Choosing Blindly: Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core

Instructional materials have important effects on student learning, but there is a lack of research on the effectiveness of most instructional materials, and a there is little systematic information being collected on which materials are being used in schools. Chingos and Whitehurst believe the problem can be fixed by states with the help of the federal government, non-profit organizations, and private philanthropy. They provide several recommendations in this report regarding how to improve information on the effectiveness of instructional materials.

Content Comments 

The main argument by the authors is that “there is strong evidence that the choice of instructional materials has large effects on student learning—effects that rival in size those that are associated with differences in teacher effectiveness;” however, there is “little information available on the effectiveness of most instructional materials, [and] there is also very little systematic information on which materials are being used in which schools” (p. 1). While instructional materials are important to student learning, the reader should be cautioned that student achievement is more than the result of selecting effective instructional materials: students achieve through effective teacher instruction and having cognitively appropriate and demanding learning tasks with the materials. That said, this report raises some key issues regarding instructional materials that educators should be aware of, especially in light of materials that are aligned to Common Core State Standards. This report is quite lengthy, but it provides guidance in how states can collect data on instructional materials to vet them for effectiveness with student learning and alignment with new standards.