Happy Birthday, Ralph W. Tyler!

20150422 Educating AmericaBorn in Chicago on April 22, 1902, Ralph W. Tyler was a visionary educator and a leading proponent of student-centered learning. His seminal work “Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction” was a best seller when it was published in 1949, and it continues to influence curriculum development to this day. In it, Tyler lays out what has come to be known as “Tyler’s Rationale,” which asserts that effective instruction is organized around four basic questions:

  1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
  3. How can purposes be organized?
  4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

“Basic Principles” also introduced the concept of student-centered instruction, establishing that “learning takes place through the active behavior of the student; it is what he [the student] does that he learns, not what the teacher does (p. 63).”

Tyler worked with the Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson administrations to shape the nation’s education policy, contributing to the development of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. At the request of the Carnegie Corporation, he chaired a committee that developed the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, in 1967. At the time, the introduction of a national test was controversial. It ignited fears of a federal takeover of education and unfair comparisons of students and schools. However, Tyler insisted that NAEP would not produce scores for individual students and schools. Instead results would be disaggregated across students’ demographic characteristics. Today, NAEP is known as the “Nation’s Report Card” and it remains the most reliable national data on student achievement.

About NAEP

[Source: NAEP]

[Source: NAEP]

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representativ​e and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics,readingsciencewritingthe artscivics,economicsgeographyU.S. history, and beginning in 2014, in Technology and Engineering Literacy​ (TEL).

Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, with only carefully documented changes. This permits NAEP to provide a clear p​icture of student academic progress over time.

As NAEP moves into computer-based assessments, the assessment administration will remain uniform continuing the importance of NAEP as a common metric. Read more about the future of the NAEP assessment.

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New Reviews: LearnZillion (OER) – ELAR

Click image for video [Source: LearnZillion]

Click image for video [Source: LearnZillion]

LearnZillion is an online, open educational resource (OER) that provides supplementary English language arts and reading (ELAR) instructional materials for grades 2-12. Resources are free and address the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Instruction focuses on developing students’ close reading, writing, and language skills and supporting teachers’ understanding of the CCSS. Content is presented in short video lessons that include detailed lesson plans that focus on a particular standard or set of standards. Learning List recently completed reviews of their materials for grades 2-12.

Lessons are organized in three overarching categories: (1) Close Reading: Informational Text, (2) Close Reading: Literary Text, and (3) Writing. Close Reading instruction is presented in units focused on particular text (e.g., The Diamond Necklace) and made up of five lessons (i.e., about a week’s worth of instruction). Writing instruction focuses on writing skills (e.g., write opinions that can be supported with facts) and language skills (e.g., recognize and correct run-on sentences).

Click Image for Video [source: LearnZillion]

Click Image for Video [source: LearnZillion]

About LearnZillion*

LearnZillion is dedicated to championing teachers and supporting their ongoing professional development. Teachers develop expertise and insights while working with students, and have exceptional ideas for how to improve classroom learning. However, they have never been able to integrate that expertise into a curriculum that keeps getting better. LearnZillion believes that empowering teachers to collaborate and share best practices creates new possibilities for students, and the profession.

LearnZillion Content Philosophy: It’s hard to teach a lesson. It’s harder to teach it well. And it’s particularly hard to teach it in a way that resonates and sticks with students. Teachers not only have to understand their content, they have to know the best way to teach it. This idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) – knowledge of the content and the way to make it accessible to students – is at the heart of LearnZillion. PCK has become even more important with the depth that is now required by the Common Core State Standards. Their offerings are meant to help get teachers started with lessons that were designed with PCK in mind. The resources on their site were built by a talented group of hundreds of practicing teachers (a.k.a. the LearnZillion Dream Team) for teachers everywhere. Collectively, as a community, LearnZillion will continue to improve upon these lessons, building more practical resources and PCK as they move forward.

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*The content in this section is provided by or adapted from LearnZillion.

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What School Board Members Need to Know When Selecting Instructional Materials [with Infographic]

20150417 SchoolBoard2‘Tis the season for selecting instructional materials.  Board members often ask me what questions they should be asking during their district’s selection process. Below are five important facts for Texas school board members to keep in mind and seven key questions to ask as the board considers the district’s proposed list of instructional materials.

Five Facts For Texas School Board Members Regarding Selecting Instructional Materials:

  • Selecting instructional materials is ultimately the board’s responsibility. (Texas Education Code § 31.104(a), Policy CMD(Legal)) 
  • Districts do NOT have to purchase only state-adopted materials with IMA funds. (Texas Education Code (TEC) §31.0211(c-d); Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §66.1307(c); Policy CMD (Legal))
  • Instructional materials (except state-adopted materials) are subject to competitive procurement laws.  (Local Govt. Code §271.054; §271.064)
  • Just because a material is “state-adopted” does NOT necessarily mean that it is aligned to 100% of the TEKS; and just because it is not state-adopted does not mean it is inferior. (TEC§ 31.023). Bottom line: to get the best value, districts must comparison shop for their instructional materials. 


  • The board has a legal obligation to ensure that the district is in compliance with the 100% Rule. (TEC §31.004; 19 TAC §66.1305; Policy CMD (Legal))

Click here to learn more about the Five Facts.

7 Key Questions final 20150417

[Click the Image to Download]

7 Key Questions for Board Members to Consider When Adopting Instructional Materials

(1) Does your district’s local policy allow the administration to consider both state-adopted and/or non-state adopted materials? If not, how do you know you are getting the best value for your students?

(2) How many materials were considered for each grade/subject being selected?

(3) Did the district engage in a competitive procurement process to select non-adopted or unbundled state-adopted materials?

(4) Were teachers given an opportunity to sample the products recommended for adoption? For online materials, were both tech-savvy and non-tech-savvy teachers asked to review the products?

(5) For online materials, does the district have the per student bandwidth and other technology infrastructure in place to support simultaneous use of the recommended products?

(6) If online materials, how will the district ensure that all students will have access to the product at home, even students who do not have internet access at home?

(7) Does the administration have an alignment report to prove that the recommended materials, either individually or in the aggregate, align to 100% of the TEKS for each grade/subject in the required curriculum, except PE?

[Jackie Lain is Founder and President of Learning List.]

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