Getting the Most out of Education Dollars via Curriculum Reform

With education funding still stagnant in many states, the Center for American Progress examined how states could get the most impact from their dollars. The new report, The Hidden Value of Curriculum Reform, suggests that the most cost-effective use of the funding is curriculum reform: adopting higher quality instructional materials, such as textbooks, workbooks, and software, by improving the product selection process.

Key Findings

  • Higher-quality curriculum in elementary school math can come at a relatively low cost.
  • More rigorous elementary school math curricula can deliver far more ROI than other reforms.
  • When it comes to math curricula in the early grades, cost does not always equal quality.
  • Policy decisions do not consider rigorous measures of curricula quality.

There are a few caveats to the report. First, the authors relied on a single study for their analysis of the relationship between price and quality – the Mathematica Policy Research and SRI International study released in 2010. Second, since the alignment between curriculum and assessment varies, test scores are not always the best gauge of a program. Finally, since educators all have a unique style of interpreting and teaching curriculum, the implementation will not be the same from classroom to classroom, much less from school to school. 

Recommendations include investing in better product research, improving the state textbook adoption process, improving the selection process in school districts, and creating a competitive grant program devoted to developing high quality curricula.

Education Policy