Credit: Kayla Galway

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the midst of a series of interviews with states and districts to explore how they adopt core curriculum and what factors might be especially relevant to those looking to have OER adopted as core curriculum.

I’ve now talked to several state curriculum and instruction leaders, as well as a few districts. Here are some preliminary take-aways.

  • There aren’t as many “adoption states” as there used to be. The common number given used to be 20, including several of the larger states. Several have gone to a rolling, yearly review, and most do not require that schools buy off the approved list. A few are no longer even reviewing materials. Local control has won, and state adoptions may be on the way out altogether.
    (Note that where there are still state review processes in place, I think it is well worth the time and effort to submit core curriculum materials for review. While schools may not have to buy off list, most still do.)
  • District review processes are rigorous and focused on product quality. There seems to be a genuine understanding that new standards require new kinds of materials and new methods of instruction. People seem to be looking deeply at their own practice as a part of instructional materials reviews and are not just accepting publisher’s correlations at face value.
  • Price does not seem to be a significant factor in district decision making with the possible exception of when there is no money at all. (Also, many states no longer provide an allocation of funds for instructional materials, making it the district’s choice of how they spend their funds.) Many district adoption processes leave price completely out of the equation until the final board sign-off stage.
    (This has interesting implications for OER.)
  • There seems to be less emphasis on textbooks or even a single core instructional resource and less focus on rigid pacing and scripted lessons. (Hurray!) More districts, especially smaller and more progressive ones, are creating their own “curriculum” and using a variety of instructional materials, including OER and teacher-created resources, to flesh that out.
    (This in combination with the new standards could provide an entry point for more open practice.)

I am still looking for district superintendents and curriculum leaders to talk to about how they review and adopt core instructional materials and what implementation support they need once they have adopted. Having this information will help publishers better meet your needs, so if you’re interested, drop me a note!

Thinking about OER as core curriculum
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3 thoughts on “Thinking about OER as core curriculum

  • September 29, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I have been working with a small K-8 school district that has adopted project-based learning as their teaching and learning methodology. In principle, this means their curriculum consists of the teacher-designed projects. OER certainly fits well into this methodology. My observation (based only on this district, so I cannot generalize) is teachers are pretty stuck on what they are familiar with, and it takes a lot of time to get them interested in/excited about using resources outside their school walls. I wonder how we could most effectively break these barriers down?

  • September 30, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for the comment, Charlene. I think people in general tend to stay with what they know. For educators, there are so many other issues as well that are intertwined with this — trust, history, risks and rewards. Education tends to swing wildly from one extreme to another, which I think has left many skeptical about change. Addressing this might be one way to start breaking these barriers down, but it’s a long process I think. And as in so many areas of life, politics are in the mix too.

    Despite all this, I believe that the vast majority of teachers want to what’s right for kids.

    And one interesting thing about OER is that it is a tool, like paper, that can be used for anything — from very old-school traditional textbooks to wildly exciting teacher- and student-designed curriculum. Of course, I hope its unique affordances lead to the latter, but there is a lot of flexibility.

  • September 30, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Karen, I completely agree with your observations. I am not dismayed that the change process is taking time and meeting with resistance in some cases. What does discourage me is when teachers rely almost wholly on their textbooks, rather than seeking out supplementary materials that the kids will become excited about. Perhaps, however, this is due to lack of modeling and/or encouragement within the district administration.

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