Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Core Question, Revisited: Will Indiana Still Get Common Core-Aligned Textbooks?

Many Indiana schools are using Everyday Mathematics, curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Publishers are marketing textbooks as aligned to Common Core, but new research suggests the material may not match up closely with the nationally-crafted expectations for what students should know and learn at each grade level.

Around this time last year, a reader asked if Indiana would still get Common Core-aligned textbooks if state lawmakers voted to exit the initiative.

Indiana and 44 other states agreed to use the common expectations in 2010. But as it’s now likely the state will become the first to withdraw from an agreement to share standards, we felt it was time to revisit the question.

According to a report from the Office of Management and Budget, a majority of Indiana school districts have already shelled out for new textbooks and curriculum. And while the proposed expectations state education officials will consider next month overlap with Common Core, they also include Indiana-specific content.

But whether Indiana will remain a large enough market to get its own textbooks is anyone’s guess. Last month, two researchers announced textbooks boasting alignment to the nationally-crafted Common Core standards may not conform to the new expectations after all. From Education Week:

But in a Feb. 21 presentation of his research at a seminar in Los Angeles hosted by the Education Writers Association, William Schmidt, a professor of statistics and education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, dismissed most purveyors of such claims as “snake oil salesmen” who have done little more than slap shiny new stickers on the same books they’ve been selling for years.

Mr. Schmidt, who also co-directs the university’s Education Policy Center, and his team recently analyzed about 700 textbooks from 35 textbook series for grades K-8 that are now being used by 60 percent of public school children in the United States. Of those that purported to be aligned with the new standards, he said, some were “page by page, paragraph by paragraph” virtually identical to their old, pre-common-core versions.

University of Southern California professor Morgan Polikoff, meanwhile, reached a similar conclusion after analyzing seven 4th grade math textbooks used in Florida. Despite publishers’ claims, the books were “only modestly aligned to the common core” and “systematically failed to reach the higher levels of cognitive demand” called for in the new standards, Mr. Polikoff said in a presentation to the EWA.

The problem of poorly-aligned textbooks isn’t new, says Kathleen Porter-Magee, a researcher for the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute.

“Educators need to go in with the idea the buyer really should beware,” says Porter-Magee. “Just because something says it’s aligned to the Common Core or any set of standards doesn’t make it so. Publishers have a vested interest in selling their material as aligned to whatever it is you are looking for.”

Porter-Magee says the burden is on district administrators and state education officials to make sure standards and materials really do mesh. State superintendent Glenda Ritz has criticized textbook companies in the past for setting the tone for how teachers use the standards in their classrooms.

“Textbook companies came out with the how before we ever as educators got a chance to wrap our heads around what the standards were,” Ritz told reporters after the January State Board of Education meeting.

As Indiana charts its own course for students expectations, Ritz says she would be comfortable approaching textbook companies and asking them to adjust their products for Indiana.

“It’s the same challenge Rhode Island and Delaware faced in the pre-Common Core era,” says Porter-Magee. “It’s not impossible to overcome.”


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