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Curriculum Research: What We Know and Where We Need to Go

In Winter 2017, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education conducted a research review on the effects of curricular choices in K–12 education for the Knowledge Matters Campaign, a project of StandardsWork, Inc. That review, available upon request at, surfaced several important findings, including the following:

» Curriculum is a critical factor in student academic success.

» Comprehensive, content-rich curriculum is a common feature of academically high-performing countries.

» The cumulative impact of high-quality curriculum can be significant and matters most to achievement in the upper grades where typical year-on-year learning gains are far lower than in previous grades.

» Because the preponderance of instructional materials is self-selected by individual teachers, most students are taught through idiosyncratic curricula that are not defined by school districts or states.

» Research comparing one curriculum to another is very rare and, therefore, not usually actionable.

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