Cover: What K–12 English Language Arts and Mathematics Instructional Materials Were Newly Purchased and Used for the 2021–2022 School Year?

What K–12 English Language Arts and Mathematics Instructional Materials Were Newly Purchased and Used for the 2021–2022 School Year?

Findings from the 2022 American Instructional Resources Survey

Published Nov 15, 2022

by Andrea Prado Tuma, George Zuo, Joshua Eagan, Julia H. Kaufman, Sy Doan, Sabrina Lee, Aarya Suryavanshi

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Research Questions

  1. What proportion of educators reported using new English language arts (ELA) or mathematics instructional materials, what are those materials, and how often do educators use them?
  2. What proportion of teachers' new ELA or mathematics instructional materials were purchased by the school or district during the 2021–2022 school year? How much money do teachers spend out of pocket on new instructional materials?
  3. What proportion of teachers reported not using ELA or mathematics materials newly purchased by their school or district and why?
  4. What are teachers' needs for better or more ELA or mathematics instructional materials?
  5. Is the availability of federal relief funds associated with higher use of new instructional materials by teachers and lower teacher out-of-pocket spending on instructional materials?

The introduction of new instructional materials places considerable time and learning demands on teachers. Understanding the extent to which teachers use new instructional materials can inform how best to support teachers in selecting and using such materials effectively. Policymakers at the state and district levels also need to understand teachers' existing curriculum needs as school systems continue to address missed learning because of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

In this report — the first to share findings from the spring 2022 American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS) — the authors build on past research to examine the extent to which teachers are using new instructional materials in a given school year, what those materials are, and who purchases those materials. The authors also examine reasons why teachers report not using newly school- or district-purchased instructional materials, what teachers' needs are for better or additional curriculum materials, and whether the use of new instructional materials is associated with the availability of federal relief funds for schools.

Key Findings

  • Roughly half of teachers reported regular use (once a week or more) of at least one new instructional material during each of the past three school years, although teachers typically did not report using those new materials for the bulk of their instructional time.
  • A higher proportion of teachers reported regularly using new, standards-aligned curriculum materials in the 2021–2022 school year than during the previous two school years.
  • In 2021–2022, on average, most of teachers' new instructional materials were purchased by their school or district, but teachers also reported accessing materials that were available at no cost or purchasing materials themselves.
  • More than half of ELA and mathematics teachers reported out-of-pocket spending of $100 or more on instructional materials in 2021–2022; roughly one-fourth of teachers spent $300 or more on instructional materials.
  • About one in five teachers reported not using materials that their school or district purchased in 2021–2022. Explanations included that those materials did not meet their students' needs, the teachers did not have time to use them, or the materials were difficult to use.
  • At least half of teachers cited moderate or major unmet needs for curriculum materials that engage students and for materials that better meet the needs of students on both ends of the achievement spectrum.
  • Per-pupil Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding was uncorrelated with regular use of new materials and teacher out-of-pocket spending on instructional materials.


  • School systems should involve teachers in the selection of new instructional materials and — if systems already involve teachers — be clear about how they have integrated teacher input into selection processes.
  • School systems, state departments of education, and professional development providers could help teachers become better evaluators of the quality of different instructional materials.
  • States and districts must continue to work on increasing the adoption of standards-aligned materials.
  • Teachers need support to incorporate new ELA and mathematics instructional materials into their instructional time.
  • To support equitable implementation of new materials, school systems should consider the needs of educators who teach different grade levels and subjects, those working in schools with higher and lower proportions of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, and those with different experience levels.

Research conducted by

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

This report is part of the RAND 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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