Buyer Beware (Part 3): Believing that the Alignment Percentage Is Consistent Across All Grade Levels

[Source: Griffith Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ]

[Source: Griffith Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ]

According to a recent article published on PBS Newshour, 90 percent of districts in Common Core states said that developing or identifying Common Core curricular materials has posed a challenge. Yet even when instructional materials can be identified, how do districts know what the alignment percentages may be across grade levels?

Alignment percentages can vary greatly from grade level to grade level – independent of the standard  [CCSS (Common Core State Standards), TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills),  etc.] and instructional materials subjects being reviewed [Math, ELA/R, etc.].

Here are a few examples:



Bottom line: Do not assume that the alignment percentage at one grade level is representative of the product’s alignment at all grade levels, or even at all grade levels within a single grade span. Learning List helps identify alignment percentage differences across grade levels and can assist you in selecting supplemental materials that can Fill-in-the-Gap™.

Solution: If your district is going to purchase multi-grade level material, look at the alignment of the material at each grade level. If the material is not consistently aligned, check why. Does the product not attempt to align to a particular domain/strand (i.e., it only addresses information text)? Did the product not align well to a particular domain/strand? If the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, it will be easy to supplement with another material that specializes in the non-aligned domain/strand. However, there simply may not be a logical pattern of non-alignment from grade-level to grade-level. To effectively prepare your students to master the standards, your teachers must know which standards the material is or is not aligned to in each grade level so that they can adjust their instructional strategies accordingly.

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New Reviews: Sirius Grade 8 Science – STAAR Review/Prep

[Source: Sirous]

[Source: Sirius]

Learning List has reviewed Sirius Education Solutions’ Grade 8 Science: STAAR Review and Preparation WorkText. This supplemental, consumable print resource prepares eighth grade students for the STAAR science exam. Instruction reviews the tested science TEKS, including content from grades 6 and 7, and develops students’ test taking skills.

The WorkText includes four units that address (1) matter and energy; (2) force, motion, and energy; (3) earth and space; and (4) organisms and environments. Each unit begins with a short diagnostic test, a review of previously learned vocabulary, a preview of new terms, and “Get Ready” question that frames content.

Video Courtesy of Sirius

Click for Video Courtesy of Sirius

Chapters begin by providing the full text of the relevant TEKS followed by student-friendly explanations of each standard. The instructional narrative is written simply and will be readable for most middle school students. New vocabulary is highlighted and defined in context and in a glossary. Content includes visual elements, such as illustrations, diagrams, and photographs, to support understanding. Items from the diagnostic test are revisited when the applicable content is addressed in the chapter. The discussion of test items identifies the correct answer and explains why other responses are incorrect.

Each chapter ends with a set of STAAR practice questions. Units end with sets of review activities, a graphic organizer, and a post-test. Review materials include a checklist of the key concepts and vocabulary needed to master each of the TEKS. Each unit includes a diagnostic test and a post-test formatted to reflect the STAAR exam. The WorkText also includes a comprehensive “Mixed Readiness” review formatted to reflect the STAAR test.

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Buyer Beware (Part 2): Believing Materials Are “Aligned to Standards” When Publishers Say They Are

First, why is alignment so important? Teachers rely on their instructional materials for 80 percent of their curriculum. They expect that the materials the district purchases will be aligned to 100% of the standards. If the material is not aligned to the depth and rigor of each standard, and the teacher is not aware of the material’s deficits, he/she will not supplement with additional products or adjust his/her instructional strategies to ensure that the students fully learn all of the standards. If students are not taught the knowledge and skills required by the state’s standards, they will not do well academically.

Here’s a snapshot of a few instructional materials that show the contrast between the “Publisher Submitted Alignment Percentage” vs. the  “Learning List Alignment Percentage” for the TEKS standards (Texas Education Knowledge and Skills) for ELA/R (English Language Arts and Reading) and Math across various grade levels:

[Source: Learning List]

[Source: Learning List]

Similarly, here’s a snapshot of a few instructional materials that show the contrast between the “Publisher Submitted Alignment Percentage” vs. the  “Learning List Alignment Percentage” for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/R and Math across various grade levels:

[Source: Learning List]

[Source: Learning List]

Bottom line: the alignment of your district’s instructional materials will inevitably impact your students’ scores, which in turn, will impact your teachers’ evaluations and campus and district accountability ratings.

Solution: Have two or three teachers carefully check the citations in the publisher’s correlation to make sure that the citations listed are aligned to the content, context and cognitive demand of each standard. Why more than one teacher? Determining alignment is an inherently subjective endeavor; having a few teachers work together to check the material’s alignment is necessary to reduce the subjectivity of alignment determinations.

At Learning List, three and sometimes four subject matter experts (experienced teachers certified in the grade and subject of the products they review) check the alignment of each instructional material. On average, we spend about 14 hours reviewing the alignment of each instructional material featured on Learning List.

Support your teachers and students’ success by ensuring that the materials you purchase (either individually or in the aggregate) are truly aligned to 100% of the standards in each grade and subject.

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