Posts Tagged "standards"

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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How Learning List Helps Districts Comply with ESSA’s “Evidence Based” Requirement

A recent report from Curriculum Associates discusses the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) requirement that federal education funds be used for evidence-based programs, interventions, and products. “ESSA and Evidence Claims: A Practical Guide to Understanding What ‘Evidence-Based’ Really Means” provides a primer for educators in understanding the four levels of evidence recognized by ESSA (e.g., moderate evidence), the type of study that exemplifies each level (e.g., quasi-experimental), and the five questions educators should ask when evaluating research-based evidence (e.g., “When was the study conducted?”).

One of five questions for evaluating evidence, in particular, caught Learning List’s attention: “Was the study based on current content and standards?”

ESSA assumes that the evidence base for a product, program, or service is based on the state’s current standards, but it is possible that the research is grounded in prior state standards or another state’s standards, altogether. It is the district’s responsibility to vet information to ensure products purchased with federal funds and the evidence supporting the products’ effectiveness are based on the appropriate standards.

A tall order but Learning List can help.

Learning List’s alignment reports clarify which set of standards a product addresses, such as the Common Core State Standards or the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Our alignment reports evaluate the product’s alignment, determining whether the material fully addresses the content, context, and cognitive demand of each of the relevant standards. Thus, Learning List’s alignment reports provide strong evidence about whether a product is grounded in the relevant standards. [Read more…]

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The Myth of 100% Alignment

Learning List has reviewed the alignment of over 2500 materials.  After reviewing a material’s alignment, we calculate the percentage of standards to which the material is aligned.

When you log into, you will see that several products have an alignment percentage of 100%. An alignment percentage of 100%, does NOT mean that every citation (e.g., page, lesson, video) listed in the publisher’s correlation was found to be aligned to the relevant standard. Rather, 100% alignment means that Learning List’s subject matter experts found that every standard was fully addressed at least once in the material.* aligned_nonalignedv2


Learning List’s subject matter experts review multiple citations for alignment to each standard.** As this table reflects, typically one or two of the citations reviewed are found to be aligned to the standard; several others are found not to be aligned. In order to be sure that students will learn all the knowledge and skills the standards require, teachers must know which citations are aligned to the standards and which are not.

Learning List’s detailed alignment reports show (1) which citations (from the publisher’s correlation) were reviewed for alignment to each standard, (2) which of those were found to be aligned to the standard, and (3) which were found to not to be aligned. Moreover, a reviewer’s comment accompanies each non-aligned citation to explain precisely which part of the standard the citation failed to address.

These alignment reports make it easier for teachers to assign citations that have been verified to be aligned to each standard. If teachers want to assign a non-aligned citation, the reviewer’s comment explains how they should adjust their instruction to make up for the material’s deficit(s). This quick video provides an example.

Preparing your students for success requires you to be a critical consumer of the instructional materials you are using. The alignment percentage of a material alone does not tell the whole story. Even when a material has an alignment percentage of 100%, there are likely citations in the publisher’s correlation that are not aligned to the standards. The alignment reports on provide the critical information you need to use your instructional materials effectively in your instruction.

*Learning List recognizes that a single “aligned” citation may not be instructionally sufficient to help students “master” the standard.  Some level of repetition is typically required for students to understand, internalize, and master content and skills. That is the reason Learning List reviews multiple citations for alignment to each standard.

**If the publisher’s correlation lists fewer than three citations as aligned to a standard, Learning List’s subject matter experts review all of the citations listed. If the publisher’s correlation cites more than three citations as being aligned to a standard, Learning List employs a “spot check” verification methodology – at least three and up to eight citations are reviewed for alignment to the standard. If teachers want to use a citation that Learning List has not reviewed, they would be advised to check the alignment of the citation themselves. However, Learning List’s alignment report serves as a guide as to how likely it is that any additional citation would be aligned to that standard.

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Are Your Materials Fueling Your Students’ Success or Undermining It?


In this article published recently in Education Week Jackie Lain, President of Learning List, shares a two-step process to determine whether your instructional materials are propelling your students’ success or undermining it.

As Jackie explains, students cannot learn what they are not taught. If your students’ test scores reflect a pattern of low performance on questions associated with a standard or group of standards, use the two-step process to determine whether your materials may be to blame.  If your materials do not address or the citations that were assigned are not aligned to those standards, then your students did not learn all of the knowledge and skills those standards require and their test scores reflect the materials’ deficits.

Access the full article for details and see previous posts to this blog highlighting the importance of alignment of instructional materials to standards are:

Are Your Resources Supporting Your Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap?

Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

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Where Do You Stand? The Great Homework Debate

As the school year begins, so does the debate over homework. Educators, parents, and researchers have differing opinions about how much (if any) homework is appropriate. Some people believe homework is useless, if not harmful.  Others favor homework in some cases but not all, depending on the age of the child, the type of homework assigned, and the time it takes to complete. Homework

Whether or not you agree with the concept of assigning of homework, students’ time spent interacting with instructional materials (during the school day or as homework) will lead to improved academic performance only if the materials used are aligned to the standards.

As you plan homework, review the instructional material you plan to use to make sure that it addresses, and is aligned, to the standards you want students to learn. Here’s why: after hearing many teachers complain that they were not getting the promised results from a widely used supplemental material, Learning List reviewed it. Our alignment report revealed the problem:

  • The material was not aligned to 100% of the state standards, which was not surprising because few supplemental materials intend to cover 100% of the standards.
  • Teachers were (unintentionally) using the material to help students practice standards the material did not cover. In fact, the publisher’s correlation did not list those standards as being addressed in the material at all.

In order for homework to be effective it must be aligned to the standards you want students to learn. Otherwise, you are giving students false confidence that they have learned what they need to be successful.

For more information about using instructional materials efficiently and effectively, read these previous posts:

Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

Are Your Resources Supporting Your Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap?


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