Why is Everyone Providing the Same OER Math Curriculum?

Everyone-Same-Math-Green-Bird-1600x837After the standards were implemented across the country, traditional textbook companies failed to support educators and districts in the ways they needed to prepare students for their college and careers.

Educators, schools, and districts were left to their own devices to figure out how they could craft lessons and content piecemeal to help their students meet grade-level standards. The gap that previously existed between schools with resources and schools without surged, as those with resources purchased supplemental materials to fill in the gaps, while those without were left with the little they could access.

Open Up Resources began as the K–12 OER Collaborative, a 13-state initiative to address quality gaps in the curriculum market and decrease equity gaps.

In the formation of our organization, we proposed a crazy idea—what would happen if we worked with experts to write high-quality, standards-aligned core curricula, and then made them freely available as Open Education Resources (OER) to increase equity in education?

Folks from across the education ecosystem—funders, companies, and publishers—said it couldn’t be done. They said OER materials would never be more than a minor supplement, and that they’d never be high quality. Funder after funder refused to support it because they didn’t think it was financially viable and they didn’t think it would scale. Despite all of this, we believed in the idea and knew we had to do what was right by districts and students, so we went all in.

We partnered with leading math and ELA experts to design high-quality, standards-aligned core curricula—something that the “big box” publishers had failed to provide after years of need.

We funded the development of a middle school math curriculum authored by Illustrative Mathematics (now known as Open Up Resources 6–8 Math). As the materials were authored, we conducted a rigorous QA process to ensure they met our standards and ran an extensive beta pilot program to implement educator feedback.

When the curriculum was complete, we launched it into the world with a CC-BY license—which lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon our work, as long as they credit us for the original creation.

What happened next couldn’t have made us more excited. Open Up Resources 6–8 Math hit the market with a splash; it received an incredible review from EdReports.org and received a Tier 1 rating from the state of Louisiana.

We saw a flood of districts adopt. Districts like Wake County (the 15th largest district in the country), Guilford County (NC), Newport Mesa Unified (CA), Cumberland County (NC), Riverside Unified (CA), Evergreen Public Schools (WA), Cambridge Public Schools (MA), Reeths-Puffer (MI), Desoto Parish (LA),  Santa Barbara Unified (CA), and Brandywine School District (DE) all joined the Open Up Resources family as district-wide adopters.

As the curriculum gained popularity, other providers started gaining interest—and why wouldn’t they?! LearnZillion announced they were going to provide the curriculum in March, 2018.

People slowly became comfortable with the idea of two providers offering the same OER curriculum. But more recently, Kendall Hunt and McGraw-Hill both announced they will be providing versions of the curriculum as well.

The ecosystem has evolved rapidly over the past few weeks, and we couldn’t be more energized by it. What started off as our moonshot idea has turned into a sweeping curriculum phenomenon. To see so many providers offering a curriculum we launched into the world means more students are receiving access to a high-quality, standards-aligned math curriculum, and we couldn’t be more excited about that.

But with so many players in the game providing a variation of the same curriculum, schools and districts are confused: What’s the same? What’s different? Which provider should I work with? What does this mean for the future of the curriculum?

We’re here to answer some of those pressing questions.

Do all of these providers offer an identical version of the curriculum?

No. Open Up Resources owns the original license to the curriculum (as seen in the attributions that each provider is required to include in their materials) so every version is similar. However, each provider has made different tweaks to the curriculum for various reasons.

If the curriculum is similar, what’s the difference between offerings?

Wonderful question! Here’s the current rundown to the best of our knowledge:

Illustrative Mathematics IM 6-8 Math Curriculum Comparison Chart

What’s the deal with certifications?

We choose not to participate in various pay-for-certification programs that are offered by organizations in the OER community. There are two simple reasons:

1. It’s not in line with our mission. Our organization is built around doing what is right for kids and educators. We choose not to participate in pay-for-certification programs, instead using those funds for more meaningful investments that help kids.

2. It’s silly to get certified for a curriculum we helped develop...we developed it.

How will you ensure Open Up Resources 6–8 Math is always best-in-class?

We’ll listen to you and continually improve the curriculum based on your feedback. We regularly talk with schools and districts from around the country to understand your needs and implement your feedback into new editions of the curriculum.

Why are naming conventions important?

Because each provider offers a slightly different variation of the curriculum, it’s important to know which one you’re using. The Open Up Resources 6–8 Math curriculum has generated stellar student outcomes in districts across the country, but we can’t say that versions by other providers will do the same since they’ve tweaked the materials in a different fashion.

If you’ve implemented the curriculum with materials from Open Up Resources (digital and/or print), you’re using Open Up Resources 6–8 Math.

Will I always be able to get the curriculum from you?

Yes. We take a small margin on print materials and professional learning to sustain our operations so that we will always be around to meet your needs. Unlike other companies, any profit we make goes straight into further improving our curricula or developing new high-quality curricula.

Which provider should I use?

That’s completely up to you. We have two primary objectives at Open Up Resources:

  • To support schools and districts the way they deserve to be treated.
  • To increase education equity by making high-quality curricula accessible to all students.

We’re not here to profit off of your students, so there’s no hard sell involved. If you’re looking for a high-quality middle school math curriculum, please drop us a line because we’d love to serve and support you.

If you think another provider has an offering that may be a better fit for your students, we encourage you to explore those options. At the end of the day, we believe it’s all about the kids.