Cover: Are U.S. Teachers Using High-Quality Instructional Materials?

Are U.S. Teachers Using High-Quality Instructional Materials?

Published Apr 15, 2020

by Julia H. Kaufman, Katie Tosh, Teryn Mattox

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Research Questions

  1. What percentages of ELA and mathematics teachers are using high-quality instructional materials?
  2. How does use of high-quality materials vary depending on teachers' subject area, their grade level, and whether they are in IMPD Network states?

In many states, college and career-ready standards for mathematics and English-language arts (ELA) are more rigorous than ever before. However, research suggests that teachers do not always have access to high-quality curricula that reflect key elements of states' college and career-ready standards. The RAND Corporation's American Teacher Panel (ATP) has asked a nationally-representative sample of public school teachers which instructional materials they use regularly for classroom instruction in mathematics and ELA. In this data note, we specifically consider the proportion of U.S. teachers reporting they used high-quality materials for mathematics and ELA instruction during the 2017–2018 school year. We also consider which factors were related to whether teachers reported using high-quality materials. These data also provide some baseline indication of high-quality curriculum use in the High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development (IMPD) Network, a group of eight states working to encourage the adoption and use of high-quality materials in their states.

Key Findings

  • Mathematics teachers were more likely to report regular use of at least one high-quality material compared to ELA teachers, although high school mathematics teachers were less likely than their elementary and middle school counterparts to report use of high-quality materials.
  • More middle school ELA teachers reported use of high-quality materials than elementary and high school ELA teachers.
  • Teachers in states participating in the High Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development Network were more likely to use high-quality materials.


  • Our results suggest a dearth of commonly used high-quality materials for high school ELA and mathematics, as well as for elementary ELA.
  • Publishers and those advocating for use of high-quality materials could find ways to provide teachers with more of those materials; open-access online materials might get more high-quality materials into the hands of teachers.
  • States may be able to make a difference in the materials that teachers use.

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The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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