20150327 21st wordleRecently, Learning List’s reviewers were confronted with an interesting question: How do we characterize materials as comprehensive or supplemental? Generally speaking, we understood that a comprehensive product would address all, or nearly all, of the standards for a particular grade and subject area, and a supplemental product would focus on a particular set of standards. However, our reviewers found that some materials that were designed to for supplemental instruction (e.g., test preparation resources) addressed nearly all of the standards for a given course. This prompted us to examine our thinking about what the labels “comprehensive” and “supplemental” mean in terms of instructional materials.

To clarify our understanding, we looked to how some states and districts define these terms. For example, California defines comprehensive, or “basic”, instructional materials to be “instructional materials that are designed for use by pupils as a principal learning resource and that meet in organization and content the basic requirements of the intended course (Educ. Code § 60010.a). In California, supplementary materials are materials that provide more complete coverage of a subject in a course, address diverse learning needs, and support the use of technology in the classroom (Educ. Code § 60010.l). Similarly, Carroll County Public Schools in Maryland defines comprehensive materials as “the primary source of instruction for students in a course” (emphasis in the original) and supplemental materials as “those items used to extend and support instruction and address the needs of all learners.”

Both definitions of comprehensive materials clarify that a comprehensive material is one that supports instruction for a course’s full curriculum and is provided for all students. Such materials would include broad, deep discussions of content; remediation and enrichment activities; formative and summative assessments; as well as teacher resources. Although neither definition specifies that a comprehensive resource must address 100% of the standards for a course, it seems reasonable that a “principal learning resource” or a “primary source of instruction” would need to be highly aligned to standards. Both definitions of supplemental materials indicate that supplemental resources are not designed to be the sole instructional resource for a course. Instead, supplementary materials complement, enrich, or extend the content of comprehensive resources. It seems reasonable that supplemental products will vary in terms of their alignment to standards. Some products may focus on a narrow set of standards, while others, such as test preparation resources, may provide a brief review of all standards.

[Source: Learning List]

[Source: Learning List]

Learning List’s Fill in the Gap™  tool helps educators identify supplemental materials that will extend content and address gaps in comprehensive resources. For each product in Learning List’s database that is not 100% aligned to standards, the Fill in the Gap tool suggests other products that address the missing standards. Suggested products may include both comprehensive and supplemental materials that address the missing standards. This allows educators identify the particular product or combination of products that meets the needs of their students.