Part 3 of Louisiana Case Study

Working with Publishers

How Louisiana communicated its alignment concerns to publishers

In 2012, all of the instructional materials that publishers submitted to Louisiana’s curriculum review  failed because none of them were aligned to college- and career-ready standards, but publishers needed to know why, and more importantly, what they could do differently. When Louisiana decided to redesign its review process for the 2013-2014 review cycle, its goal was to provide more information not only for their districts but also for publishers.

Following its redesigned review process, Louisiana invited all of the vendors to resubmit their materials, but this time it provided them with information about why this review would be different – the state explained what they’d be looking for in terms of alignment criteria and what information would be shared with districts.

The resubmission process was optional, but the vendors who took part found it valuable. In fact, many were eager to show that they were making changes because they knew that districts would be making selections based on the reviews. Rebecca Kockler, Louisiana’s Assistant Superintendent of Academic Content, explained that many publishers approached the state and said “We’ve redone our materials and we want another review; our materials weren’t ready, but districts keep telling us that, unless we get our materials reviewed, they’re not going to purchase from us.” Kockler also found that vendors were more willing to submit their materials for review when she told them that a specific district had asked for that product to be reviewed. “Honestly, district demand really pushed vendors into our reviews,” said Kockler.

Kockler noted that district needs have also been instrumental in the decision to expand Louisiana’s review process beyond a focus only on full-curriculum reviews to one that also includes benchmark assessments, supplemental tools, and remediation tools for K-12 in both ELA and math. Louisiana knew districts wanted clear information on the alignment of these resources.

Louisiana sends all reviews back to the publishers so they can respond and sometimes those responses can be extremely helpful. For instance, a vendor once flagged a missed segment of the curriculum that affected the review outcomes. Louisiana decided to publish all of the vendor responses as part of their review in the name of fairness so that districts can make a fully-informed decision. The state also posts the materials on its website for a two-week period when it invites parents to review and comment on the materials, providing another set of insights which will be useful for both districts and publishers to take into consideration.

The state has received mixed reactions from publishers. Some publishers who received a tier 3 (worst rating) are unreceptive. “We have vendors who are frustrated or angry; who disagree with us and just adamantly insist that their materials are aligned,” said Kockler. Fortunately, there were others eager to change who wanted to speak to reviewers about how they could improve.

In fact, with so many publishers eager to resubmit, the state now keeps the review process open and accepts new submissions on a rolling basis so that publishers can resubmit as soon as they’ve made adjustments. “They aren’t out for good if they don’t make it on the first try,” said Kockler. “Publishers are working hard to align and improve their products. If they make changes and resubmit, we will review their materials again. We want to give them every opportunity to show districts their products are high quality.” As a result, the state has been able to identify new tier 1 materials even after the 2013-2014 review cycle, thereby providing districts with the most up-to-date reviews.

Increased transparency has allowed publishers to improve the quality of their products and better meet the need of districts. Louisiana wanted that same transparency with educators, parents, and community members in Louisiana. How did Louisiana convey the findings of the reviews to the public? Find out in the next post from the Louisiana Case Study series.

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About the Author: Student Achievement Partners is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving student achievement through evidence-based action. Founded by some of the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards, the organization works closely with educators and other partners in the education field ensure the promise of the Common Core is realized in classrooms across the country.