4 ways to ensure teachers are using the newest learning materials

Despite having access to some of the latest tools, one in five teachers said they avoided new materials that did not meet students' needs, were hard to use or that they didn't have time to implement.

Do you know how many new learning materials your teachers have adopted in the last year or so? Even if you have a handle on the answer, are your educators getting the most out of those new resources?

But not all teachers report using the new learning tools purchased each year by their schools and districts. This can hinder administrators’ ability to provide the appropriate professional development or understand teachers’ curriculum needs more thoroughly, says an analysis of the use of new math and English resources.

“The introduction of new instructional materials places considerable time and learning demands on teachers,” says the authors of the study by the RAND Corporation, a public policy think tank. “Understanding the extent to which teachers use new instructional materials can inform how to best support teachers in selecting and using such materials effectively.”

A comprehensive understanding of teachers’ instructional and curriculum needs will also better guide administrators as they lead their students and schools through academic recovery from three years of pandemic upheavals. But half of the teachers surveyed for the analysis said their curriculum was failing to engage students or meet the needs of learners “on both ends of the achievement spectrum,” the authors said.

When it comes to newly purchased instructional materials, roughly half of the teachers surveyed said they are using at least one on a regular basis each year. And more teachers adopted new resources in 2021-22 than during the previous two years. But about one in five teachers said they avoided new materials that did not meet students’ needs, were hard to use or that they didn’t have time to implement.

Most of the new materials used were purchased by schools or districts, but some teachers bought resources themselves or found free alternatives, the report found. More than half of ELA and mathematics teachers spent $100 or more of their own money in 2021–2022 while about one-fourth spent $300 or more.

To ensure your district is building a standards-aligned curriculum that teachers will adopt and that will engage students, RAND’s analysts recommend that leaders:

  • Involve teachers in the selection of new instructional materials and remain clear that teachers have an ongoing role in the selection process.
  • Provide professional development that helps teachers become better evaluators of the quality of different instructional materials.
  • Offer ongoing support to ELA and math teachers as they integrate new materials into instructional time.
  • Focus on the needs of educators with different experience levels and those who work in schools with higher proportions of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches to ensure the equitable implementation of new materials.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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