The Gates Foundation is hoping better curriculum will boost student learning. A new study says, not so fast

March 11, 2019

CEPR's new research report on textbook efficacy, Learning by the Book, is featured in the following Chalkbeat news article.

Better curriculum was supposed to be one of the next big things in education.

In 2017, Bill Gates announced his influential foundation would invest fresh energy into helping create higher-quality classroom materials and get them into the hands of more teachers. A good curriculum, he said, “can improve student learning more than many costlier solutions.”

But new research, amounting to one of the largest-scale examinations of curriculum materials to date, suggests that the choice might not matter much — at least when it comes to elementary math test scores.

“We didn’t really find large differences in student achievement gains across different textbooks,” said the University of Maryland’s David Blazar, one of the study’s authors.

It’s a surprising conclusion for the six-state analysis, which was funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and released Monday. And though it is just one study — which clashes with prior research — the results raise questions about the likelihood that the Gates Foundation’s curriculum-focused approach will boost student learning in the way its leaders hope.


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