RAND Releases New Report on Popularity of EngageNY Materials: Our Takeaways and Reflections

April 20, 2017

The RAND Corporation recently released a new report, “The Use of Open Educational Resources in an Era of Common Standards: A Case Study on the Use of EngageNY” that examines the popularity of EngageNY Materials. EngageNY, created and now maintained by the New York State Education Department, provides high-quality, standards-aligned free curriculum materials that have been downloaded more than 66 million times by educators all across the country since the website launched in 2011.

As an organization founded by the main architects of EngageNY, whose founding vision was to build on the great work and progress started there, we at UnboundEd wanted to take a brief dive into the RAND report’s findings and pull out some key insights.

In the report, the authors set out to understand the popularity of EngageNY materials, asking who is using the materials and what are they using; why do they use them; and, how are EngageNY materials supporting both teaching and learning.

In answering those questions, here are just a few of what we saw as valuable takeaways:

1. EngageNY has the highest market share for elementary math teachers.

35% of surveyed elementary teachers use EngageNY math materials. Use of EngageNY is also high amongst ELA teachers, with 25% of the teacher sample reported using the ELA materials. Interestingly, the researchers also found that ELA teachers who use EngageNY materials are using them more “comprehensively” than math teachers, who are more likely to use parts of the lessons rather than using the entire lesson plan.

2. The majority of teachers who use EngageNY think that the curriculum is good for their kids.

Surveyed teachers also reported that they use the materials because of their alignment to high standards and the materials provide students with more opportunities to explain or justify their work in math or use evidence from the text to support their conclusions in ELA compared to other curricula. It’s worth noting, though, that while usage was significantly higher in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards or similar rigorous standards, EngageNY materials are accessed by educators in every state.

3. The majority of teachers think that curriculum improves their teaching.

Math teachers reported that through teaching with the EngageNY curriculum, they learned how to use multiple strategies to present a concept like fractions. ELA teachers reported that the curriculum instilled high expectations for and built up students’ skills in reading and writing, which exceeded previous teaching experiences.

In thinking through some of report’s findings and recommendations, we reflected on some of the original organizing principles and approaches that ground our work at UnboundED:

We know that the quality of instructional materials matters, that quality curriculum helps teachers improve their own content knowledge and practice, and that almost all teachers adapt materials on their own to meet the needs of their students.

If we also know that each day educators stand before classes in which the majority of students are not ready for the grade in which they find themselves, we need to ensure that we give educators the support and tools to meet students where they are today. At UnboundEd, we’re leveraging EngageNY’s high-quality materials and working to close the gap in teachers’ and leaders’ abilities to help all students reach grade level. That includes offering immersive training experiences, content guides to deepen knowledge and enhance instruction, as well as providing free access to carefully curated, high quality and adaptable curriculum materials. In other words, providing educators with comprehensive support to meet all of their students where they are remains mission critical.

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