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Why High-Quality Instructional Materials (HQIM)

Woman and child reading a book.

In 2010, as the last states adopted academic standards, all students in each state were finally required to learn a defined set of skills and knowledge in grades K-12 for ELA and mathematics. For the last 13 years, states have adopted aligned assessments, offered professional learning, and now are incentivizing the use of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) so all students can master standards.

A growing body of research demonstrating how many students lack access to grade level standards has been a catalyst for the HQIM movement. Before the pandemic, Education Trust reported that only 8% of students completed a full college and career preparation curriculum based on those standards.[1] In the “Opportunity Myth,” The New Teacher Project (TNTP) dug deeper, finding that, of the 720 hours students spend in school each year, only 139 hours are spent on grade appropriate assignments. TNTP also reported that only 44% of their teachers expected that their students could have success with the standards.[2] In addition, the pandemic exacerbated lack of access to grade level learning, especially among students in historically marginalized groups.

To ensure that every student has access to grade level content every day, HQIM are standards-aligned and include robust resources to support all learners. EdReports is a non-profit dedicated to promoting HQIM through, in part, evaluating elements of quality such as alignment and usability. The research they showcase on HQIM is clear:

  • Using HQIM in upper elementary lead to gains over 3 percentile points more than a typical teacher in the first 3 years.[3]
  • HQIM proved to be 40 times more cost effective than smaller class sizes.[4]
  • HQIM is cost effective as it is similarly priced to non-aligned curriculum.[5]

Using HQIM is necessary but not sufficient. For maximal effectiveness, HQIM must be supported district-wide, led by an instructional leader, paired with curriculum-based professional learning, and implemented using an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement.

Several states have embraced HQIM in their districts and have seen success. College and career ready aligned curricula are slowly replacing lessons and units from Pinterest and Google when district and building leaders commit to selecting and implementing HQIM. State leaders can be key in this change. Helping district leaders understand the need, marshal resources, and adopt and use HQIM has created lasting results. In the region served by the Region 8 Comprehensive Center, for example, the Ohio Department of Education is a model for how to promote the uptake of HQIM across districts. As a result of Ohio’s efforts, students there will have better access to learning opportunities that support their academic success.








[1] Education Trust. (2016). Meandering Toward Graduation. MeanderingTowardGraduation_EdTrust_April2016.pdf.

[2] TNTP. (2018). The Opportunity Myth: What Students Can Show Us About How School Is Letting Them Down—and How to Fix It.

[3] Kane, T., Owens, A., Marinell, W. Thal, D., Staiger, D. (2016). Teaching Higher: Educators’ Perspectives on Common Core Implementation. Boston, MA: Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research. Retrieved from:

[4] Boser, U., Chingos, M., Straus, C. (2015). The Hidden Value of Curriculum Reform: Do States and Districts Receive the Most Bang for Their Curriculum Buck? Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from:

[5] Koedel, C., Poliko‑, M. (2017). Big Bang for Just a Few Bucks: the Impact of Math Textbooks in California. Economic Studies at Brookings, Evidence Speaks Reports, Vol 2 (5). Retrieved from:‑_evidence_speaks.pdf