum and instructional program; [3] using assessment data to improve student achievement and instruction; and [4]ensuring the availability of basic instructional resources.

    Okay, so if you [1] want to accomplish something, [2] work out a way to do it, [3] actually measure whether you are doing it, and [4]provide what is necessary to do it, then it happens?

    Hmmm. This is a difficult concept.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I do not understand how you can teach anything else to those you have not taught to read.

  3. Thanks for posting this.

    One of my frustrations with ed policy types is their lack of interest in curriculum. We have a steady flow of studies and white papers from the think tanks on vouchers, charters, the achievement gap, teacher quality, teacher certification, merit pay and on and on and on.

    But we have silence on the subject of curriculum.

    Given Schmidt’s findings in the last TIMSS study about the critical importance of curriculum, this shouldn’t be the case.