How States Are Creating Conditions for Use of High-Quality Instructional Materials in K–12 Classrooms

Findings from the 2021 American Instructional Resources Survey

by Sy Doan, Julia H. Kaufman, Ashley Woo, Andrea Prado Tuma, Melissa Kay Diliberti, Sabrina Lee

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Research Questions

  1. What are policy strategies undertaken by IMPD Network states to encourage or support selection and use of standards-aligned curriculum materials?
  2. What did adoption, use, and buy-in of, and support for, standards-aligned curriculum materials look like across the country and in IMPD Network states for the 2020–2021 school year?
  3. What were the relationships among adoption and use of and supports for standards-aligned materials?

A growing body of evidence suggests that the use of instructional materials that are high quality, accompanied by professional learning supports, can improve student achievement. In this report, the authors discuss key policy strategies undertaken by a network of states (the High-Quality Instructional Materials [HQIM] Professional Development Network, or IMPD Network). These strategies are focused on improving uptake and use of standards-aligned instructional materials for kindergarten through grade 12. The authors then share findings on standards-aligned curriculum material adoption, use, buy-in, and supports across the United States and among states in this network.

Findings indicate that participation in the IMPD Network was closely related to higher rates of adoption and use of standards-aligned materials. Furthermore, the relationship between curriculum-specific professional learning and usage of standards-aligned materials was much stronger in districts where standards-aligned materials were already required or recommended. The report's findings imply that state networks have great potential for shifting teaching and learning at scale and that such networks can make those shifts through a variety of policy strategies. In addition, the findings suggest that implementation of district requirements or recommendations for standards-aligned materials is an important first step toward increased usage and supports for such materials at scale.

Key Findings

IMPD Network states provide a variety of signals and incentives to encourage adoption, buy-in, and use of and supports for standards-aligned curriculum materials

  • All IMPD Network states provide teachers with information about the quality of math and English language arts (ELA) instructional materials as a signal to guide district and school decisions about which materials they should adopt.
  • Most states also incentivize adoption of HQIM by tying funding sources — such as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, grant opportunities, competitive funding, or other supports — to the selection of HQIM.
  • Most IMPD Network states directly provide HQIM-aligned professional learning in some form to school or district staff, and many provide districts with signals or incentives to encourage districts and schools to choose vendors who meet quality criteria, provide professional learning aligned to HQIM, or both.

Adoption, buy-in, use of and supports for standards-aligned curriculum materials vary widely; adoption and usage of such materials were significantly higher for teachers in IMPD Network states

  • There was higher variance among IMPD Network states in teachers' reports of adoption and use of standards-aligned materials when compared with support and buy-in indicators. This suggests that adoption and use of materials might be relatively more malleable, and these can serve as initial indicators of IMPD Network state progress.
  • There were higher rates of adoption and use of standards-aligned mathematics materials compared with ELA materials.
  • Participation in the IMPD Network was linked positively to more adoption and usage of standards-aligned materials.
  • The relationship between curriculum-specific professional learning and the usage of standards-aligned materials was much stronger in districts where standards-aligned materials were already required or recommended.

Recommendations

  • State networks, such as the IMPD Network, have great potential for shifting teaching and learning at scale.
  • State departments of education should focus on encouraging the adoption of standards-aligned materials as a necessary — but not sufficient — condition for increasing the usage and support of these materials in the classroom.
  • Mandates for HQIM use likely encourage more adoption of standards-aligned materials, but other levers, such as those that aim to increase buy-in for use of standards-aligned materials among principals and teachers, might also encourage adoption and use.
  • Encouraging buy-in among principals and teachers regarding the importance of using standards-aligned materials — rather than simply requiring use — could be an effective strategy for encouraging more use of those materials.
  • Efforts to improve teachers' understanding of what is standards-aligned and what is not could encourage wider usage of standards-aligned materials.
  • School and district leaders must lean into supports for standards-aligned materials to ensure uptake in usage.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    IMPD Network Strategies for Increasing Adoption and Supporting the Use of Instructional Materials

  • Chapter Three

    Standards-Aligned Material Adoption, Use, Buy-In and Supports Nationally and in IMPD Network States

  • Chapter Four

    State Snapshots of Standards-Aligned Material Adoption, Use, Buy-In, and Supports

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions

  • Appendix

    Policies in IMPD Network States and Additional Analyses Tables

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, the Overdeck Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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