Short answer: yes! The materials teachers use throughout their curriculum make a big impact on the way they teach – and the way students learn. In fact, high-quality instructional materials (or HQIM) can be a bigger game-changer in classroom learning than reducing class sizes.

So what puts the “high-quality” in HQIM? EdReports, a leading independent non-profit led by educators who review educational resources, considers two major criteria:

  • It aligns with college-level and career-ready standards
  • It’s easy to use for teachers and students

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) adds that high-quality instructional materials are meaningful, affirming and grade-level appropriate. 

And what’s wrapped up in the term “Instructional materials?” That’s a large umbrella that covers everything from textbooks to digital media, lectures, readings and more.

Quality over Quantity

The recent focus on HQIM springs from a growing body of research that ties the quality of learning materials to better outcomes. Everything from boosting student learning to supporting disadvantaged students. 

Yet teachers feel their resources are falling short. In an Education Week report, only 18 percent strongly agreed that their resources aligned with standards; 39 percent said they felt “very prepared” to teach those standards. 

Textbooks are part of the HQIM equation, but they aren’t in and of themselves a curriculum. In need of other materials to use in class, teachers spend an average of 12 hours searching for instructional resources from external organizations or creating them themselves. And 90 percent rely on Google for at least some of their materials. (No surprises that those search results vary in quality, and are often unvetted.)

Digging into their own numbers, EdReports found just 41 percent of math materials and 52 percent of ELA materials met expectations for standards alignment. 

Not Just a Trend

Support is growing in response to the need for HQIM that supports standards, curriculums and learning goals. The CCSSO Instructional Materials and Professional Development Network supports 12 U.S. states as their districts adopt HQIM is just one example. 

The Louisiana Department of Education has adopted its own HQIM ratings to help guide schools toward resources worth purchasing. Similarly, Nebraska launched its Nebraska Instructional Materials Collaborative to better equip educators and support students.

HQIM is broadly supported by teachers as well. In fact, teachers ranked access to high-quality instructional materials as a top funding priority, on par with hiring additional staff and above higher salaries.

Teacher and Student Benefits

Teachers are under a lot of pressure to find instructional resources. HQIM saves teachers the time and hassle of finding, creating and evaluating their materials. They know, with confidence, that the materials supporting their curriculum have undergone thorough review from researchers, fellow educators and academic experts.

Students benefit from accessing high-quality instructional materials, too:

  • Gains in student achievement: Research from the Centre for Education Policy Research at Harvard found that, “in 4th- and 5th-grade math, switching to a top-ranked textbook would translate to student achievement gains of 3.6 percentile points — larger than the improvement of a typical teacher’s effectiveness in the first three years on the job.”
  • Narrowing the learning gaps between students: “When students who started the year behind had greater access to grade-appropriate assignments, they closed the outcomes gap with their peers by more than seven months,” reads a report from The Opportunity Myth.

Ready to make high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials a priority? The best way to make an impact with HQIM is to make it a part of your curriculum mapping, lesson planning and auditing processes

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