“We literally created our own curriculum … essentially creating it from scratch–creating the homework, creating the student achievement challenges,” Baumann said at the end of a school year spent collecting feedback and refining the materials.
Five years into the implementation of Common Core, standards meant to steer students from rote memorization toward critical thinking, 45 percent of school districts reported “major problems” finding good aligned textbooks, and another 45 percent reported “minor problems,” an October survey by the Center of Education Policy found.
“The need for standards-aligned curricula is undoubtedly the most cited implementation challenge for states, districts and schools,” said a May report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Publishing industry executives said some education publishers produced materials more quickly than others, but other factors have been at play. Most significant are the shift to digital learning and the lingering effects of the recession, which left many school districts without money to replace textbooks published before the new standards took hold.
Nevertheless, the appearance that standardized tests were aligned to Common Core more quickly than textbooks has added to the distrust of the more rigorous standards, which teachers largely support, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
“Overwhelmingly,” the union leader said, “the biggest cause of stress among teachers is not just class sizes but mandated new curriculum that are imposed without any real materials or training.”
“If you’re changing to standards that are eliciting deeper thinking and more rigor and asking kids to explain what they’ve learned, then you have to create curriculum and curricular units that are aligned with that and are engaging,” Weingarten said, “and then you have to give teachers the time to work with them and tailor them to their classes.”
Even some textbooks that say they are Common Core-aligned aren’t necessarily so, analyses have shown.
“Not only do they not cover what they should, but they cover a lot of stuff that they shouldn’t,” said William Schmidt, director of the Center for the Study of Curriculum at Michigan State University’s College of Education.
Schmidt’s analysis of 34 widely used math textbook series found that those released after 2011 were, predictably, better aligned to Common Core than older ones but still left out about 20 percent of the standards.