The Hidden Value of Curriculum Reform: Do States and Districts Receive the Most Bang for Their Curriculum Buck?

This report examines both the quality and costs of curriculum materials to help schools increase student performance while improving return on investment (ROI). Based on their analysis from 19 states, the authors found that: "higher-quality curriculum in elementary school math can come at a relatively low cost; more rigorous elementary school math curricula can deliver far more ROI than other reforms; when it comes to math curricula in the early grades, cost does not always equal quality; and policy decisions do not consider rigorous measures of curricula quality." The authors recommend improvements in curriculum product research, state textbook adoption processes, curriculum selection processes in school districts, and a competitive grant program devoted to creating high-quality curricula. 

Content Comments 

The purposes of this study are effectively described and met, exceeding expectations. The methodology is reasonable and the authors provide an appropriate limitations section, acknowledging, for example, the very limited research base on cost vs. quality of curriculum materials. Nevertheless, the findings and recommendations should be highly useful, encouraging rigorous curriculum research studies, greater flexibility for school districts to select curriculum materials, and development of more open-source curriculum materials. Communications quality is excellent, as regards both writing and design. The authors do not provide evidence of effectiveness, but the resource's high overall quality suggests a likely effect on learning.