Can a school or district improve student achievement simply by switching to a higher quality textbook or curriculum? We conducted the first multi-textbook, multi-state effort to estimate textbook efficacy following widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and associated changes in the textbook market. Pooling textbook adoption and student test score data across six geographically and demographically diverse U.S. states, we found little evidence of differences in average achievement gains for schools using different math textbooks. We found some evidence of greater variation in achievement gains among schools using pre-CCSS editions, which may have been more varied in their content than post-CCSS editions because they were written for a broader set of standards. We also found greater variation among schools that had more exposure to a given text. However, these differences were small. Despite considerable interest and attention to textbooks as a low-cost, “silver bullet” intervention for improving student outcomes, we conclude that the adoption of a new textbook or set of curriculum materials, on its own, is unlikely to achieve this goal.
Curriculum Reform in the Common Core Era: Evaluating Elementary Math Textbooks Across Six U.S. States
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management