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Teachers Beware: The Risks of Using Low-Quality Supplemental Materials

Have you ever wondered about the quality of the materials teachers use in class? In an article at called Are Your Teachers Using Subpar Curriculum Materials? the authors caution against the use of instructional materials found online without the proper vetting.

Curriculum options used to be limited to traditional textbooks, informational texts, novels, and materials provided by district-contracted education companies or passed along by others. But now, with the internet, you have access to a plethora of resources at little or no cost. You can easily find worksheets to practice addition and subtraction, a frog dissection kit for a biology lab, and quizzes and answer keys for all five acts of Romeo and Juliet with just a few clicks.

In fact, almost all teachers report using the internet to source instructional materials, drawing from popular sites such as Share My Lesson and Teachers Pay Teachers. However, the quality of these materials is not well-known. While several organizations offer impartial reviews of full curriculum products, there's no equivalent when it comes to add-on resources.

So, a group of education researchers set out to evaluate the quality of popular websites supplying teachers with high-quality supplemental materials, specifically ones with an ELA focus. They reviewed over 300 of the most downloaded materials found on three of the most popular supplemental websites: Teachers Pay Teachers, ReadWriteThink, and Share My Lesson.

The good news is that the basic quality of the texts used in the lessons was deemed good to excellent, and students were often asked to provide textual evidence when analyzing a text. Materials were also generally free from errors and well-designed. However, when they dug deeper, they found more weaknesses than strengths.

Overall, most of the downloaded materials were rated as "mediocre" or "probably not worth using." The materials were also weakly to moderately aligned to the standards to which they claimed alignment. This occurred primarily because most materials claimed alignment to a very large number of standards, which boosts their visibility in search results.

Another consideration that the ASCD article doesn't mention is the use of a canned online curriculum typically used in self-contained disability-specific classrooms. While these resources are touted by the publishers to be aligned with grade-level standards, they often are not easily synced with curriculum maps, which forces many special educators to use them in separate and segregated environments.

So, while these online resources can be useful, it's important to carefully evaluate them for quality and alignment with standards before using them in your curriculum. And if considering a canned curriculum specifically designed for learners with disabilities, will the use promote or hinder inclusive practices in the school, district, and beyond?

Note: Thanks to Dr. Jenna Rufo for putting this article on my radar!

To learn more about inclusive education or how MCIE can partner with your school or district, visit

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