Posts Tagged "curriculum"

Tasha Barker Joins Learning List As Director of Alignment

Barker,TashaWe are pleased to announce that Tasha Barker has joined Learning List as the Director of Alignment. Prior to joining our team, Tasha served seven years as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction with Lindale ISD and has held several leadership roles in the area of curriculum and instruction, elementary education, and teaching. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas chapter of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

Being the wife of an active duty Army soldier resulted in many moves throughout her career. Having worked in school districts as large as Austin ISD and Lake Travis ISD, Tasha recently joined Learning List from a small school district. She noted, “As a result of working in a wide range of districts with a diversity of size, location and demographics, I look forward to leveling the playing field across the country to enable all districts to access instructional materials resources that will best meet their students’ needs.”

Having used the service in her most recent district, she also shared how Learning List can make a difference, “As a subscriber of the Learning List service, our team quickly recognized the benefits it provided as we were making decisions because it saved us time and costs by streamlining the selection process for instructional materials. It was a nice complement to our standardized process, for it enhanced the credibility and objectivity required to select standards-aligned materials.”

Tasha received her Associates of Arts degree from Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas and her Bachelors of Science in Political Science and History from the University of Texas at Tyler.  She also earned her Masters in Education from the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor.

About Learning List

Based in Austin, Texas, Learning List is the industry-leading K-12 instructional materials review service for schools and districts. Our subscribing districts serve over half a million students and our library of reviews include instructional materials from over forty publishers. Think of Learning List as a combination of Consumer Reports® and Angie’s List™ for K-12 instructional materials and online courses.

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To Be or Not to Be: Are Publishers Aligned to Standards?

Today, Learning List released market insights drawn from hundreds of alignment verifications we have completed.  Although Learning List reviews both comprehensive and supplemental instructional materials, this analysis only included materials that publishers claimed to be aligned to 100% of the relevant standards.  Learning List’s Subject Matter Experts (experienced educators) found that, on average, those materials were aligned to:

To Be or Not2B jpeg

(c) 2014 Learning List

  • 87% of Common Core State Standards; and
  • 88% of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Thus, there was an average gap of 13 percentage points between publishers’ claimed alignment percentage and the alignment percentage determined by Learning List’s independent reviews. The largest gap was 50 percentage points for Common Core materials and 32 percentage points for TEKS materials.

Why the discrepancy?  One reason is that publishers and educators may be using different definitions of “alignment”.  The impetus for Learning List was the need to address a common frustration among school board members, superintendents, and curriculum directors. District and School executives asserted that publishers often say that their materials are aligned to 100% of the standards, but once districts purchase them and teachers start using the products, they find that the materials are only “superficially” aligned. One plain-spoken superintendent explained it this way, “Publishers align to the nouns of the standards, but our students are tested on the verbs.”

Learning List reviews instructional materials from the educators’ perspective, looking for alignment to the content, context and cognitive demand (or performance expectation) of each standard.  Having already reviewed hundreds of instructional materials for alignment to both the Common Core and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, our experience corroborates that most publishers do a good job of aligning their materials to the content of the standards (what students are expected to know), but do not routinely ensure that the material also addresses the cognitive demand of each standard (how the students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge) at the requisite level of rigor for the grade level.  Hence, that is the most significant reason for the discrepancy between the publisher’s claimed alignment percentage and the percentage determined by Learning List. So, prior to purchasing any instructional materials that span multiple grade levels, it would be wise for schools and districts to review the material’s alignment to each grade level’s standards.


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How to Align Resources Without Bias: Texas ASCD’s Ignite ’14

Ignite 14 logo

For the first time, the Texas ASCD* Ignite ’14 Conference is providing a marketplace area for conference attendees to review Exhibitors’ best practices for learning, teaching and leadership in education. Nearly 20 providers will be showcasing their solutions and services at Ignite ’14 from June 16 to June 18 at the Embassy Suites DFW in Frisco, Texas.

Walter McKenzie, a veteran educator and EdTech leader, is one of the attendees who encourages Texas ASCD attendees to visit Learning List at Ignite ’14. As he tweeted earlier today, Learning List is “working to align published and open resources for schools without bias.”

ASCD Tweet Walter

As the editor of the Actualization Blog, Walter regularly writes about topics and insights that he gleans through the transformation of education nationwide. You can read his latest topics here.

If you’re in the process of selecting instructional materials (IM) or looking ahead toward the upcoming adoption of IM for High School Math and K12 Social Studies for Texas’ schools/districts, we welcome you to speak with Jackie Lain, President of Learning List, at Texas ASCD’s Ignite 14 between June 16th and June 18th.

The conference is also a key venue for networking and learning from internationally recognized presenters in hands-on groundbreaking sessions designed to integrate technology in the curriculum. It’s a great way to provide the spark that teams need to develop innovative plans for curriculum development at schools and districts.

*Texas ASCD = Texas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

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20140611 Blog ISTE grabberAs school leaders prepare for the 2014-2015 school year, one challenge remains in the forefront of Superintendents’ and Curriculum Directors’ minds: With thousands of instructional materials to choose from, how can we choose the right standards-aligned resources for our students’ needs?

Recently featured on NPR , Learning List is a low-cost, subscription-based instructional materials review service for schools and districts. Think of Learning List as a combination of Consumer Reports® and Angie’s List™ for K-12 instructional materials and online courses.

If you need a cost-effective way to select standards-aligned instructional materials, Learning List can help. We invite you to JOIN US at ISTE 2014 for a brief reception to learn more about how Learning List can simplify and expedite your district’s selection processat 5:30PM on Sunday, June 29 (see invitation below). The reception will include refreshments, snacks and Door Prizes. You can RSVP here.

If you can’t make it, request a webinar to see the reviews and tools on

ISTE Reception

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The Road to Singapore Math – Customized for U.S. Students

Math in Focus: Singapore Math (Source: HMH)

Math in Focus: Singapore Math (Source: HMH)

Since the mid-1990s, Singapore’s students have ranked at the top of international comparisons of mathematics scores on exams such as the TIMSS and PISA. Given this success, many U.S. schools have sought to implement Singapore’s model of math instruction, which focuses on developing a deep understanding of numbers and concepts. To support these efforts, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt worked with Marshall Cavendish, the publisher of Singapore’s leading math textbooks, to produce a Singapore math program tailored for U.S. schools and students. The resulting product, Math in Focus: Singapore Math by Marshall Cavendish, is a comprehensive K-8 mathematics curriculum that was first introduced to U.S. markets in 2007.


At the request of our subscribers, Learning List reviewed Math in Focus (MiF) in the spring of 2014. Our review found that mathematical reasoning and problem solving are the primary focus of the program’s approach to instruction. MiF addresses fewer topics at each grade level, but explores these topics in greater depth. Its content is highly visual and sequenced to support students’ progression from concrete to pictorial to abstract understanding of math concepts. In addition, MiF incorporates models to help students visualize complex problems and develop strategies for solutions. Students are asked to explain and critique their solutions as well as those of their peers using mathematical language. Across grades, instruction focuses on developing students’ ability to use models, reason mathematically, and communicate their reasoning in precise language.


Educators who provided feedback for our review stressed the importance of professional development to implementing MiF successfully, noting that the curriculum marked a shift in pedagogy as well as in materials. At the elementary level, they said that teachers needed training in the program’s more rigorous content and the use of higher order questioning strategies. At the middle school level, they said that teachers needed support with the transition to a more student-centered approach of math instruction. MiF includes extensive resources to support the implementation of the Singapore system. Teacher editions include background information on unfamiliar strategies and models and online tools include chapter-specific professional development videos and podcasts in which authors provide information about MiF’s content and pedagogical approach. MiF includes comprehensive support for the Common Core State Standards and provides world-class instruction that meets the needs of U.S. students.

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