Effective Practice

New Product Review: The Center for the Collaborative Classroom Collaborative Literacy

New Product Review: The Center for the Collaborative Classroom Collaborative Literacy

Learning List recently reviewed The Center for the Collaborative Classroom’s Collaborative Literacy, which was submitted for state adoption in Texas in response to the Texas Education Agency’s Proclamation 2019 call for K-8 English language arts and reading (ELAR) products aligned to the new ELAR Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Collaborative Literacy is a comprehensive reading/language arts product for grades K-5. Resources are available in print and online formats. Instruction emphasizes the social development of upper-elementary students while building reading, writing, and spelling skills.

At each grade level, Collaborative Literacy is made up of three separate resources that, when used together, support 30 weeks of comprehensive instruction in reading and language arts. Each resource is discussed separately below. [Read more…]

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Adopting New  Materials This Year? Some Food for Thought

Adopting New  Materials This Year? Some Food for Thought
Districts across the country are preparing to adopt new materials this school year. We thought we’d share some important considerations to help you implement an efficient and effective adoption process.  Following are questions to help you define the scope of your adoption:
  • What subjects and grade levels will you be adopting new materials for?
  • Are you adopting the primary material for the subject or a supplemental product?
  • Are you planning to adopt the same material across all grade spans or does each grade span, or even each grade level, have autonomous decision-making?
  • Have you audited your existing materials to identify gaps/deficits (i.e., gaps in alignment, gaps in adaptions)?
  • Have you conducted a needs assessment to help you identify the features that the new materials must have in order to support teaching and learning effectively in your classroom/campus/district over the next several years?  Consider distributing the needs assessment to content area teachers, campus leadership, the district’s curriculum and technology teams, parents and your community to ensure that all end users’ perspectives are considered.The feedback from your needs assessment may not only define what your materials must contain, you may also come away with a list of features that would be nice-to-have in the new materials but are not quite as critical.
  • Have you also considered these other important factors to help you identify which new materials will meet your needs best:
    • Student achievement and demographic trends that may indicate the need for adaptions in the new materials;
    • Teacher experience which could dictate instructional resources the new materials should contain; and,
    • If you will be considering online materials, your campus/district’s technology parameters to ensure that the material you select can be supported in that environment?

This list is not exhaustive; certainly, there are additional questions you could ask/answer to help you define what you are looking for in the new adoption. The answers to these questions can help (a) establish the district’s priorities for the adoption, (b) build the district’s rubric for reviewing materials, and (c) keep selection committee discussions focused on the product features that matter most.

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Defining Roles: Standards vs. Curricula vs. Instructional Materials

FocusEducators and publishers often use the terms “standards,” “curriculum” and/or “instructional materials” interchangeably. Moreover, many educators consider their instructional materials to be their curriculum. However, each of these terms represents a distinct component of an educational program. In the sections that follow, we provide explanations of each of these terms to differentiate their meanings in the context of PreK-12 education.

Standards set out what students are expected to know and be able to do at the end of each school year. Standards are generally established at the state level. In fact, ESSA requires that each state create learning standards for public schools in three subjects—English language arts/reading, mathematics, and science—and many states go beyond ESSA’s minimum to set standards in social studies, career and technical education, languages other than English, and other subjects.

In contrast, the curriculum is developed at the district level, the product of local policy making. While the standards tell you what is expected, the curriculum provides the road map to get there. Often described in documents such as “scope and sequence” and “units of instruction,” a curriculum includes goals, instructional practices and pedagogical guidance, suggested resources and instructional materials, and methods of measuring student progress. [Read more…]

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Effective Implementation: A Key to Success

Effective Implementation: A Key to SuccessThe effective implementation of a material is as critical to student success as the material’s alignment to standards. Learning List’s editorial reviews empower districts with information they need to not only to select materials but also to implement materials more effectively. They provide a qualitative analysis of each material’s instructional content and design. They point out the critical components of the product and the value each provides in the instructional process. They highlight the supports available for teachers and point out deficits in the material’s offerings. For example, the editorial reviews explain whether teacher resources include background in content and pedagogy, provide pacing information and/or lesson plans, and offer guidance in differentiating instruction. They explain the professional development opportunities in the material and note when a product contains additional supports for novice teachers, such as comprehensive discussions of the required content knowledge and pedagogy, and detailed lesson plans to support instruction.

Learning List’s alignment reports guide educators in their selection and use of standards-aligned materials. Our editorial reviews help educators understand the intended use and instructional components of each product so they can implement the product effectively. Together, these reviews empower educators to choose and use materials to fuel their students’ success.

A recent example highlighting the use of Learning List’s reviews to effectively implement instructional materials

An assistant superintendent of a subscribing district called to let us know that her high school math teachers believed that our reviews were too generous to a publisher by failing to mention the material’s lack of rigor. They felt the materials did not provide practice exercises to allow students to develop mathematical proficiency.

Rigor is an attribute we review materials for both in our alignment methodology and in the editorial review. After the call, we reviewed the alignment report for each applicable grade level and observed the following:

The materials were aligned to a high percentage of the relevant state standards, meaning that we found at least one aligned citation for the majority of standards in each grade level. [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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