A Big Announcement: CommonLit is building a full-course curriculum. Here's why.

A Big Announcement: CommonLit is building a full-course curriculum. Here's why.

CommonLit is excited to announce that it is developing a full-year OER curriculum for ELA. In this blog post, CommonLit’s Founder & CEO explains why CommonLit has made this investment, and shares early results. To sign up to learn more about the curriculum, click here.

In 2018, TNTP published The Opportunity Myth, a report that sent shock waves through the education community and shed light on why so many students are not reaching their full potential. Most students in America are not getting consistent exposure to grade-level instruction. TNTP found that students spend more than 500 hours per school year on assignments that aren’t appropriate for their grade level and don’t challenge them to think critically. It’s no surprise that students only report feeling engaged with what they’re learning 55% of the time.

Around the same time this report was published, CommonLit’s school partnerships team began to pick up on a growing trend. In speaking with dozens of district leaders each week, it became clear to us that both teachers and administrators are deeply unsatisfied with the full-course curriculum options available in the ELA market.

Many options are simply dry and boring. Some are too confusing to implement. Other options are prohibitively expensive. Others haven’t proven to be highly effective for struggling students. What’s more, in an era when digital tools are penetrating the classroom, there are no free curriculum options that have a fully developed student-facing digital platform. At the end of the day, teachers are going to great lengths to modify their school’s official curriculum to fill these gaps.

Teachers and administrators are craving something new and better that the market doesn’t provide.

Today, I am proud to announce that CommonLit is developing a full-year curriculum. Like everything else CommonLit develops, the curriculum will be high-quality, completely free, and responsive to the needs of the teachers and students that our nonprofit serves. CommonLit’s curriculum will be the first of its kind, filling a critical market need for curriculum that is:

  • Grade-level aligned,
  • Content-rich,
  • Easy to use,
  • Culturally responsive,
  • Engaging for students,
  • Research-backed,
  • Available in both digital/print formats,
  • OER and freely available.

CommonLit’s Full-Year Curriculum has been designed to ensure that students read, write, and speak every day in class. Units are anchored in an essential question; students read deeply about a topic and gain critical background knowledge. Through unit anchor texts, students get exposure to high-quality and authentic texts, including a balance of literary and informational texts featuring both full-length novels, short texts, and dramas. The curriculum is comprehensive, offering full coverage of the standards. Students get exposure to all types of essay writing including research and argumentative writing. They work collaboratively and independently and engage in sustained academic discussions. Explicit writing instruction and vocabulary activities are included. Units offer embedded formative assessments and culminate in a final assessment. The curriculum offers robust scaffolding to support struggling readers, and options to increase rigor to challenge all students. In short, CommonLit’s Full-Year Curriculum is packaged to include everything that teachers need to deliver highly engaging and effective English Language Arts instruction. Also, it’s OER, and will be made available for free at CommonLit.org.

Early Results

We’ve been building the curriculum for nearly two years, starting with grade levels 6–10. The development process has involved many stakeholders, including teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, and students. Every lesson is piloted in real classrooms to test the usability of the materials. We’ve collected a massive amount of data from teachers and students through surveys, focus groups, and observations. This feedback has helped us prioritize revisions that we will make in the coming year.

In SY 2019, forty schools around the nation began to try the new CommonLit units in closed pilots. We are thrilled by the results:

  • CommonLit’s units are consistently beloved by both veteran and novice teachers. 91% of teachers say that CommonLit’s Full-Year Curriculum lessons are engaging to students.
  • CommonLit’s Curriculum has an average Net Promoter Score of 8.8/10 based on responses from 343 surveyed teachers who say they are highly likely to recommend CommonLit to a colleague.
  • Washington Leadership Academy in D.C. is in its second year implementing CommonLit’s curriculum for grades 9 and 10. After the first year of implementation, WLA saw a 10.4% increase in the percentage of students scoring at a 4 or higher on the ELA PARCC assessment. Here’s what one WLA administrator has to say about the curriculum.
  • Feedback from district-level administrators shows that our curriculum is helping teachers improve their practice. As one district leader put it, “With CommonLit’s curriculum, we know exactly where people are going and how they are supposed to get there. The strategies are research-based.”
What I like about doing this unit is that we learn new things in reading. We know how to read better, how to analyze the story better.
— 8th grade student

Get Involved

In SY 2020–2021, we will partner with an additional 100 schools to pilot the curriculum for grades 6–10.

School district leaders and education advocates interested in learning more about CommonLit’s new Full-Year Curriculum can sign up through this interest form. Our school partnerships team will contact school and district leaders directly with more information.

We hope you will join us!

A Note of Thanks

CommonLit’s Full-Year Curriculum was made possible through the generous support of The Robin Hood Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund, and Washington Leadership Academy, an XQ Super School.