Posts Tagged "standards"

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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Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

According to Solution Tree, the first of four critical questions around which effective PLCs focus their work is, “What do we expect our students to learn?” This fundamental question lays the foundation for the remaining work of the PLC.

In response to this question, your PLC is likely discussing the relevant state standards, the district curriculum, and pacing. You may be missing a large piece of the puzzle if you are not also discussing the alignment of the instructional materials you will be using to support student learning.    books

Consider the following:

  • Simply using a resource on a state-adopted list (if your state has one) or on the AP Example Textbook Lists does not necessarily mean that the resource addresses all of the standards for the grade and subject area. For example, materials are eligible for adoption in Texas and for inclusion on the 2016 Example Textbook Lists if they align to at least 50% of the relevant standards.
  • Just because the publisher claims that a material is aligned to 100% of the standards, does not mean it is. Learning List finds that on average, comprehensive (full-course/year) materials are aligned to 80% and supplemental materials are aligned to 60% of the relevant standards.
  • Even if a material is aligned to 100% of the state standards (i.e., it’s aligned to each standard in at least one location) it does NOT mean that it’s aligned in all the places the publisher claims it to be.
  • From an instructional perspective, it’s critically important to student success for teachers to be sure that the particular citations (e.g., page numbers, lessons) that they assign in their instructional materials are truly aligned to the standards they are teaching.

How do you evaluate “alignment” during your PLC?

Step 1: Check whether the material addresses the standard(s) you are using it to teach.

Publisher’s should be able to provide a correlation document or an online “correlation” that shows exactly where in their material each standard is addressed. Use the publisher’s correlation to identify whether your material(s) address the standard(s) you will be teaching in the unit or lesson.

  • If the material does address those standards proceed to Step 2.
  • If the material does not address the standards, find another resource that does.

*If you do not have a correlation document you can request one from the publisher. If the publisher does not have one, you may want to reconsider using that resource.

Step 2: Check that the citations you plan to assign are aligned to those standards.

Just because a material addresses a standard, does not mean it’s aligned to the standard. As part of your PLC work, check that each citation (e.g., each  page, lesson or unit in your material) you intend to assign is aligned to the standard you are using it to teach, A citation is aligned to a standard only if it addresses the  content, context, and cognitive demand of the standard.

  • The content of the standard describes what the students are expected to learn.
  • The context of the standard describes where or when the learning should take place (e.g., type of science, genre of ELA, place/time in history).
  • The Cognitive demand of the standard describes what the student is expected to do (i.e., the level of rigor)

A citation must be aligned to all three C’s of the standard in order to teach students all the knowledge and skills the standards require them to learn. If the citations in your material address only part of the standard(s) you will be teaching, then either (1) adjust your instruction to cover the parts of the standard the material does not, or (2) find citations in another resource that are aligned to those standards

Answering the question, “What do we expect our students to learn?” leads the important instructional work of the PLC. Ensuring that the materials you use are aligned to the standards they are being used to teach is a critical step in preparing your students for success. Doing that work during the planning stage that should save you from having to do as much remediation later.

Learning List’s detailed alignment reports and alignment comparison tool can save PLC’s hours of work. Contact us to find out how.


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New Review: Illustrative Mathematics

[Source: Illustrative Mathematics]

[Source: Illustrative Mathematics]

Illustrative Mathematics (IM) is a supplemental, open educational resource (OER) that supports the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM) in grades K-12. The program is available online and includes sample problems, curriculum modules, and professional development resources. Materials are available at no cost at Learning List recently reviewed IM content for middle school (i.e., grades 6-8).

IM content is organized by CCSSM domain (e.g., Geometry), cluster (e.g., “Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.”), and standard (e.g., “Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by…”). For each standard, the program provides a set of printable “learning tasks,” or multi-step problems. Each learning task is accompanied by a “Commentary,” a detailed narrative description of the solution, and a comments section. The Commentary explains the problem, its purpose, and different strategies students may use to solve it.  The solutions narrative provides step-by-step guidance in reaching the problem’s solution. The comments section allows users to add their feedback and suggestions.

“Course Blueprints” for grades 6-8 were “Under construction!” at the time of our review (July 2016); Course Blueprints available at the high school level are curriculum modules organized in units with diagnostic pre-tests and summative assessments. Additional instructional materials and professional development modules are available for purchase on the IM website.

About Illustrative Mathematics*

IM is a discerning community of educators dedicated to the coherent learning of mathematics. Founded in 2011 at the University of Arizona, IM has operated since 2013 as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. IM shares carefully vetted resources for teachers and teacher leaders to give our children an understanding of mathematics and skill in using it. IM provides expert guidance to states, districts, curriculum writers, and assessment writers working to improve mathematics education.

* The content in this section is provided by or adapted from Illustrative Mathematics

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for this material.

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EdNext Poll on Testing


[Source: The 2015 EdNext Poll on School Reform
WINTER 2016 / VOL. 16, NO. 1]

Over the last few months, the national conversation about public education seems to have shifted from a debate over the Common Core State Standards to a debate over state testing.  Daily, newspapers feature stories about states dropping out of the Common Core testing consortia, PARCC or Smarter Balanced; states abandoning long-standing state testing contracts; and parents opting [their children] out of taking state tests.  Increasingly, state legislatures are examining ways to reduce the number of tests students have to take.

A new poll by Education Next suggests that there may be less hostility towards testing than the media would have us believe.  The nationally representative survey solicited responses from approximately 4,000 members of the general public, parents and teachers.

When asked:  “Do you support or oppose the federal government continuing to require that all students be tested in math and reading each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school?” respondents answered as follows:

Members of the public:  67% supported vs. 21% opposed continuing the federal requirements for annual testing (contained in the federal  No Child Left Behind Act)
Parents:  66% supported vs. 23% opposed continuing the federally-mandated testing;
Teachers:  47% supporting vs. 46% opposed continuing the federally mandated testing.

In answer to the question, “Do you support or oppose letting parents decide whether to have their children take state math and reading tests?” The responses were as follows:

Members of the public:  25% supported vs. 59% opposed giving parents the right to “opt-out” of state tests;
Parents:  32% supported vs. 52% opposed giving parents the right to “opt-out” of state testing;
Teachers:  32% supported vs. 57% opposed giving parents the right to “opt-out” of state testing.

While federal and state policymakers may change the type, number and timing of tests students have to take, testing will remain an indispensable part of our education system.  Learning List’s independent alignment reports help educators understand how the instructional materials they use may be affecting their students’ test results.  If students repeatedly missed test questions associated with a particular standard or group of standards, teachers can refer to Learning List’s alignment report(s) to determine (1) whether the district’s instructional material(s) is/are aligned to those standards, and (2) more specifically, whether the specific citations (e.g., page numbers, lessons) they assigned are aligned to those standards.  If either the material or the citations were not aligned to those standards, students likely did not learn what those standards required them to know.  Either situation is easily fixed by providing supplemental materials aligned to those standards or by assigning other citations listed in the publisher’s correlation that have been verified to be aligned to those standards.

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What’s the Difference? Comprehensive vs. Supplemental Materials

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.

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