The materials on EngageNY, the online library of common-core-aligned curricula hosted by New York state’s education department, have now been downloaded more than 45 million times, far surpassing many people’s expectations for the free resource created just five years ago.
But with the website’s federal funding source having all but dried up, a new group is stepping in to further EngageNY’s mission. The organization, known as UnboundEd, plans to both build from EngageNY’s success and tackle another problem that teachers are facing: Their students, especially those from low-income communities, aren’t prepared to meet the Common Core State Standards’ tough grade-level goals.
“What we see as the biggest challenge in schools is managing a divide between rigorous high standards for all students and the real developmental consequences of poverty,” said Kate Gerson, the managing director of programs for the new nonprofit organization, and a former lead architect of EngageNY. “We’re trying to give [teachers] the support to work through that divide.”
The nonprofit UnboundEd will both host the new free website, populated with EngageNY’s and other K-12 common-core materials vetted by the team members, most of whom previously worked as classroom teachers, and provide paid in-person educator trainings. Of the 23 people now on staff, about a third came over from the EngageNY project.
Currently, there are about 5,000 total lessons, modules, units, primary sources, and texts on the new site. While most of the curricula are from EngageNY, there are also some instructional materials from Illustrative Mathematics, a curriculum project led by Common Core writer William McCallum. The UnboundEd team plans to add more open-source materials over time.
“Some folks need a comprehensive curriculum for the entire year, so we’ve built an experience for them,” said Alex Kasavin, the group’s director of product development. “Some are looking for a lesson to teach this week or next week, and we’ve built a different experience for them drawing on the same resources.”
The site also has a series of guides meant to help teachers better understand what individual standards are really asking students to do, and what skills come before and after each grade-level benchmark.
“When you’re working with students living in poverty, most often they’re coming to you with parts of the [learning] progressions they’ve missed in previous years,” Gerson said. “This gives very concrete examples and advice for what you do if you have a kid coming to you two or three years below grade level—what lessons you insert, how you adapt the good, free curriculum to meet the needs of your kids.”