Common Core Writers Give Publishers, Developers Guide to Producing Math Materials

Senior Editor

With educators on the lookout for instructional materials that fit with the content and vision of the common-core standards, a new set of “publishers’ criteria” aim to influence decisions by both the developers and purchasers of such offerings for high school mathematics.

Crafted by the lead writers of the math common core, the 20-page document issued today seeks to “sharpen the alignment question” and make “more clearly visible” whether materials faithfully reflect both the letter and spirit of the math standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition, a revised set of K-8 criteria were released today, with a variety of changes to the version first put out last summer based on feedback from the field (including districts that started to use them). One notable deletion was the explicit call for elementary math textbooks to not exceed 200 pages in length (and for middle and high school texts not to exceed 500 pages). Another change was to include more precise guidance on how much time should be devoted to the “major work” of the standards, differentiating in particular the K-2 level with that for the middle grades.

Both sets of criteria are endorsed by several prominent organizations that provided feedback, including national groups representing governors, chief state school officers, state boards of education, and large urban districts, as well as Achieve, the Washington-based nonprofit that managed the process for developing the Common Core State Standards.

“These criteria were developed from the perspective that publishers and purchasers are equally responsible for fixing the materials market,” the high school document says. “Publishers cannot deliver focus to buyers who only ever complain about what has been left out, yet never complain about what has crept in. More generally, publishers cannot invest in quality if the market doesn’t demand it of them nor reward them for producing it.”

One of the endorsing organizations, the Council of the Great City Schools, signaled last year that more than 30 of its member districts—including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York—would use the criteria in math (and a companion set for English/language arts) to guide their decisions in selecting materials. Also, California recently used the K-8 math criteria as part of its work to develop guidance for districts on selecting math materials.

The new high school criteria (as well as the revised K-8) drive home three core dimensions of the math standards: focus, coherence, and rigor. On the issue of focus—the notion of addressing fewer math topics in greater depth—the document sends a clear signal that materials should have a clear eye on readying students for postsecondary education.

“In any single course, students using the materials as designed spend the majority of their time developing knowledge and skills that are widely applicable as prerequisites for postsecondary education,” it says.

A table spells out domains and specific standards that deserve special attention in five broad areas: number and quantity, algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics and probability. For example, the table spotlights all three specific standards in a section on reasoning quantitatively and using units to solve problems. In algebra, it highlights every domain in the standards as containing widely applicable prerequisites, but identifies as “especially important” the first domain, focused on “seeing structure in expressions.”

For more details, see Erik Robelen’s full post on the publishers’ guides on the Curriculum Matters blog.

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