A model to improve student outcomes exists—and is more accessible than you think.
The national conversation around student outcomes, especially related to literacy rates among 4th and 8th grades and math proficiency for middle schoolers, has brought to light a growing understanding of root opportunities for improvement in K-12 teaching and learning.
Teachers Teach Themselves
Recently, EdWeek documented that only 33% of K-2 and Special Education teachers surveyed learn most of what they know about reading instruction from professional learning. The money math is clear. Because curriculum is so costly (sometimes as much as $1,000 per student for one subject), there's little to no cash for professional learning. That leaves ⅔ of teachers going elsewhere, whether forming ideas based on their own in-classroom experience and online research or to other teachers for peer mentorship. And yet, teachers must be consistently developed in order for any curricula to reap the gains it was designed to achieve.
Finding the Quality in the Quantity
A recent study from the RAND Corporation found that nearly all teachers rely on “materials I developed and/or selected myself”—Google and Pinterest being the primary sources of this content. It’s simply not enough for teachers to provide each other peer-to-peer content with no means of checks and balances. If the quality cannot be gauged, the outcomes will be inconsistent at best.
There is a sea of curriculum, with no real cost difference in the “good” versus “bad,” but if high quality curriculum sits because teachers do not have the professional development or bandwidth to incorporate it while they juggle teaching, grading, lesson planning, dismissal and the myriad of other responsibilities they have, what good does that do?
What would the future of K-12 education look like if funds earmarked for curriculum were applied to professional learning?
A Flip of the Script
What's most important is ensuring all 51MM kids in our country have access to high-quality teaching and learning regardless of their zip code. That means meeting schools where they are and giving them high-quality, vetted curriculum freely accessible so funds can be put to ensuring teachers not only know how to instruct, but know how to individually assess and help kids at whatever level they're coming in at. This could be children with special needs and learning challenges or who don't speak english as a first language, to name a few.
Open Up Resources (OUR) is a non-profit that exists to create equity in education by making high-quality curricula freely accessible to districts. We’re saying, “Here is the best core curriculum—research-based, comprehensive, and efficacious. It’s freely accessible so you can instead allocate money towards what is most important: developing teachers so that they can effectively implement the curriculum and thus dramatically improve student achievement.
OUR has curricula that serves K-8 ELA programs, 6-12 math programs , and a 2-12 social-emotional supplemental program. We're working as quickly as we can to expand this offering, but we're so much more than a distributor of OER content. We make OER better! In ensuring kids have access to high-quality materials, we incubate all of our curricula to ensure it meets research-backed standards.
This is why we see the solution as more of a wrapping arms around teaching and learning: incubating high-quality curriculum, making it freely accessible to districts and schools, providing professional learning during implementation and ongoing and then a peer-to-peer social network with professional learning coaches. We're seeing this work in districts across the country—from Valdosta, GA to Seaford, DE and beyond.
This whole process increases the quality of the investment into schools and districts while managing the limited funds available—all while making education more equitable and improving outcomes. It’s a win for education and future generations of Americans within our reach.
To learn more about bringing high-quality, freely accessible curricula and professional learning to your teachers and students, contact us.
About Open Up Resources:
Open Up Resources is a 501c3 that exists to increase equity in education by making the highest quality curriculum freely accessible to educators and providing implementation supports to the broadest number of teachers, empowering them to effectively and sustainably improve student outcomes in pre-K-12 English Language Arts and Mathematics. To learn more about Open Up Resources' mission and work, click here.