California School Districts Aren’t Waiting for a State List to Adopt Math Materials

Staff Writer
Portrait of african girl writing solution of sums on white board at school. Black schoolgirl solving addition sum on white board with marker pen. School child thinking while doing mathematics problem.

San Diego  

Districts in California aren’t waiting for the state to put together its new math materials list before making purchasing decisions.

Instead, some are starting to adopt new curriculum and materials now, according to a new report from the Center For Education Market Dynamics.

California, which has more than 5 million K-12 students, is gearing up for a math adoption year in 2025. The process started with the controversial new mathematics framework the state’s education department released last year. Next, state education leaders will compile a list of approved education companies.

Districts in California are not waiting for the typical state process to adopt new math curriculums.

Approved vendor lists are typically an effort by states to streamline decision making for school districts, signaling that a provider’s materials are aligned with state standards. Securing a spot on that list can put a vendor ahead when bidding for a contract with a district.

However, CEMD’s report suggests math providers shouldn’t wait for the selection to be finalized.

By tracking the purchasing practices of more than 340 California districts serving 64 percent of the state’s K-5 students, the organization found that while the majority of those districts have K-5 math curriculums copyrighted in 2015 or before, some have selections with a copyright year of 2020 or later. Those newer copyright years indicate that those materials have been purchased recently, and point to an interest among districts in new or updated offerings.

“Those are districts who have made decisions in recent years choosing to skip ahead of the state schedule and get high quality materials in their classrooms today,” said CEMD Executive Director Lora Kaiser, while rolling out the report during a panel she moderated at the ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego.

Thirteen districts moved to new instructional materials last year, she said.

“If [vendors are] waiting, you’re waiting for the political cover of a list. Why?” asked Eric Hirsch, one of the panelists and executive director of EdReports, a nonprofit that reviews and ranks the quality of instructional materials.

He challenged education vendors to rethink that decision, both because it could put a company behind the demand, and because the list may not actually differentiate a product from its competitors in the market. In previous adoption cycles, California lawmakers approved the vast majority of materials the state considered for the vendor list, Hirsch pointed out. If most options make the cut, he argued that means the list is not a signal of quality.

The state’s adoption cycle comes as two other key education markets are ramping up for state adoptions in math: Texas and Florida, cycles that present big opportunities for providers of academic materials. The California math review has also reopened longstanding national debates around instructional best practices. In some states, lawmakers are looking for ways to apply the legislative momentum they created in literacy with the “science of reading” to math.

The report also found that those new purchases are increasingly putting better math materials into classrooms. Nearly half of districts included, 45 percent, were using a curriculum product in 2023-24 rated as “high quality” based on EdReports standards.

That’s an increase compared to the year before, when CEMD found 31 percent of districts were using highly rated materials.

In 2023-24, CEMD reported the math products purchased most frequently by districts in California were:

  • Illustrative Mathematics by Imagine Learning
  • i-Ready Classroom Mathematics by Curriculum Associates
  • Eureka Math by Great Minds

One explanation for some district’s eagerness to adopt new math materials rather than wait for the state process is that many are currently working with outdated curricula. California has not released a new list for mathematics since 2014.

“In the districts we’ve worked with, it’s first teachers being a huge driving force behind adopting,” said panelist Maryia Krivoruchko, director of strategic initiatives for professional learning provider UnboundEd. “Teachers know the materials aren’t working for their kids. They’ve been outdated for some time. They often don’t align with their mathematics mission and construction.

“And teachers notice that, they advocate for it and their district.”

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Image by Getty.

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