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USC professor analyzes Common Core-aligned textbooks
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2014 14:14 PM

As more school districts transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), textbook companies continue to try to put out products that match the CCSS's level of depth and focus on material. However, researchers say that many book manufacturers are not really in alignment with the goals of the Standards and are including too much information.

Analyzing the content of aligned textbooks
Professor Morgan Polikoff from the University of Southern California recently conducted a study that reviewed various fourth-grade math textbooks. Polikoff's research analyzed these texts to determine if publishers were actually producing Common Core-aligned material. The study, which debuted at the Education Writer's Association conference in February 2014, looked at math textbooks adopted by Florida's State Board of Education. Polikoff included a book that does not have any affiliation with any standards as a control group. His study aimed to explore the correlation between so-called aligned textbooks with student learning outcomes.

"We know from research that textbooks often vary substantially in their effects on student achievement," Polikoff told the Rossier? Reach. "It may be the case that the best textbooks are the ones that are best aligned to the standards and assessments, as they help teachers faithfully implement the standards and, therefore, produce gains on assessments aligned to those standards."

The professor discovered that more than 15 percent of the textbooks analyzed contained information that does not exist within the Common Core. In addition to the inclusion of extraneous topics in the textbooks, 10 to 15 percent of the benchmarks outlined in the Standards were completely ignored or omitted. Other features missing from the books include questions and sets of word problems that encourage higher levels of thinking, a core goal of the CCSS.

Potential challenges to aligned textbook integration
Polikoff's research may upset the integration of textbooks in states other than Florida. California's State Board of Education recently approved 31 new math textbooks and other teaching materials that publishers say align with the Common Core State Standards. 

The professor concedes that all of the textbooks analyzed cover the majority of topics outlined in the CCSS. However, the texts do not reflect the high standard of difficulty associated with the Standards.

"Where the standards might focus on applying or understanding a particular concept, for instance, the texts tend to focus on procedures," he told the Rossier? Reach. "Unless teachers go beyond what's called for in the texts, it is likely that students will not be exposed to the important conceptual understanding they will need for future mathematics learning."