Posts Tagged "selection"

What to Expect From and Look For When Buying Comprehensive Materials

Comprehensive Materials Checklistcomprehensive material is designed to support students in learning all of the knowledge and skills for a grade and subject. Thus, a comprehensive resource should be highly aligned to the standards for the grade level and subject. It should provide both direct instruction and practice opportunities to support students in achieving the depth of knowledge and understanding the standards expect by the end of the grade level.

Comprehensive materials differ in their level of rigor, coherence, adaptions provided for special student populations and instructional resources included for students and teachers. For example, more robust comprehensive materials contain resources to support direct instruction, guided and independent practice, formative and summative assessment, re-teaching and progress monitoring. Teacher’s guides may include resources for planning differentiation and intervention. [Read more…]

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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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Models Matter

Instructional ModelsWhen selecting materials, one important criterion educators should consider is the instructional model on which the material is based. Resources should mirror and support the model the district uses or else instruction may become disjointed.

Over the next few months, Learning List’s blog will discuss the instructional models most frequently implemented in the products we review. Our discussion will seek to highlight the key attributes of each model and clarify where a particular model may or may not be an appropriate structure for content.

Learning List has reviewed more than 1,000 instructional materials in the four core content areas and Technology Applications. In the process of our reviews, we have become familiar with products that incorporate a variety of instructional models. We’ve reviewed products that organize instruction using well-known models, such as 5E, Universal Design, and Understanding by Design (UbD), as well as lesser known models targeted to particular subject areas and specific learning needs.

Generally speaking, each model presents a recognizable structure that seeks to order content in a way that supports engagement and helps students make sense of what they are learning. Models compress the learning cycle into a predictable set of routines that may be effectively implemented in classroom schedules at the elementary, middle, and/or high school levels. Each model provides an underlying framework for instruction that provides consistency and coherence within and across grade levels, structuring learning experiences in ways that enable teachers to plan effective lessons and allow students to purposefully explore content.

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Before Buying Instructional Materials, What Would You Ask?

Question YieldIn the July 15th issue of Education Week, there was a tech-related article about personalized learning titled: “Before Buying Technology, Asking ‘Why?’ ” The same can be asked about the K-12 instructional materials selection process. Before you purchase anything, ask “Why?” Why is your proposed selection the best choice?

Yet there are other key questions that must be asked. When we sampled school districts to better understand the cost of the selecting instructional materials (IM), we found that there are hidden costs. We learned more about the cost of selecting IM that remained unused within each district. Our sampling showed the value of unused materials sitting in district warehouses ranged from $50,000 to well over $1 million. Of course, this range was not a yearly total, but one that was a cumulative effect over a period of several years.

So how can you best optimize a standards-aligned selection process that will use every dollar of the IM budget toward resources that your teachers will use  for the next 6-8 years? Ask the critical  questions before you buy.

Districts often ask us which questions they should be asking publishers. Our editorial reviews answer the key questions the research suggests that differentiate high quality instructional materials. We also provide publishers’ answers to the 12 most commonly asked questions from district RFPs across the country.

Since the value of collaborating across school districts is far greater than the knowledge of any one school district, we ask you:

Before Buying Instructional Materials, What Are the Key Questions You Ask Publishers?

We look forward to your responses via the comment field of this blog or through Twitter via @LearningList using #IMkeyQs (hashtag for Instructional Materials Key Questions). All answers will be compiled anonymously in an upcoming blog post by the end of July. Thank you for participating.

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