By Leni Dietrich, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
A little over one thousand miles separates students in Milwaukee from students in New Orleans, but they have a lot in common when it comes to learning.
Our growing network of urban Catholic schools has put a stake in the ground: We are no longer purchasing textbooks for math, English, science or social studies. Instead, we are turning to high-quality, open source curricula, including Louisiana Believes
By not taking part in the $4 billion textbook industry, we are able to reallocate funds historically spent on inflexible learning materials to resources that accelerate student learning and to support teachers to effectively implement them.
After an infusion of support from the U.S. Department of Education’s Race To The Top Fund, the State of Louisiana developed new K-12 curricula and resources, including guidebooks and lesson plans aligned to college and career readiness standards, and incentivized their use in local schools. Race To The Top also required that these materials were shared online with educators everywhere.
At Seton, we are working closely with all teachers to shift instructional practice—student engagement is key to raising student achievement. And we realize that we can best support teachers, and their students, when we put high-quality resources in their hands and then let them do what they do best: teach.
Research continues to demonstrate that curricular choices matter. According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins’ David Steiner, not only is curriculum a critical factor in student academic success, but “the cumulative impact of high-quality curriculum can be significant.” And Louisiana Believes is demonstrating early success: Louisiana 4th graders achieved the highest growth among all states on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, and the second-highest in math.
We piloted Louisiana Believes ELA units during the 2016-17 school year and participating teachers expressed an overwhelming positive impact on their time, instruction, and, in turn, student learning. Teachers’ focus shifted from searching for resources and planning, to adapting existing resources to meet the needs of their classes and students. Rather than learning from a textbook, students accessed authentic texts, both fiction and non-fiction, in a highly-engaging lesson format. This school year we are implementing Louisiana Believes ELA across our entire network. When it comes to math, half of our schools are piloting Zearn, the blended learning program rated as a high-quality resource by the same leaders that brought forth Louisiana Believes.
Hearing the words “no more textbooks” was tough for some educators to hear, but the more we introduce teachers to Louisiana Believes and Zearn and offer professional development focused on implementation, the more our teachers are voluntarily giving up their textbooks and embracing this new era of teaching and learning.
This post was part of a series featured on Rick Hess Straight Up.