How do we ensure that teachers have access to the instructional materials needed to create standards-aligned, culturally relevant curricula? 

According to the findings of EdReports’ 2021 State of the Instructional Materials Market, “Teachers want materials that are aligned to state standards, offer support for multilingual learners, and provide culturally relevant content and approaches, but few believe their materials meet these needs.” 

Teachers recognize the value of providing a quality standards-aligned curriculum. Students are more engaged and better able to meet grade-appropriate benchmarks. Although EdReports found an uptrend in data demonstrating an increase in the availability of standards-aligned instructional materials, the sad reality is that the numbers show only 51% of ELA teachers and only 44% of Math teachers agree that these needed materials are made available to them. The unacceptable overall percentages as well as the small incremental percentage increases over the past four years can easily be improved if teachers are simply granted access to quality content. 

Over the past four years, the report also notes “a strong demand for instructional materials that address a broader definition of quality in addition to alignment to college and career ready standards.” Beyond meeting basic standards, the quality of a curriculum must also be gauged by its inclusion of content that reflects the modern diverse student population. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2021-2022 school year, enrollment in U.S. public schools included 22.4 million white students and 27.2 million students of color. Their statistics also revealed that “between fall 2009 and fall 2020, the percentage of public-school students who were… White decreased from 54 to 46 percent.” And they project the percentage will continue to decrease with time. Therefore, the curriculum needs to incorporate the interests and culture of the varied student consumers. Once students feel connected to what they are learning, they will surpass expectations. 

To compensate for the lack of standards-aligned and culturally relevant curriculum, resourceful teachers surf. A recent RAND analysis found that 96% of teachers use Google and nearly 75% of teachers use Pinterest to find lessons and materials. And EdReports reviewed research conducted by Fordam Institute and concluded that “that many supplemental materials should “not be used” or are “probably not worth using” and likely do not adequately support students to meet the demands of the standards.” Most online materials haven’t been properly vetted or properly attributed. 

So, what is a teacher to do? 

Schools, districts, and state DOEs need to give teachers what they want: standards-aligned, high-quality, culturally relevant curriculum. However, this is not an easy task. Ensuring copyright compliance becomes an issue, and despite all that the public domain, OER, and the Creative Commons License has to offer without infringement, it’s not enough. The students require more; they deserve the opportunity to read texts under copyright. 

CCC (Copyright Clearance Center) has created a solution that permits broad and open sharing of copyrighted content in classrooms. The Annual Copyright License for Curriculum & Instruction from CCC is a licensing solution containing a broad set of print and digital rights to use high-quality content in K-12 educational materials. It provides rights to reuse and distribute excerpts of copyrighted content in curriculum and instructional materials, edtech applications, and online platforms. With over 60 publishers to choose from, teachers are certain to find supplemental content that connects students to their learning, which will then improve both the students’ and the teachers’ educational experience. 

For a deeper dive into the issues and developments surrounding the creation of higher-quality curricula, check out the following links:

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