Consumer Reports for textbooks

EdReports.org wants to be the Consumer Reports for textbooks and other instructional materials. The nonprofit will review materials for alignment to the Common Core, usability, teacher support and differentiation.

The first reviews, due out in a few months, will deal with Pearson’s enVision Math, McGraw-Hill’s Everyday Math, Houghton Mifflin’s Go Math and other widely used K-8 math curricula.

Classroom teachers will be the evaluators, reports Politico.

The non-profit is funded by the Gates Foundation and the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Textbook quality matters, writes USC Education Professor Morgan Polikoff on Common Core Watch. And improving textbook quality is a lot easier than improving teacher quality.

First, textbooks aren’t people. There is no union seeking to protect the interests of textbooks.

. . . Second, textbooks and online curricular materials can be improved over time through research and tinkering in ways that teacher effectiveness cannot. Especially if we collect better data, we potentially could learn about effectiveness at a granular level—for instance, which of these X lessons is the best at getting Y type of kids to learn division of fractions?

. . . Third, textbooks are incredibly cheap relative to other educational inputs. While U.S. schools spend billions on textbooks annually, the per-student cost of curriculum materials is, at most, 1 or 2 percent. …choosing a high-quality textbook over a low-quality one may be as effective as moving kids from a fiftieth-percentile teacher to a seventy-fifth-percentile teacher.

Common Core creates a nearly-national market for learning materials, Polikoff points out. There’s a very strong incentive for publishers to get this right.

Polikoff also hopes EdReports.org will “call out” the “dreadful assignments” that pop up in social media as “Common Core curriculum.”

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