Aligning to Standards

How Learning List Helps Districts Comply with ESSA’s “Evidence Based” Requirement

A recent report from Curriculum Associates discusses the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) requirement that federal education funds be used for evidence-based programs, interventions, and products. “ESSA and Evidence Claims: A Practical Guide to Understanding What ‘Evidence-Based’ Really Means” provides a primer for educators in understanding the four levels of evidence recognized by ESSA (e.g., moderate evidence), the type of study that exemplifies each level (e.g., quasi-experimental), and the five questions educators should ask when evaluating research-based evidence (e.g., “When was the study conducted?”).

One of five questions for evaluating evidence, in particular, caught Learning List’s attention: “Was the study based on current content and standards?”

ESSA assumes that the evidence base for a product, program, or service is based on the state’s current standards, but it is possible that the research is grounded in prior state standards or another state’s standards, altogether. It is the district’s responsibility to vet information to ensure products purchased with federal funds and the evidence supporting the products’ effectiveness are based on the appropriate standards.

A tall order but Learning List can help.

Learning List’s alignment reports clarify which set of standards a product addresses, such as the Common Core State Standards or the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Our alignment reports evaluate the product’s alignment, determining whether the material fully addresses the content, context, and cognitive demand of each of the relevant standards. Thus, Learning List’s alignment reports provide strong evidence about whether a product is grounded in the relevant standards. [Read more…]

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How Learning List Assists Teachers in Developing and Achieving SLOs

Solid instruction begins with an analysis of student data followed by the development of targeted learning goals and instructional practices aimed at achieving them. Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes (SLOs) are growth targets set by teachers to help them plan instruction and drive learning throughout the year. SLOs provide schools and districts with a way to make best instructional practice a common expectation for all teachers and principals.

Here are five ways Learning List’s reviews and tools support teachers in creating high quality SLOs and achieving them:
Effective Practice
(1) After the focus of an SLO has been identified, Learning List’s alignment reports and alignment comparison tool make it easy for teachers to identify causal connections between students’ learning deficits and deficits in the alignment of the district/campus’ instructional materials.

(2) Learning List’s alignment comparison tool and alignment reports help teachers scaffold instruction using their existing materials to address students’ learning gaps that have persisted over multiple grade levels. [Read more…]

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The Role of Instructional Materials in Shaping Teacher Practice

In a recent op-ed appearing in The Hill, ThinkCerca’s founder and CEO, Eileen Murphy Buckley, describes the challenges she faced as a novice English teacher working at  Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, one of Illinois’ best high schools and Michelle Obama’s alma mater. Like many first-year teachers, she struggled with classroom management, planning relevant and engaging instruction, and mastery of her content area. She received sage advice from veteran colleagues, but she “confesses” that her strongest supports as an inexperienced teacher were the instructional materials she used in the classroom.

She writes:

So, there is my confession after all these years, but I make it to say that the products we use in schools matter. The quality of those resources matter so very much because they are what empower students, regardless of which teacher they end up with. The materials shape teachers and teacher practice, and they shape the teachers they raise through years of side by side work.

These products must answer to students and teachers as well as buyers — the admins and school boards who are the stewards of our future, our culture, our democracy. Products have material impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren — who will be caring for us and our country in the very near future.

Simply put, reading materials impact the quality of teaching in much more significant ways than you might know.

At Learning List, we understand the importance of high quality materials. We recognize that instructional materials influence how teachers teach as well as how and what students learn. And this understanding shapes how we review products.

Our editorial reviews examine the supports each material does or does not provide for teachers. Our reviewers explain whether teacher resources include background in content and pedagogy; provide pacing information, lesson plans, and guidance in differentiating instruction; and offer professional development opportunities and professional communities that facilitate collaboration and sharing with other teachers who use the same product. Our reviewers note when they feel a product is particularly appropriate for novice teachers. Such products include comprehensive discussions of the required content knowledge and pedagogy, and offer detailed, often scripted, lesson plans to support instruction. [Read more…]

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What to Expect from Supplemental Materials

A supplemental resource is designed to complement and support comprehensive materials. Publishers design supplemental resources for different purposes, including to:

  • help students learn the content and practice the skills contained in all of the standards for a particular grade and subject;7th Grade Supplemental Math
  • offer some of the same resources as comprehensive materials to support students in learning a specific subset of standards (e.g., writing standards, Personal Financial Literacy, etc…);
  • target specific standards with which students typically struggle;
  • build skills addressed across grade level standards; or
  • support specific student learning needs, such as the needs of English language learners, students with disabilities, or advanced learners.

Supplemental materials vary in the percentage of standards they intend to address. Some intend to align to all grade-level standards, but most do not. Thus, a supplemental resource that is aligned to only 50% of the grade-level standards may be the best material to select if it is aligned to the standards you need it to teach.  Similarly, a resource that intends to build vocabulary may do so effectively but not teach the other content and skills the standards require. Thus, such a product may be a great addition to your district’s instructional arsenal, even though it is only aligned to less than 10% of the grade level standards. [Read more…]

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Updates to Advanced Placement Course Frameworks

College Board

The College Board recently updated the course frameworks for several of the Advanced Placement courses for which Learning List has reviewed materials. We have worked with the College Board to revise our alignment templates to reflect the following changes:

AP History Disciplinary Practices and Reasoning Skills

  • The Historical Thinking Skills were reorganized and renamed “AP History Disciplinary Practices and Reasoning Skills.” The number of practices and skills were reduced. There are now two practices and four skills. “Periodization” and “Synthesis” were eliminated as separate skills.
  • The revised “AP History Disciplinary Practices and Reasoning Skills” are part of the frameworks for AP US History, AP World History, and AP European History. [Read more…]
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Frequently Asked Questions About Learning List

As the school year shifts into high gear, we are getting a lot of questions about our service. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

What is Learning List?
Learning List is a subscription-based instructional materials review service designed to help improve student learning by empowering educators to chooseand use instructional materials most effectively.

We created Learning List in 2013 to help districts become better informed consumers of instructional materials. Initially, districts used our reviews to facilitate their selection of materials. Over time, subscribers began telling us that our reviews also helped them identify the best parts of their existing materials to use to teach each standard. As one instructional coach explained, “We use your alignment reports as a GPS through our materials to ensure that we’re using the pages that teach each standard fully.”

What types of materials do you review?
We have reviewed over 2500 of the most widely used instructional materials, including:

  • Materials in the four core subjects, 12 Advanced Placement courses, Tech Apps and 85 CTE courses;
  • Comprehensive and supplemental materials, including RtI, testprep, criterion-referenced test banks, and professional development resources;
  • Publisher produced and free open educational resources (OERs);
  • State-adopted and non-adopted materials (i.e., materials that were not submitted for state adoption); and
  • English and Spanish versions of materials.

Subscribing districts get access to all published reviews and may request reviews of additional materials as part of the subscription. That’s why Learning List is a service, not just a website. [Read more…]

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