SETDA's new educational resources tool gathers reviews across states

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Thanks to a new tool designed by the State Educational Technology Directors Association, education leaders across America can now view detailed reviews of educational resources targeting various subjects.

As explained by Christine Fox, SETDA’s deputy executive director, during a recent webinar hosted by edWeb.net, this searchable database will help educational leaders ensure that the materials they purchase are high-quality, aligned with their standards and goals, and accessible to all students.

The tool, which SETDA calls its instructional materials dashboard, contains reviews from 12 states participating in the program and focuses on secondary math and language arts materials — from textbooks by established publishers to open educational resources. The association says this is a pilot program and resources from other states and subjects will eventually be added.

While many states already publish reviews on their own websites, SETDA’s dashboard enables educational leaders to use a single search to access evaluations made by multiple states, and to quickly find vetted resources. This can help educational leaders make better and faster decisions about which materials their schools use.

The dashboard has filters to sort content, so educators can view resources by state, publisher or title, or data can be downloaded for offline analysis. Reviews for individual resources can also be compared across state lines.

Alan Griffin, a Utah State Office of Education curriculum specialist, provided a closer look at the type of reviews available through SETDA’s dashboard and showed how the reviews are conducted in his state.

He said Utah begins with a notification to a publisher about an upcoming review. The publishers then submits an intent to bid, followed by a bid with information on the resource and free samples. A state board of specialists then sets up a review team comprised of specialists and educators from different parts of the state.

The reviewers look at three key aspects of the material: the content and especially its alignment to core standards; accessibility of the content for all students; and the pedagogy, including teacher support and assessments. A rubric helps the reviewers evaluate the materials, and the reviewers are required to provide notes explaining the reasons for their evaluations.

Utah’s review process results in four types of recommendations, depending on the type of material submitted. Those reviews then are made available through SETDA’s dashboard.

Griffin said Utah’s review process for educational materials is well-established and is critical for educational leaders to make good purchasing decisions. By providing comprehensive reviews, districts have to do less work conducting their own evaluations.

And in all states, providing reviews through SETDA’s dashboard makes the selection of high-quality educational materials a faster, easier and more inclusive process.

About the presenters

Christine Fox is the deputy executive director for SETDA. She collaborates with the executive director in charting strategic direction, administration, planning and financial decisions involving SETDA. She also facilitates the members’ professional learning opportunities including planning and implementing the content for SETDA’s virtual and in-person events and newsletters. She manages many of SETDA’s research and product development projects from conception to publication. The management of such projects includes coordinating data collection from all states, supervising consultants and staff, ensuring member input and supervising the publishing process. Recent publications and projects include Navigating the Digital Shift, Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States, OER Case Studies: Implementation in Action, The Broadband Imperative and From Data to Information. Christine’s background includes experience in education and consulting. She has worked as an educational consultant and curriculum developer for a national whole school reform model, ESOL coordinator and 3rd grade teacher. Christine has a master’s of science degree in teaching English as a second language from Florida International University and received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Florida State University.

Alan Griffin has been an educator in Utah for the past 44 years. He is currently the curriculum content specialist at the Utah State Office of Education. He has taught in many areas of social studies, as well as in computer applications and programming. Mr. Griffin has served on the executive boards of the Utah Commission of Volunteers; the Utah Coalition for Civic, Character, and Service Learning; and the Utah 3Rs organization. He has served as the state education agency coordinator for Learn and Serve grants awarded in the state. He has presented at numerous state and national conferences on service learning, life skills, and evaluating instructional materials. He has also been heavily involved in technology, serving as the technology coordinator in the Weber District for 11 years, and presently provides technology support for the teaching and learning staff at USOE. He is currently a member and former president of the State Instructional Materials Review Association, a national organization that collaborates regarding curriculum evaluation processes. He and his wife Billie are the parents of 11 children and live in West Haven, Utah.

Join the community

Essential Elements for Digital Content is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net that provides policy makers, school administrators and educator leaders a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials.

This edWeb webinar referenced above, hosted by SETDA and sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, can be found here.

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