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Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)

Strengthening Instructional Materials: Report on Two Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Initiatives

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
Date:October 18, 2019

Every teacher in Massachusetts strives for learning experiences that engage and challenge every student in every class every day. Giving teachers access to high-quality, content-rich, and standards-aligned curricular materials is one way schools and districts can support them to provide deeper learning opportunities to their students. At the system level, a strong set of curricular materials can also bring coherence and relevance to students' experiences, helping them continually deepen and contextualize prior learning as they move from grade to grade.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is committed to supporting districts to make well-informed decisions about the curricular materials they provide to teachers, and ultimately, students. At the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) meeting on October 29, 2019, DESE staff will highlight two initiatives that support this goal in distinct but complementary ways: CURATE and OpenSciEd.

CURATE: CURATE, which stands for CUrriculum RAtings by TEachers, is a project that results in user-friendly reports about the quality and alignment of specific curricular materials. Districts can use CURATE reports in their local processes for selecting materials as a way to focus and inform their decisions. CURATE is a teacher-led process. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recruits and selects diverse panels of educators from across the Commonwealth. These CURATE Fellows work together to review evidence of the curricula's alignment to Massachusetts learning standards and ease of use for teachers, including feedback collected directly from Massachusetts teachers currently using the materials with their students. Our partners from the Rennie Center then use the panels' judgments to develop a draft report which is then reviewed by the panelists and the publisher to correct any factual errors. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education then posts final reports to DESE's website and shares them with all district curriculum leaders. The enclosed infographic provides an overview of all CURATE activities. An exciting outgrowth of CURATE has been the new opportunities it has generated for DESE to further productive relationships with teacher leaders, district curriculum leaders, and publishers.

OpenSciEd: While CURATE is an effort to support decision-making about curricular materials, OpenSciEd responds to a different challenge, namely that for some subjects and grades there is a dearth of high-quality options from which districts can choose. OpenSciEd is a science curriculum development project launched by a consortium of experts in science education and guided by a steering committee of 10 states, including Massachusetts. Massachusetts is currently in year 2 of piloting and providing feedback on the draft materials in 60 classrooms across seven districts. Teachers participating in the pilot have reported dramatic shifts in their practice leading to increased engagement and conceptual understanding among their students. Boston Public Schools (BPS) has the largest number of teachers in the Massachusetts pilot. Holly Rosa, director of K-12 Science, Technology, and Engineering for BPS, will be at the meeting to share her experiences with OpenSciEd.

Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske, Associate Commissioner Ron Noble, Director of STEM Erin Hashimoto-Martell, Manager of Instructional Policy Rachel Bradshaw, and Instructional Policy Specialist Maria Hernandez will be at the Board meeting on October 29 to describe these initiatives and answer your questions.


Overview of all CURATE activities

Last Updated: October 21, 2019

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