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Inside the Classroom

When High-Quality Curriculum Serves Everyone

Districts interested in high student achievement are discovering that an often-undervalued factor can be the key: high-quality curriculum.

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Research has shown that changing your curriculum is the most affordable and powerful change a district can make to improve student outcomes and address achievement gaps. One study found that switching curriculum to boost achievement was, on average, nearly 40 times more cost-effective than reducing class size to bolster student outcomes.

Too frequently, though, a district’s curriculum isn’t able to fully meet the specific needs of teachers and students, requiring teachers to hunt down materials from various print and online resources. This leads to idiosyncrasies, materials that aren’t standards-aligned, and no assurance of significant cumulative impact over time, not to mention its effect on teacher burnout. And when educators are already stressed managing school closures and the uncertainty of what comes in the fall, making it easier to deliver a high-quality curriculum matters even more.

Implementing a gold-standard curriculum district- or statewide would certainly help boost student achievement, but teachers and students need more than a traditionally great curriculum, especially now; they need that high-quality curriculum delivered in a way that integrates, engages, assesses, and can be customized. That’s where LearnZillion can be of service.

Partnering with curriculum writers EL Education, Illustrative Mathematics, and Guidebooks, LearnZillion organizes the most up-to-date version of these curricula into digitized, classroom-ready content, with an easily navigated library of materials that cuts down on teachers’ “search and print” time significantly. Laid out with supports and materials embedded where teachers need them, and with the necessary PDFs and classroom-ready slides included in the lessons, the content also addresses scope and sequence, and is synthesized for easier digestion.

Positioning teachers for a more strategic approach to the material is a key advantage. Whether it’s knowing how long a unit will likely take or understanding specific areas where students may struggle, teachers using LearnZillion are better able to look for challenges, create space for them, and differentiate accordingly. These qualities of the platform, along with the professional development and customer success management that come with it, engage and hone teachers’ best instincts, compounding the benefits of a high-quality curriculum.

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But even if it comes with an integrated digital platform, how can districts tell if a curriculum is actually high in quality? How can they tell if it’s comprehensive, standards-aligned, and, all-in-all, worth piloting? Thanks to the sheer volume of curricular options, deciding what to pilot and review can be daunting.

Many districts turn to EdReports, an independent, nonprofit organization that publishes evidence-based reviews of instructional materials, supporting smart adoption processes that equip teachers with high-quality curriculum. EdReports’s tool for reviewing curricula is made up of a gateway system that guides reviewers through a sequential review process. The three gateways reflect the importance of standards alignment and other aspects of curricula that educators regard as high quality.

After curricula are reviewed, their scores are posted on EdReports.org, with visual snapshots of the strengths and weaknesses of curricula along with which grade bands are covered by different options. The greener the curriculum’s scores, the better.

Each of the curricula available with LearnZillion has scored “all green” on EdReports, checking the boxes for the quality necessary for student achievement, and an implementation that empowers teachers. In the midst of shifting norms and changing systems, the certainty gained through working with high-quality curriculum is more valuable than ever.

About the Author

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Kallie Markle

Hailing from the wilds of far Northern California, Kallie Markle earned BAs in Literature and Philosophy from Point Loma Nazarene University. She has worked in various marketing roles and has written for National Parks magazine, where she learned to appreciate redwoods and deserts equally. She’s grateful to have joined the world of education just in time for her oldest child to surpass her in mathematics mastery.