Open Up: High Quality Standards-Aligned Math Curriculum

EdLeaders, EdTech, Learning, Learning Design, Online & Blended

In this mix and match world of digital materials, Larry Singer still sees a lot of interest in high-quality whole course materials.

Singer is CEO of Open Up Resources, a national nonprofit that originated as an open education resource (OER) collaborative by 13 states, where he has assembled a small distributed team of experienced K-12 executives who contract with best-in-class partners for high-quality standards-aligned courseware.

Addressing Middle Grade Gaps

We recently shared how the EdReports 2016 inaugural report shows a gap in our nation around middle grade math.

The initial product from Open Up Resources is middle grade math curriculum authored by its first partner Illustrative Mathematics, the nonprofit math organization founded by acclaimed mathematician and standards author William McCallum.

The school district partners currently piloting this middle grade math curriculum tell Singer that it’s less about open resources than comprehensive standards-aligned curriculum. These partner districts include Sunnyside Unified School District (AZ), Galt Joint Union Elementary School District (CA), Bumcombe County Schools (NC), Evergreen Public Schools (WA), Tumwater School District (WA) and Vancouver Public Schools (WA).

CMO Karen Vaites said the big issue for educators is time and “teachers have little time for materials cultivation.” She said Open Up partners are looking to use the materials as full-year implementations, rather than piecemeal units or lessons. The curriculum is licensed CC By (which allows authors to make changes in content as long as the original source is acknowledged).

Open Up content reflects a student activity-centric learning model (away from pre-lecture to practice) and a strong focus on standards alignment that builds on Student Achievement Partners (SAP) work. Given the growing percentage of English Language Learners (ELLs) in public schools, Open Up has also made ELL supports a priority.  

The team views this as an equity issue. “Students in private prep schools have access to high-quality curriculum,” said Singer. “We want school districts to have access to high-quality standards-aligned content.”


Among the districts interested in open resources, Singer sees some picking standalone subjects with multi-year progressions. Those that go 1:1 often struggle to find digital materials aligned with standards and most have little interest in assembling from components to replace textbooks.

Singer says that with all the open resources out there, the market share of the traditional publishers hasn’t gone. He also notes that there are Individual teachers trying OER, but few districts making system-wide commitments.

Because the team sees good results for affluent districts and declining results for high poverty districts, they see OER as an equity issue.

Other open resources like Khan Academy can be a valuable supplement but they weren’t developed to serve as a core curriculum, said Singer.

While the content is open, Open Up plans to become sustainable by selling implementation support and professional development. They are developing several delivery models including traditional, professional learning community, and blended.

The Learning Accelerator, which incubated the nonprofit, said, “These new OER materials had the potential to improve student learning, provide educators with more ownership over curricular materials, and allow districts to reallocate funds away from traditionally costly textbooks towards other high-need areas such as professional development and devices.”

Open Up is negotiating agreements with leading LMS providers.

The nonprofit is supported by the contributions from six national foundations.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners and Bloomboard. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.