Posts Tagged "curriculum"

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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Administrators, Are You Using Learning List to Plan for Observations?

It’s mid-September and classroom observations are starting.Teacher at desk

Learning List resources can assist you in preparing for classroom observations and coaching conversations. Below are sample questions related to each T-TESS dimension that addresses “alignment” of lessons and  activities to the state standards and using materials to assess student progress. These questions may be useful in conversations prior to observations or edited and used during coaching conversations after observations.

Please note, the short descriptions of the dimensions below does not capture the full scope of the rubric’s expectations. Consult the rubric for further detail.

Planning Dimension 1.1: The teacher designs clear, well organized, sequential lessons that reflect best practice, align with standards and are appropriate for diverse learners.

Sample Coaching Questions

  • Which instructional material(s) supports the objectives for this lesson?
  • What criteria do you use to determine whether an instructional material is aligned to the standards being taught in the lesson?
  • How do you determine the sequence of instructional materials to use?
  • Will you use technology in the lesson? If so, how will you determine the most appropriate technology to use?
  • How are you using instructional materials to help you differentiate instruction?

Planning Dimension 1.2: The teacher uses formal and informal methods to measure student progress, then manages and analyzes student data to inform instruction.

Sample Coaching Questions

  • What type of instruments will you use to assess student progress?
  • How will you use the data you get back from those formative assessments to guide small group instruction?
  • How do you involve students in monitoring their progress?
  • What resources are available for instructing students of varying needs? What criteria do you use to determine which to use?
  • What type of feedback do you find most effective with the students you teach?

Planning Dimension 1.4: The teacher plans engaging, flexible lessons that engage higher-order thinking, persistence and achievement.

Sample Coaching Questions

  • What questions have you planned for the lesson?
  • Which questioning and/or other strategies will you use to encourage all students to engage in higher-order thinking?
  • How will you use your instructional materials to prompt students to engage in higher order thinking and questioning?
  • How will you assess the alignment of your activities with instructional materials?

Instruction Dimension 2.2: The teacher uses content and pedagogical expertise to design and execute lessons aligned with state standards, related content and student needs.

Sample Coaching Questions

  • Can you demonstrate that this lesson is aligned to the state standards you are intending to cover?
  • How does this lesson align to the district curriculum (scope and sequence)?
  • How will you use your instructional materials to provide students with opportunities to use different types of thinking and problem solving skills? What real world scenarios will you reference to support student learning?

We encourage principals to leverage the reviews and tools on Learning List to help implement the T-TESS rubric during the observation and coaching cycle.  Contact us if you would like to schedule training to help support this important work.

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Cost vs. Effectiveness

A recent article in U.S. News and World Report discusses a report from the Center for American Progress. Analyzing state-adopted materials from 19 states, the authors found little relationship between the cost and quality of curriculum materials.

Though the study looked only at print materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards, Learning List data for print and online products reveal the same about Texas materials.  The table below shows the price of three state-adopted, 100% aligned Economics materials that vary in price by up to $81/student over an 8 year subscription:

This table of 100% aligned, state-adopted and non-state-adopted Algebra I products also shows significant price variance:


The article further states, “schools often used misaligned textbooks, and studies have shown that there is a clear gap between what publishers say is aligned to state standards or effective and what truly fits those criteria.”

This begs the question: how does one judge the “effectiveness” of a material prospectively? With so many intervening variables (e.g., the teacher’s skill, the teacher’s use of the material, the students’ abilities and learning styles, and, for online materials, the district’s infrastructure), it is difficult to predict with certainty whether a material is/will be effective.

Alignment to state standards is one predictive measure of a product’s effectiveness. Another is other educators’ experiences with the product. For that reason, Learning List’s editorial reviews incorporate feedback from multiple educators who personally have used the products with students. The reviews also include a list of reference districts for subscribers to contact before purchasing a product. Finally, educators can share their experience by rating and reviewing the products featured on LearningList.com.

Learning List’s alignment reports, editorial reviews and new spec sheets provide multi-faceted feedback to inform educators’ selection of products and help them use their products most effectively.

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Happy Birthday, John Dewey (1859-1952)

dewey

[Image Source: Biography.com]

Today, Learning List celebrates the life of John Dewey, the American philosopher, social reformer, and educator, who was born in Vermont on October 20, 1859.  Dewey was a leader of the Progressive Movement in American education, which emphasized active learning and democratic classroom practices as a means to transmit the core social and moral values (e.g., tolerance) needed to ensure the social continuity of America’s democracy.

In contrast to previous, more authoritarian instructional models that focused on rote learning, Dewey held that students must be actively engaged with and invested in what they are learning and that curriculum must be connected to students’ lives. Dewey’s approach recognized the role of students’ personal experiences in shaping their learning and that students learn best when they are ready for new content.  This idea was expressed again in 1966 with Jerome Bruner’s concept of the spiral curriculum where concepts are revisited across the elementary and middle grades in order to address differences in students’ readiness to learn.

Dewey believed that teachers should not act as instructional authorities.  Instead, they should serve as facilitators of student learning, observing, supporting, and attending to individual learning needs. Dewey also asserted that the curriculum should be relevant to students and their lives.  For example, in a 1916 argument in support of vocational education, Dewey wrote:

The problem is not that of making the schools an adjunct to manufacture and commerce, but of utilizing the factors of industry to make school life more active, more full of immediate meaning, more connected with out-of-school experience (from Democracy in Education).

This approach to curriculum and instruction continues to resonate in American education. Dewey’s work, along with that of Jean Piaget, is fundamental to the contemporary Constructivist movement. Beyond Constructivism, most contemporary American educators understand the importance of a relevant curriculum and student-centered instruction in engaging students with content and meeting diverse student learning needs.

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Introducing Learning List Spec Sheets and Explorer Tool

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Cindy Ryan 512-852-2132

Learning List’s New Spec Sheets and Explorer Tool Help Districts Transition Successfully to a Blended Learning Environment

Austin TX, October 1, 2015 – Learning List launches new Spec Sheet reviews and Explorer tool at the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin, Texas.

According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas school districts have already spent over $250 million this school year on new instructional materials. If history serves as a guide, many of those products will go unused because they will not live up to the publisher’s claims.

The challenge of finding high quality instructional materials is exacerbated as districts increasingly transition to a blended learning environment with either 1:1 or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives. Now, not only must administrators find instructional materials that meet their students’ academic needs, but the materials must also work with multiple devices, browsers and operating systems. District staff seldom has the time and/or expertise to thoroughly review the academic attributes and technology requirements of instructional materials before the district decides which products to buy.

Learning List’s new Spec Sheets and Explorer tool help districts meet that challenge. The Explorer tool helps educators navigate the vast (and expanding) universe of K-12 instructional materials to find products the meet their academic and technical specifications. The new Spec Sheet, Learning List’s two-page checklist of a product’s key academic attributes and technology requirements, will help curriculum and technology teams quickly narrow the list of available products they need to review themselves.

For each material, the Spec Sheet includes several criteria within each of the following categories:

blog chart

“We have found that reviewing the technology specs of a product is just as critical as reviewing the academic side of materials. If your district’s technology is not compatible with the specs of the product, your teachers won’t be able to use it.  So regardless of how good a product is instructionally, if the square peg doesn’t fit in the round hole then you are just wasting money. Learning List’s new Spec Sheets are going to make shopping for instructional materials much less time consuming and will give districts of all sizes greater confidence in the products they select,” Matt Tyner, Textbook Manager for Dallas ISD and Executive Board Member of the Instructional Materials Coordinators’ Association of Texas (IMCAT).

The Spec Sheets are consistently formatted to make it easy for educators to compare critical product features. These at-a-glance reviews complement Learning List’s more in-depth Alignment Reports and Editorial Reviews. Subscribers now get three independent, professional reviews to help inform their buying decisions.

Learning List is an instructional materials review service for schools and districts. With subscribing districts in five states serving over a million students, Learning List has reviewed more than 1,000 preK-12 products in the four core subjects. Learning List reviews both textbooks and digital instructional materials upon subscribers’ requests.

“Learning List is a service for schools and districts. Our subscribers asked us for help verifying and comparing products’ technology requirements. The Spec Sheet and Explorer tool are our latest response to districts’ need for high-quality, transparent information in the rapidly evolving K-12 instructional materials marketplace,” said Jackie Lain, Learning List’s President.

 

About Learning List –Learning List is the industry-leading instructional materials review service for schools and districts. Like Consumer Reports®, Learning List provides independent reviews of preK-12 instructional materials to help administrators choose and teachers use materials effectively.

For further information about Learning List’s Spec Sheets and/or new Explorer tool, contact Cindy Ryan at Learning List 512-852-2132 or CindyR@LearningList.com.

 

 

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