New Online Tool Aims to Help K-12 Leaders Choose Instructional Materials

Associate Editor

State, district, and school leaders vetting classroom instructional materials can consult a new website released this week by the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

The tool provides both procedural guidance and resources like rubrics for evaluating print and digital educational resources. It has the support of state superintendents in California and Oklahoma quoted in a release from SETDA, as well as about 15 other states that participated in preparing it.

“Gone are the days of the seven-year review cycle,” said Barbara Soots, open educational resources manager for Washington state superintendent’s office, who presented some of her insights during a webinar that accompanied the launch of the tool. “Districts are hungry for instructional materials that meet…new learning standards.”

The web resource, called From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials,” offers guidance on identifying materials that are “content-rich [and] aligned to standards that are fully accessible and free from bias.” Further, SETDA said quality materials “support sound pedagogy and balanced assessment to help teachers understand and interpret student performance.”

Besides its own criteria, SETDA offers instructional materials’ evaluators information about high-quality materials  as defined by others, including state education departments, the Association of American Publishers, EdReports, Open Up Resources, the State Instructional Materials Association, and the school district of Middletown, N.Y.

The tool offers a sample state selection process, as well as key questions throughout the process of planning, implementing, budgeting and paying for instructional materials, as well as determining the instructional materials’ effectiveness, including an overview of success metrics.

Members of SETDA, who are bring an information technology perspective to the ed-tech needs of schools, have long advocated for “working across the aisle”to speak the same language as educators, said Christine Fox, deputy executive director of the organization and co-author of the material on the site. “Especially over the last three to five years, some of that is truly coming to a reality.”

The “print-to-digital” guide, which covers core and supplemental educational resources, was developed in collaboration with state and district leaders, including instructional materials coordinators and academic officers and leaders from the private sector. Council of Chief State School Officers, the State Instructional Materials Review Association and the AEM Center also collaborated on the site.

In conjunction with the new tool, a community called Essential Elements for Digital Content has been launched to provide an online touchpoint where educators and others interested in vetting digital instructional materials can discuss the shift to digital. Among the issues it is expected to cover are: accessibility, the vetting process, professional learning, open-educational resources, procurement, implementation and infrastructure.

SETDA, which is an association representing digital learning leaders in U.S. states and territories, received support for its new site from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also funded a Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies Portal devoted to the acquisition policies of digital instructional materials that was launched in 2015. (The Gates Foundation helps support some coverage in Education Week.)


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