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…]

In addition, our alignment reports help all teachers—novices and veterans—understand the learning standards for their subject and grade level. Learning List’s alignment reports enable teachers to see, in detail, what their students are expected to know and be able to do as a result of instruction. Our alignment reports enable administrators and school board members to ensure that the materials they purchase are addressing the required standards and preparing students for success in subsequent grades, college, and careers.

Learning List’s editorial reviews and alignment reports complement each other in the type of information they provide. Editorial reviews provide a qualitative discussion of each product’s features and functionality. Alignment reports provide a detailed examination of how well each product does or does not teach the required learning standards, resulting in a quantitative measure of the product’s alignment to standards. Taken together, these reviews enable district administrators and school board members—” the stewards of our future, our culture, our democracy”—to ensure the instructional materials they select for their classrooms meet the needs of their teachers and students and support high quality teaching and learning.

Note: Learning List has reviewed ThinkCerca’s Common Core ELA materials for middle school.