Posts Tagged "standards"

The Myth of 100% Alignment

Learning List has reviewed the alignment of over 2500 materials.  After reviewing a material’s alignment, we calculate the percentage of standards to which the material is aligned.

When you log into, you will see that several products have an alignment percentage of 100%. An alignment percentage of 100%, does NOT mean that every citation (e.g., page, lesson, video) listed in the publisher’s correlation was found to be aligned to the relevant standard. Rather, 100% alignment means that Learning List’s subject matter experts found that every standard was fully addressed at least once in the material.* aligned_nonalignedv2


Learning List’s subject matter experts review multiple citations for alignment to each standard.** As this table reflects, typically one or two of the citations reviewed are found to be aligned to the standard; several others are found not to be aligned. In order to be sure that students will learn all the knowledge and skills the standards require, teachers must know which citations are aligned to the standards and which are not.

Learning List’s detailed alignment reports show (1) which citations (from the publisher’s correlation) were reviewed for alignment to each standard, (2) which of those were found to be aligned to the standard, and (3) which were found to not to be aligned. Moreover, a reviewer’s comment accompanies each non-aligned citation to explain precisely which part of the standard the citation failed to address.

These alignment reports make it easier for teachers to assign citations that have been verified to be aligned to each standard. If teachers want to assign a non-aligned citation, the reviewer’s comment explains how they should adjust their instruction to make up for the material’s deficit(s). This quick video provides an example.

Preparing your students for success requires you to be a critical consumer of the instructional materials you are using. The alignment percentage of a material alone does not tell the whole story. Even when a material has an alignment percentage of 100%, there are likely citations in the publisher’s correlation that are not aligned to the standards. The alignment reports on provide the critical information you need to use your instructional materials effectively in your instruction.

*Learning List recognizes that a single “aligned” citation may not be instructionally sufficient to help students “master” the standard.  Some level of repetition is typically required for students to understand, internalize, and master content and skills. That is the reason Learning List reviews multiple citations for alignment to each standard.

**If the publisher’s correlation lists fewer than three citations as aligned to a standard, Learning List’s subject matter experts review all of the citations listed. If the publisher’s correlation cites more than three citations as being aligned to a standard, Learning List employs a “spot check” verification methodology – at least three and up to eight citations are reviewed for alignment to the standard. If teachers want to use a citation that Learning List has not reviewed, they would be advised to check the alignment of the citation themselves. However, Learning List’s alignment report serves as a guide as to how likely it is that any additional citation would be aligned to that standard.

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Are Your Materials Fueling Your Students’ Success or Undermining It?


In this article published recently in Education Week Jackie Lain, President of Learning List, shares a two-step process to determine whether your instructional materials are propelling your students’ success or undermining it.

As Jackie explains, students cannot learn what they are not taught. If your students’ test scores reflect a pattern of low performance on questions associated with a standard or group of standards, use the two-step process to determine whether your materials may be to blame.  If your materials do not address or the citations that were assigned are not aligned to those standards, then your students did not learn all of the knowledge and skills those standards require and their test scores reflect the materials’ deficits.

Access the full article for details and see previous posts to this blog highlighting the importance of alignment of instructional materials to standards are:

Are Your Resources Supporting Your Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap?

Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

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Where Do You Stand? The Great Homework Debate

As the school year begins, so does the debate over homework. Educators, parents, and researchers have differing opinions about how much (if any) homework is appropriate. Some people believe homework is useless, if not harmful.  Others favor homework in some cases but not all, depending on the age of the child, the type of homework assigned, and the time it takes to complete. Homework

Whether or not you agree with the concept of assigning of homework, students’ time spent interacting with instructional materials (during the school day or as homework) will lead to improved academic performance only if the materials used are aligned to the standards.

As you plan homework, review the instructional material you plan to use to make sure that it addresses, and is aligned, to the standards you want students to learn. Here’s why: after hearing many teachers complain that they were not getting the promised results from a widely used supplemental material, Learning List reviewed it. Our alignment report revealed the problem:

  • The material was not aligned to 100% of the state standards, which was not surprising because few supplemental materials intend to cover 100% of the standards.
  • Teachers were (unintentionally) using the material to help students practice standards the material did not cover. In fact, the publisher’s correlation did not list those standards as being addressed in the material at all.

In order for homework to be effective it must be aligned to the standards you want students to learn. Otherwise, you are giving students false confidence that they have learned what they need to be successful.

For more information about using instructional materials efficiently and effectively, read these previous posts:

Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

Are Your Resources Supporting Your Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap?


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Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

According to Solution Tree, the first of four critical questions around which effective PLCs focus their work is, “What do we expect our students to learn?” This fundamental question lays the foundation for the remaining work of the PLC.

In response to this question, your PLC is likely discussing the relevant state standards, the district curriculum, and pacing. You may be missing a large piece of the puzzle if you are not also discussing the alignment of the instructional materials you will be using to support student learning.    books

Consider the following:

  • Simply using a resource on a state-adopted list (if your state has one) or on the AP Example Textbook Lists does not necessarily mean that the resource addresses all of the standards for the grade and subject area. For example, materials are eligible for adoption in Texas and for inclusion on the 2016 Example Textbook Lists if they align to at least 50% of the relevant standards.
  • Just because the publisher claims that a material is aligned to 100% of the standards, does not mean it is. Learning List finds that on average, comprehensive (full-course/year) materials are aligned to 80% and supplemental materials are aligned to 60% of the relevant standards.
  • Even if a material is aligned to 100% of the state standards (i.e., it’s aligned to each standard in at least one location) it does NOT mean that it’s aligned in all the places the publisher claims it to be.
  • From an instructional perspective, it’s critically important to student success for teachers to be sure that the particular citations (e.g., page numbers, lessons) that they assign in their instructional materials are truly aligned to the standards they are teaching.

How do you evaluate “alignment” during your PLC?

Step 1: Check whether the material addresses the standard(s) you are using it to teach.

Publisher’s should be able to provide a correlation document or an online “correlation” that shows exactly where in their material each standard is addressed. Use the publisher’s correlation to identify whether your material(s) address the standard(s) you will be teaching in the unit or lesson.

  • If the material does address those standards proceed to Step 2.
  • If the material does not address the standards, find another resource that does.

*If you do not have a correlation document you can request one from the publisher. If the publisher does not have one, you may want to reconsider using that resource.

Step 2: Check that the citations you plan to assign are aligned to those standards.

Just because a material addresses a standard, does not mean it’s aligned to the standard. As part of your PLC work, check that each citation (e.g., each  page, lesson or unit in your material) you intend to assign is aligned to the standard you are using it to teach, A citation is aligned to a standard only if it addresses the  content, context, and cognitive demand of the standard.

  • The content of the standard describes what the students are expected to learn.
  • The context of the standard describes where or when the learning should take place (e.g., type of science, genre of ELA, place/time in history).
  • The Cognitive demand of the standard describes what the student is expected to do (i.e., the level of rigor)

A citation must be aligned to all three C’s of the standard in order to teach students all the knowledge and skills the standards require them to learn. If the citations in your material address only part of the standard(s) you will be teaching, then either (1) adjust your instruction to cover the parts of the standard the material does not, or (2) find citations in another resource that are aligned to those standards

Answering the question, “What do we expect our students to learn?” leads the important instructional work of the PLC. Ensuring that the materials you use are aligned to the standards they are being used to teach is a critical step in preparing your students for success. Doing that work during the planning stage that should save you from having to do as much remediation later.

Learning List’s detailed alignment reports and alignment comparison tool can save PLC’s hours of work. Contact us to find out how.


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New Review: Illustrative Mathematics

[Source: Illustrative Mathematics]

[Source: Illustrative Mathematics]

Illustrative Mathematics (IM) is a supplemental, open educational resource (OER) that supports the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM) in grades K-12. The program is available online and includes sample problems, curriculum modules, and professional development resources. Materials are available at no cost at Learning List recently reviewed IM content for middle school (i.e., grades 6-8).

IM content is organized by CCSSM domain (e.g., Geometry), cluster (e.g., “Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.”), and standard (e.g., “Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by…”). For each standard, the program provides a set of printable “learning tasks,” or multi-step problems. Each learning task is accompanied by a “Commentary,” a detailed narrative description of the solution, and a comments section. The Commentary explains the problem, its purpose, and different strategies students may use to solve it.  The solutions narrative provides step-by-step guidance in reaching the problem’s solution. The comments section allows users to add their feedback and suggestions.

“Course Blueprints” for grades 6-8 were “Under construction!” at the time of our review (July 2016); Course Blueprints available at the high school level are curriculum modules organized in units with diagnostic pre-tests and summative assessments. Additional instructional materials and professional development modules are available for purchase on the IM website.

About Illustrative Mathematics*

IM is a discerning community of educators dedicated to the coherent learning of mathematics. Founded in 2011 at the University of Arizona, IM has operated since 2013 as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. IM shares carefully vetted resources for teachers and teacher leaders to give our children an understanding of mathematics and skill in using it. IM provides expert guidance to states, districts, curriculum writers, and assessment writers working to improve mathematics education.

* The content in this section is provided by or adapted from Illustrative Mathematics

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for this material.

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