Curriculum: The Missing Ingredient in Education Reform

Thursday, September 28, 2017
10:00am to 12:00pm EDT
The Meyer Foundation
1250 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 800
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Eligible to attend: WRAG Members (please register online; free) Non-Member Education Funders (please email Rebekah, seder(at) to register; $50)

Over the past 20 years, billions of dollars have been spent on reforms like raising teacher quality and promoting school choice, with little to show for it in terms of large-scale improvement. One reason is that we haven’t paid enough attention to what is being taught. Studies have shown that exposure to a high-quality curriculum can boost student learning as much as having an effective teacher. And the focus on “basic skills” at the expense of social studies, science, and art at the elementary level—along with the failure to teach writing and use it as a tool for teaching content—can have devastating consequences as students progress through school.


  • Matt Chingos, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute
  • Barbara Davidson, President, StandardsWork, Inc.
  • Natalie Wexler, Education Journalist and Trustee, Omega Foundation


About the Presenters

Matthew Chingos is a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, where he studies education-related topics at both the K–12 and postsecondary levels. Chingos's areas of expertise include class-size reduction, standardized testing, teacher quality, student loan debt, and college graduation rates. His current research examines the long-term effects of school choice policies, student transportation, and college living costs.

Before joining Urban, Chingos was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the coauthor of Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities and Game of Loans: The Rhetoric and Reality of Student Debt. His work has also been published in academic journals, including the Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Education Finance and Policy. He has received support from the US government and several philanthropic foundations. Chingos received a BA in government and economics and a PhD in government from Harvard University.

Barbara Davidson is an education industry executive with deep, hands-on experience in K-12 education policy, practice, and operations. She served as President of StandardsWork from 2003-2009 and has recently returned to its helm as part of an organizational emphasis on promoting evidence-based practice and related merger with the Knowledge Matters Campaign. During Barbara’s leadership at StandardsWork, the organization executed many high-profile projects on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Assessment Governing Board, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, the Indiana Higher Education Commission, the District of Columbia Public Schools, National Endowment for the Humanities, Texas Education Agency, the Center for Education Reform, and others.

Barbara has served as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and Deputy Director of Great Minds (formerly Common Core, Inc.). Barbara started her career in education as a teacher of learning disabled students in Norfolk, Virginia and has trained teachers on behalf of two educational publishing companies. She has served in key leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Education under two secretaries of education: Bill Bennett and Lamar Alexander.

Natalie Wexler is the co-author, with Judith C. Hochman, of The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades (Jossey-Bass, 2017). Her articles and essays have appeared in a number of publications, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, and for several years she was the education editor of Greater Greater Washington, a news website and communal blog in Washington, D.C. She has also been a volunteer reading and writing tutor in high-poverty D.C. schools. She is currently working on a book on the connection between the achievement gap and the lack of content in the elementary school curriculum.