Why have I been barked at?

I bark when I see a district using curriculum that isn’t aligned to the education standards in its state.

See below for the difference between standards and curriculum.

If you have been barked at, it’s because you are using weak, non-aligned curriculum. You don’t have to take my word on it about the curriculum being bad. I’m a dog. Two organizations have reviewed curriculum for standards-alignment and quality (details below) – with teams of trained educators doing the reviews – and they have given your curriculum a poor rating. Yet you are still using it to teach children.

I bark because there are mounds of evidence saying that curriculum has a huge impact student learning… like the research summarized in this article:

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And this one:

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And this entire report.

The research jury is in: if you aren’t using good curriculum, you are passing up the opportunity to improve teaching and learning in your schools.

So I bark because it is unfair to your students that you are using weak materials when good materials would get more of them reading, and succeeding in math.

I bark because it is deeply unfair to your teachers to ask them to teach with materials that don’t align to the state tests in your state.

I bark because you spent public dollars to buy something poor and put it in classrooms. This isn’t about your district lacking the $$$ to do better. Curriculum is described as a “cost-neutral” way to improve student achievement, because the bad curriculum you are using costs no more than good curriculum.

When I review all of this evidence, I can’t imagine how you are still using poor curriculum.

I bark because the parents in your district deserve to know that you have chosen something poor for their students.

I bark because the voters and taxpayers in your district deserve to consider this information, from a stewardship perspective.

If I give you the benefit of the doubt: Maybe you didn’t know that you had weak curriculum, and that there are far better options (see below on how to find them).

Now that you know better: please do better.

A Note on Curriculum Reviews

EdReports is a nonprofit that organizes and trains teams of teachers to do reviews versus the standards. It is considered the ‘Good Housekeeping’ of curriculum reviews by curriculum leaders nationwide.

The state of Louisiana also conducted similar reviews using teams of trained educators. The outcomes tend to be consistent with EdReports.

They are great resources. Use them to understand the flaws in your current curriculum. Then use them again to find something better.

A Note on Standards vs Curriculum

If you’re not an educator, you might not understand how standards and curriculum are different. Here’s an explanation:

Standards are the learning goals for what kids should know and be able to do at each grade. Curriculum is the stuff used in classrooms (lesson materials, plans for teachers, content read by kids) in order to achieve those standards. So they are related, but very different.

It’s explained well on this website:

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I think of it like fuel efficiency standards. The government sets a standard – for example, vehicles must get 34 miles per gallon (MPG). Auto makers can design cars with any number of variations… in the materials used, car design, number of cupholders… as long as they achieve that MPG target. Therefore, there are many new models to choose from each year for consumers, the same way that there are many curriculum options available to districts. The only difference is, automakers aren’t permitted to sell cars that miss MPG targets. Publishers can – and unfortunately do – keep selling bad curriculum that doesn’t align to standard to our school districts. District leaders need to make smart, careful decisions about the materials used to teach students, and not just believe the publisher sales pitches about the quality of materials.

In summary: your state set academic standards for all students. Your district had the discretion to choose any materials it wanted for student learning. And your district chose materials that don’t align to your state’s standards.

I bark so that you know what’s happening in your district.


I’ve had it up to my collar

Hold the bone.

Are there really this many districts in Massachusetts using poor elementary curriculum?


This many districts using basal series that bombed reviews by EdReports and the state of Louisiana?

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This many districts using something that isn’t even a curriculum???

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Seriously???? Massachusetts, you are supposed to be leading the pack on matters of curriculum and instruction. (More MA ‘curriculum heatmaps’ for math + ELA here).

I’m barkless.

So I’ll let the educator reviews bark for me.

Pearson Reading Street EdReports Review

A bloodbath (read here):

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Pearson Reading Street Louisiana Believes Review

“Tier III: Not Representing Quality.” Read it here.

Pearson Reading Street LA Believes

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys EdReports Review

Another bloodbath. See here.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys Louisiana Believes Review

“Tier III: Not Representing Quality.” Read it here.

HMH Journeys LA Believes

McGraw Hill Wonders EdReports Review

At least we are up to “partially meets expectations.” Because every teacher deserves partial support for their objectives, and every parent would be delighted to have their kids partially achieve the outcome goals we set for them. See here.

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McGraw Hill Wonders Louisiana Believes Review

“Tier III: Not Representing Quality.” Read it here.

McGraw Wonders LA Believes


Lucy Calkins / Teachers College Reading and Writing

You can’t find reviews of these materials on EdReports. Why? Because they aren’t a curriculum. They are a reading program and a writing program. Lucy Calkins’s own book says as much, and she refers people to other programs for foundational skills work like phonics. How people came to think of this program as adequate for K–5 literacy instruction is a mystery.

Where’s the howling?

How is there not a wave of teacher outcry about this situation? Do teachers just not know that there are better options out there? Do their unions not realize that teachers in these schools have been abandoned without decent materials?

I’m sure most parents have no idea. But they’d be up in arms if they knew their districts could be doing so much better. Same for voters / taxpayers, whose property values are tied to the quality of the local districts… and like it or not, quality is tied to those state testing outcomes, which are held back by these poor choices by districts.