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Textbook-Navigation Tool Helps Teachers Locate Standards

Piggybacking on today's EdReports.org release—which found that the majority of curricula claiming to be common-core-aligned were not, at least by that group's definition—researcher William Schmidt has released another free, web-based curriculum tool.

Schmidt, who codirects Michigan State University's Education Policy Center, has been studying curriculum alignment for some time. Last year, he released an analysis of 35 textbook series for grades K-8 that purported to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards. He found that many of those textbooks were virtually identical to their pre-common-core versions. As my Ed Week colleagues reported, he's called publishers of such books "snake oil salesmen."


Schmidt's team has now gone a step further, creating a tool that helps teachers determine where exactly a particular standard is taught within a specific textbook.

According to this background summary, the researchers coded lessons from 185 individual math textbooks in 34 textbook series and put them into the system. Using the Textbook Navigator/Journal, teachers can select a standard and ask which part of the textbook covers it, or they can pick a lesson and determine which standards are taught in it. 

In a press release, Schmidt stated that the tool "will empower more teachers to design their own instruction by letting the standards—not the textbooks—guide the process." According to his prior research, the release says, half of the standards in a typical textbook cover material from the wrong grade.

There is some overlap between the curricula included in the Navigator and the 20 series reviewed by EdReports.org. For instance, the 2012 version of Pearson's Investigations in Number, Data, and Space was found to be not aligned to the common core for grades K-5 by the EdReports.org reviewers. (In a response to that finding, Pearson wrote that the reviewers "applied a very narrow standard for measuring focus.") That textbook series was also analyzed for the Navigator tool. Some of the other series included in the tool were written prior to 2010 when the common standards, which 43 states and D.C. are using, were released. 

The project was supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust—both of which helped fund EdReports.org as well—and the GE Foundation. (The Gates and Hewlett foundations also support, respectively, news coverage of college- and career-ready standards and deeper learning in Education Week.)

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