RAND American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS) Project

AIRS: American Instructional Resources Survey logo

Through the American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS), RAND is investigating the use of instructional materials in K–12 English language arts, mathematics, and science classrooms across the United States. AIRS is intended to examine the factors related to use of standards-aligned curricula, and how curriculum use and supports for curriculum use are related to teaching. The AIRS project has been made possible through generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, and the Overdeck Family Foundation.

Recent Findings

  • Students hold signs inside the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda in opposition to bills Kentucky lawmakers say would eradicate critical race theory from state schools, January 12, 2022, photo by Alton Strupp/USA Today via Reuters

    Anti-Bias Education in U.S. Public Schools

    Teaching students explicitly about issues of identity, diversity, equity, and bias can lead to positive outcomes. Nearly three in four K–12 teachers reported that they provide such anti-bias instruction, but more than half said that their school's or district's curriculum materials did not adequately address anti-bias topics.

  • Second-grade teacher with white board, photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages/<a href="https://images.all4ed.org/license">CC BY-NC 4.0</a>

    The Rise of Standards-Aligned Instructional Materials for U.S. K–12 Teachers

    Many states and education organizations have been pushing for greater use of standards-aligned curriculum, especially in recent years. What proportion of U.S. K–12 public teachers were using standards-aligned curriculum materials for their mathematics and English language arts instruction during the 2020–2021 school year?

  • Principal answers questions during orientation, photo by SDI Productions/Adobe Stock

    School Leaders' Role in Selecting Instructional Materials

    School leaders' perceptions of instructional materials influence their decisions about how to support teachers' material use. What does the selection process for instructional materials look like? And what role—if any—do school leaders play?

  • Experienced English teacher giving online lesson on laptop, chatting with students, participating in webinar from home, photo by Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock

    Did Experience with Digital Instructional Materials Help Teachers Implement Remote Learning During COVID-19?

    Understanding how teachers used digital materials leading up to the pandemic can shed light on how prepared they were to pivot to virtual learning. Where are some areas in which additional supports could be helpful in using digital materials for both virtual and in-person instruction?

  • Person sitting at desk reading, education concept, photo by Freedomz/AdobeStock

    Teachers' Perceptions of What Makes Instructional Materials Engaging, Appropriately Challenging, and Usable

    How do middle and high school English language arts and mathematics teachers use and perceive their instructional materials? Insight into teachers' perceptions of their materials is especially important during COVID-19 pandemic as teachers adapt for online learning.

  • Testing a physics project, photo by dglimages/AdobeStock

    Changing the Subject: K–12 Teachers' Use of and Access to Science-Specific Instructional Materials

    Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields requires coordinated support for science instructors. To what extent are teachers using self-created or non-curriculum materials as part of their main science instructional materials?

  • Teacher grading papers in elementary school WFT, photo by bonniemarie/AdobeStock

    Teachers' Lesson Modifications for Students with Disabilities

    Modifications to curricula and lesson plans can help reduce some of the learning barriers that students with disabilities often face. What proportion of teachers substantially modify their lessons to make them more appropriate for students with disabilities?

  • Childhood learning the fun way, photo by bernardbodo/AdobeStock

    Do Teachers Perceive That Their Main Instructional Materials Meet English Learners' Needs?

    Equitable access to academic content is critical in addressing achievement gaps between English learners and native English speakers. But schools and teachers face several challenges in enabling this access. Do teachers feel prepared to work effectively with English learners?

  • Boston Public School teacher Princess Bryant teaches her kindergarten class via video-conference from her apartment after schools were closed for the remainder of the school year because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 28, 2020, photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    The Digital Divide and COVID-19

    Findings from a survey of U.S. teachers reveal how limited home internet access has been a barrier to providing instruction amid pandemic-related school closures. The problem is particularly acute among high-poverty schools.

  • Elementary classroom of diverse bright children listening attentively to their teacher giving lesson, photo by gorodenkoff/AdobeStock

    How Instructional Materials Are Used and Supported in U.S. K–12 Classrooms

    If a curriculum is well-aligned with state standards, it can help teachers deliver instruction that leads to students’ mastery of those standards. But what supports are teachers offered to use standards-aligned curricula? And how do use and support vary among teachers in states and schools with different poverty levels?

  • A teacher at a desk with a tablet and a laptop, photo by FluxFactory/Getty Images

    What Digital Materials Do Teachers Use?

    Digital materials for lesson planning and instruction are becoming an increasingly important resource for teachers. A survey of English language arts, mathematics, and science teachers across the United States provides insights on which materials they use and what they consider barriers to use.

  • Two adolescent girls at school with a teacher standing nearby, photo by eric/Adobe Stock

    How Teachers Use Intervention Programs

    Academic intervention programs support students who are performing below grade level. When asked about their use of these programs, U.S. teachers were more likely to report using them in English language arts than in mathematics. Teachers also reported using a wide variety of interventions.

More About the AIRS Project

AIRS grew out of recent projects from RAND documenting that most of the instructional materials teachers report using in their classrooms—and ones that are required by school systems—are not well-aligned with standards recently adopted in most states. This matters because RAND reports have connected teachers’ use of standards-aligned materials with higher teacher knowledge about their standards and more frequent use of standards-aligned instructional practices.

This and other research demonstrating positive effects of curricula in some settings have fueled state interest in use of materials as a policy lever for educational improvement, and many states have begun to encourage use of more standards-aligned curricula in classrooms. Nonetheless, we do not know enough about how state reform efforts are changing what curriculum materials teachers use and what factors support teachers’ use of curriculum.

To address gaps in what we know about curriculum use, AIRS is collecting data via the RAND American School Leader Panel and American Teacher Panel on topics that include:

  • Curriculum materials regularly used by K–12 public school teachers for English language arts, mathematics and science instruction, as well as district curriculum requirements
  • How curriculum use is supported in U.S. schools
  • Coherence among standards, curriculum, professional development and other elements of K–12 instructional systems
  • Teachers’ knowledge of their standards and their ELA, math, and science instructional practices.
  • A national sample of U.S school leaders who are part of the RAND American School Leader Panel.

AIRS is fielded to school leaders and teachers in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, and Spring 2021.

Explore AIRS Data

We invite you to explore the AIRS 2019 data in Bento, a free online data visualization tool. Bento allows you to filter and segment survey results by school characteristics or educator background, compare data to state and national averages, and export visualizations for reports. Learn more and get access to Bento here.

In fall 2020, a public-use version of AIRS data will become available on the AEP Data Portal. The public version of these data will not include teachers' states or the specific curricula they used, but it will include limited school demographic data and and some summary information about their curriculum use. In addition, restricted-access AIRS data files will be available that researchers can purchase. These restricted files will include information suppressed in the public version (e.g. teachers’ state and demographic information). Further information on how to apply for access to restricted data files will be available on the AEP Data Portal.

Curriculum Matters

RAND reports over the past several years have documented that most of the instructional materials teachers report using in their classrooms—and ones that are required by school systems—are not well-aligned with standards recently adopted in most states. This matters because RAND reports have connected teachers’ use of standards-aligned materials with higher teacher knowledge about their standards and more frequent use of standards-aligned instructional practices.

This and other research demonstrating positive effects of curricula in some settings have fueled state interest in use of materials as a policy lever for educational improvement, and many states have begun to encourage use of more standards-aligned curricula in classrooms. Nonetheless, we know very little about the mechanisms by which curricula may support improved teaching and learning and, thus, what advice to give to policymakers and educators about the best and most productive uses of curricula.