Educator Jennifer Johnson offers advice to small school districts about how to use EdReports reviews to increase capacity and adopt high-quality instructional materials.
Marysville Public Schools in Michigan is a small school district filled with teachers and staff dedicated to the 2,800 students we serve. While there are many benefits to working for a small district, capacity is definitely not one of them.
Due to our size, we’re all required to wear many hats. Our superintendent is also our director of curriculum. I’m the educational technology specialist and the supervisor of instructional technology and assessment.
The impact of our limited capacity was evident in the 2015-16 school year, when we began the process of examining the quality of our instructional materials. We wanted to improve our student learning outcomes and knew the important role materials played in reaching our goals; however, we didn’t have access to hundreds of staff, infinite hours, and endless resources. What we did have was free access to EdReports.org.
EdReports had already reviewed the middle school ELA and math programs we were using and by looking at the scores the programs received and the supporting evidence found in the reviews, we could see that our materials were not aligned to the standards. The independent information we found on EdReports confirmed that our materials were not supporting the effective teaching critical for student learning.
Once we had a clearer understanding of the quality of our instructional materials, we decided that our best course of action was to adopt new programs better aligned to the state standards.
Materials adoption is both an urgent and overwhelming prospect. There were so many available choices, and it was hard to know where to begin. And once we did begin, how could we look beyond publisher claims and investigate the materials in a comprehensive and responsible way?
Turning to EdReports was a logical decision for us. The organization invests hundreds of hours reviewing instructional materials—hours that a small district like ours simply doesn’t have. The educators who conduct their reviews have extensive content knowledge and expertise and receive rigorous training, and this was especially important to us.
Knowing highly qualified educators who understand the realities of the classroom and who work with materials every day are the ones evaluating programs inspired a level of trust and confidence in both the process and the results. The reports became an invaluable resource as we researched curriculum and narrowed our choices. We used them to eliminate some programs right away and to explore aligned programs on a deeper level to see which were best for our local Marysville needs.
The supporting data from the reviews gave us the opportunity to have substantial conversations about the materials’ alignment and usability. EdReports allowed us to winnow options and bring fully vetted program choices to the teachers on our materials selection committee as well as the school board. Our committee could then focus their knowledge and time on thoroughly examining choices we already knew were aligned. An equally important aspect of the reviews was the fact that we could back-up every recommendation with independent, trusted evidence.
The first time we used EdReports it was for a middle school math adoption. Today, we’re in the process of adopting K-5 math while next year we hope to select a K-5 ELA program. Now we have a single place to go for the information we need. We are also no longer solely reliant on publishers for knowledge about a program. We can rely on hundreds of trained, expert educators instead.
Through this experience, I am a firm believer that all districts—regardless of size, circumstance, or capacity—can have access to the highest quality instructional materials to support to support strong instruction.
That is the true value of EdReports: it saved us time and expanded our capacity without ever sacrificing the quality of our adoption process or, ultimately, the decisions we made. We’ll never make another adoption without them.