Curriculum can be as simple as a book to which a teacher turns for readings or as substantial as daily instructional materials with explicit directions for how they are to be used and delivered. Curriculum is a feature of classroom instruction that is taken for granted and rarely studied except when hot button issues (such as controversial novels assigned to high school students) arise or when districts make textbook adoption decisions. But, to what degree does the curriculum used by teachers affect how much their students actually learn?
Our own comprehensive audit of research on curriculum provides an unequivocal answer: a strong curriculum boosts student learning and a weak one can actually cause students to lose ground. Moreover, substituting a strong curriculum for a weak one is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to boost student learning. The case for curriculum has been made by some of the nation’s most respected educational researchers (here and here), with broad strokes from international comparisons on the impact of curriculum painted here and here.