Polikoff begins study of California’s textbook adoption data

December 13, 2014
Dr. Morgan Polikoff

Dr. Morgan Polikoff

USC Rossier assistant professor Morgan Polikoff and co-P.I. Cory Koedel from the University of Missouri-Columbia have received funding from an anonymous source for a project titled “Curriculum Adoptions and Effects on Student Achievement in California,” which will produce a database of curriculum materials for California schools in mathematics, science and English language arts. The grant totals $159,000 over two years.

While the price of one textbook over another is often negligible, says Polikoff, textbooks differ substantially in their effects on student achievement. Rigorous studies of textbook efficacy depend on reliable data, and earlier research has shown that adoptions at both the state and district levels are often based on faulty and/or limited efficacy evidence.

“We need better information,” says Polikoff. “Our lack of knowledge about curricular efficacy represents a missed opportunity to improve student performance at very little cost.”

Polikoff and Koedel’s study of California will make use of a recently discovered source of textbook adoption data that arose from the 2004 court ruling Eliezer Williams et al. vs. State of California et al. Since 2004, each school in the state has been required to report their most recent textbook purchase information.

 This new study will supplement the state data with achievement, demographic and socioeconomic information as well as from interviews with key district personnel. This new database will then be used to conduct an evaluation of curricular efficacy in math, science and English language arts.

The study will be the largest quasi-experimental evaluation of curriculum effects on student achievement in the United States to date, and the first to rigorously examine textbook efficacy outside the content area of mathematics. It is the hope of the researchers that their study will show the value of collecting and carefully analyzing textbook adoption data at the state level.