Courses begin with a “Chapter 0” review of the knowledge and skills needed to be prepared for instruction. Subsequent chapters include a “Get Ready” feature that provides a quick check of prerequisite skills and knowledge, an overview of new vocabulary in English and Spanish, and instructions on how to use graphic organizers to support retention of content. Chapters include a mid-point quiz and end with a test preparation feature that includes a study guide, lesson-by-lesson review problems, sets of test-taking strategies, and a TEKS-formatted practice test. “Student Handbooks” provide extra practice problems, selected answers and solutions, a glossary, and reference materials, including formulas, measures, and mathematical symbols and properties. Online course resources include tutorials in key content, BrainPOP® animations of concepts, graphing software, and virtual manipulatives.Teacher editions include comprehensive correlations to the TEKS and ELPS and a “TEKS Skills Trace” feature that allows teachers to track students’ mastery of specific TEKS and preparation for end-of-course exams. Teacher editions provide background information in key content, RtI strategies, and guidance in teaching the math process standards. More information is available at the McGraw-Hill Education Texas site.
These courses include print and digital resources and support instruction in blended learning environments. Content is structured using Understanding by Design® (UBD) model, which frames instruction in terms of “Enduring Understandings” and “Essential Questions.” Each course includes features to help students step into the place and/or time of study using period timelines, an interactive maps, illustrations and photographs, and quotes from primary sources. Lessons include videos, interactive games (e.g., The Voting Rights Matching Game), slide shows, and visual elements, such as photographs, charts, and graphs. Students have access online libraries of “Skills Builder” and “Test Prep” resources. Skills Builder resources address geography, research, writing, and presentation skills and include links to college and career readiness development materials. The Test Prep library provides rubrics and resources to improve test-taking skills.Teacher resources include planning guides, comprehensive lesson plans, and support for implementing the UBD model, including clear statements of learning objectives, expected student outcomes, and connections to the TEKS. Teacher editions provide interactive whiteboard lessons, guidance for differentiating instruction and assessing student learning, and suggestions for videos, slide shows, and related readings to support content. Teachers have access to McGraw-Hill’s “Networks Resource Library,” which includes professional development videos, correlations to the TEKS and ELPS, and links to external resources. The Library also includes tools to support student learning, including Foldables® graphic organizers, a handbook for geography skills, additional primary source documents, and resources to develop 21st Century Skills (e.g., financial literacy).
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In 2013, the Texas legislature passed a law, Texas Education Code §28.002(b) which prohibits:
(1) The State Board of Education from adopting the CCSS as the “essential knowledge and skills” for the State of Texas;
(2) School districts from teaching the CCSS as the essential knowledge and skills for any foundation or enrichment course; and
(3) School districts/charter schools from being required to teach the CCSS (as, for example, a condition of accepting federal or grant funding).
“Common Core” resources are seeping into Texas classrooms, and some people allege that districts are breaking the law if their teachers use CCSS-aligned materials. When asked whether it is illegal for Texas educators to use instructional materials aligned to the CCSS, the Texas Attorney General decided that as long as a resource aligns to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) it is permissible for Texas school districts to use it, even if the material also aligns to the CCSS. Therefore, a district is not necessarily breaking the law just because its teachers are using materials that claim to be aligned to the CCSS.Why are Texas teachers using CCSS-aligned materials? Publishers of K-12 instructional materials develop products to appeal to their largest potential market. In the past, California and Texas were the two largest potential markets for K-12 materials. However, the widespread adoption of the CCSS changed that calculation. Because more than 40 states have adopted the CCSS, the number of potential customers for CCSS-aligned materials far exceeds the number of districts that need TEKS-aligned materials. Therefore, many more publishers develop materials that address the CCSS than materials that address only the TEKS.
CCSS-aligned materials may, however, also be aligned to other states’ standards, including the TEKS. The materials may address each state’s standards to a different degree and in different locations within the product. Therefore, to ensure that they are not violating the law against teaching the CCSS, it is critical that Texas educators ensure that the materials they use are aligned to the TEKS.
How do districts accomplish this?
(1) Purchase state-adopted materials. The state has a rigorous process for validating that materials submitted for state adoption are aligned to TEKS. However, for a variety of reasons, many publishers choose not to submit their materials for state adoption. Texas law allows districts to purchase non-state-adopted materials and many choose to do that because non-adopted materials may meet their students’ needs better or may be less expensive than state-adopted materials.
(2) Districts can rely on the publisher’s alignment report to ensure that the products they use align to the TEKS. However, many educators evaluate alignment differently from publishers.
(3) Districts can require their teachers to verify the alignment of the materials the district is using. It takes between 8 and 10 hours to verify the TEKS alignment for one product in one grade level; 104 to 130 hours to do the same for one product that spans grades K-12.
(4) A low-cost, time-saving alternative is to subscribe to Learning List. Learning List features a detailed, independent TEKS alignment report for each state-adopted and non-adopted instructional material. Subscribing districts may access any completed alignment report and may request that Learning List develop a TEKS alignment report for the materials (in the four core subjects) that their district already uses. In this way, Learning List gives districts peace of mind that the materials their teachers are using are aligned to the TEKS and thus, that the district is in compliance with the law.