Posts Tagged "student achievement"

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

On August 15th The Texas Education Agency released 2016 accountability ratings. Student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, and postsecondary readiness are all part of the Texas performance index framework. Many states use the same, or similar, accountability measures. If closing performance gaps is an area of concern, a good place to start is by checking the alignment of instructional materials. 

Students won’t learn what they are not taught. For your students to learn the knowledge and skills the standards require, then your materials (either independently or in the aggregate) must be aligned to 100% of the standards for the grade/subject. You may not have considered that your instructional materials could be part of the problem, particularly if you used state adopted materials. However, keep in mind in Texas, as in other states, “state adopted” does not necessarily mean aligned to 100% of the standards. Moreover, if you are using supplemental or RtI products, are the materials you are using aligned to the standards you are using them to teach? Supplemental products are often not designed to address 100% of the standards. For further information about the importance of alignment see “New (Free) Whitepaper: Why Alignment Matters”.

Another issue to consider is access to the core instruction in your instructional materials. If you are using online materials do they have internet access to access the core instruction outside of the school day? Publishers often claim that their online materials are downloadable or printable for students who do not have internet access at home. But is the core instruction or are only the supplemental activities available offline?  More often than not, we find that only the supplemental activities are available offline but the core instructional content is not. This can lead to gaps in student learning particularly for economically disadvantaged students who have access to fewer high quality instructional resources and learning opportunities outside of the school day.   

As your district works to close the achievement gap, Learning List’s detailed alignment reports, comparison tools, and technology reviews can assist your work. Call us to find out more.

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Are Digital Resources or Textbooks More Effective? OECD Weighs In

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Source: OECD

Are digital resources more effective than textbooks? They are certainly more trendy these days. Although Learning List has reviewed hundreds of instructional materials in both formats, it’s difficult for us to say that one format is better than another. Online adaptive products that individualize learning for each student have the potential to differentiate instruction and keep all students challenged, while textbooks are easier to use, particularly for students without Internet access at home. As more digital content providers are entering the K-12 marketplace, we are paying close attention to research and policy discussions about the effectiveness of online products. We thought our readers might be interested in a recent Bloomberg View that summarizes findings from a 2015 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report.

standardized_testThe report’s key finding is that “increased computer use in classrooms leads to lower test scores.”  The OECD compared test results from the 2009 and 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for groups of students who did and did not use digital resources for instruction. Results indicated that “the use of computers was negatively correlated with improvements in student performance” in both math and reading. That is, students who did not use digital resources performed better on the PISA tests, though there were some anomalies.

In addition, students in Japan, China, South Korea and other Asian economies where fewer students use computers, also did better on computer-based assignments. These students were no less comfortable using technology than students in Australia and Northern Europe where computers are more prevalent in instruction.

The reason? The report concludes:

Gaps in the digital skills of both teachers and students, difficulties in locating high-quality digital learning resources from among a plethora of poor-quality ones, a lack of clarity on the learning goals and insufficient pedagogical preparation for blending technology meaningfully into lessons and curricula create a wedge between expectations and reality. If these challenges are not addressed as part of the technology plans of schools and education ministries, technology may do more harm than good to the teacher-student interactions that underpin deep conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking.

Learning List’s Alignment Reports, Editorial Reviews and new Spec Sheets help educators overcome two of the challenges identified in the OECD report: finding high quality digital resources and blending digital resources into lessons and curricula effectively.

multitasking-mobile-devices-557x362The new Spec Sheets are Learning List’s two-page checklist of each product’s key academic and technology attributes. The Spec Sheets complement our more comprehensive Alignment Reports and Editorial Reviews to help educators quickly identify high-quality digital products that meet their students’ needs and can be implemented successfully using the district’s current technology. We hope that this at-a-glance review will help districts’ curriculum and technology teams quickly narrow the list of products to review themselves.

Learning List’s Alignment Reports also help educators integrate digital instructional materials into their lesson plans/curricula for more effective instruction. These detailed reports identify multiple citations (i.e. page numbers, lesson names) that Learning List’s subject matter experts determined to be aligned to the content, context and cognitive demand of each standard. Only by assigning the parts of the material that are aligned to each standard can teachers have confidence that their students are learning the knowledge and skills the standards require.

Stop by our booth (#1817) at the TASA/TASB Convention this weekend, and let us show you how our service and our new Spec Sheets can help your district choose and use instructional materials more effectively. If you won’t be at the conference, request a webinar at your convenience, and we’ll be glad to introduce you to our service.

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WARNING – Poor Instructional Decisions Cause Failure

This is the time of the year when all hands are on deck to help struggling students achieve. We, as educators, have a tendency during the crunch time before state testing to work harder and faster but not always smarter. Due to this sense of urgency, teachers often give students stacks of worksheets designed in the same format as the state tests, thinking that more practice is better.  Computer labs are booked solid with students needing additional help on specific skills.  When instructional technologists ask the teachers what the students need to work on in the lab, the answer many times is, “Just pick whatever lesson you can on that particular skill.”  Now, what is wrong with this scenario?

One reason that many struggling students are not more successful each year is that the provided instruction is not aligned closely with the academic standards.  If the practice worksheets or online lessons that the teacher assigns do not address standards completely, the student may not be learning a skill or concept or may be learning it wrong repeatedly. That type of damage is difficult to rectify.

When a classroom teacher or instructional technologist arbitrarily assigns a lesson without first reviewing it, students may not achieve the intended learning outcome.  Not all instructional materials are aligned closely to the standards, so it is very important to check the alignment first.

Learning List’s alignment reports are designed to save teachers time and effort in this process.  Each report lists multiple citations (e.g., lessons, activities, pages) that our subject matter experts have reviewed for alignment to the content, context, and cognitive demand of each standard (or breakout in Texas). If a district purchases a product Learning List has reviewed, teachers can assign the reviewed citations with confidence that they are providing their students with instructional materials that are aligned to the standards.

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Time Requirements for Online Products

With more school districts using online instructional materials, finding enough time for students to work on computers is often a challenge for educators.  This is of particular importance when students need to be engaged with a product for a minimum amount of time each week in order to progress academically.

When selecting online instructional materials, educators should pay attention to the publisher’s statements about the amount of time students should work in a particular online program in order to show academic growth. Often, educators don’t know this information until they have already purchased the product. Then they find that there is not enough time in the class’ or computer lab’s schedule to allow each student to work on a computer for the required amount of time.

Learning List’s editorial reviews highlight the time requirements for online products to help educators select not only the instructional materials that meet their students’ needs, but equally important, the products that  the district or school has the technical infrastructure to support.



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It’s Everyone’s Business!

In order for students to progress academically each year and have the skills to be successful in the future, all educators at the campus and district level need to unite in their efforts to ensure that every student is learning the TEKS to the depth and complexity required.

When teachers develop units and lesson plans, do they keep the TEKS in the forefront of their mind as to what they want their students to accomplish?  Is the priority in professional learning communities (PLCs) focused on discussions regarding teaching and assessing the TEKS, as well as analyzing ongoing student achievement data?

While observing in the classroom, do campus and district administrators ask themselves what is the standard being taught, how well are the students’ tasks aligned to the TEKs, and how successful are the students working on this task?

Do campus support staff discuss with the teacher what is being taught in the classroom as well as gather information on the progress of the students before they provide additional support to students in need?    Does central office curriculum staff understand the TEKS well so they can successfully facilitate curriculum writing with the end result being a closely aligned curriculum to the TEKS?

Making sure that students are being taught the TEKS correctly is everyone’s business.  The old adage, “It takes a whole village to educate a child” refers in part to everyone taking responsibility to help students acquire a deep understanding of the TEKS so they can be successful and productive citizens in their communities.




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October 2021