2014 brought increased focus on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to our district, as teachers unpacked standards in professional learning communities, developed common formative assessments, and explored the Shifts, while changing practice. Like staff in many other districts, our hearts sank and pressure mounted, as we quickly recognized that the textbooks and materials in our classrooms no longer fit.
Solving the dilemma through traditional adoption processes proved challenging, as we discovered that the shiny gold sticker proclaiming “aligned to CCSS” on the front of the sample materials did not reflect what was inside. The task grew more daunting as we realized that our journey to select new resources would take us through uncharted territory. How could we know if the rich learning inherent in the new standards could be accessed through the materials that we would review? How could we create evaluation rubrics to capture the Shifts and their implications?
Fortunately, we learned of the Student Achievement Partners’ Instructional Materials Taskforce and applied to participate; our acceptance into this collaborative venture launched our district into the process of charting a new course to select CCSS-aligned materials. As one of six districts serving on this task force, we benefit from the synergy of partners in designing highly effective review processes centered on the use of the Instructional Materials Evaluation Toolkit (IMET). This tool unlocks access to the CCSS in ways that we had not imagined previously. While the Standards describe the learning goals necessary to prepare our students for the future that they will inhabit and lead, the IMET is an overlay that illustrates the essential features of textbooks and other materials that serve as the vehicles to attain the learning goals.
We discovered that in-depth training and practice in using the tool would provide the lenses through which to evaluate materials during our adoption process, as well as encourage high-quality professional learning that deepened understanding of the Standards from a new and valuable perspective. As we began practicing the use of the tool by conducting joint reviews with our Instructional Materials Taskforce partner districts, calibration emerged, bringing us to a clearer understanding of the nuances of the CCSS and the refinement of our ability to review the match of instructional materials with these standards. Bringing this calibration process to our own reviewers ensures quality decision-making, based on evidence, as well as a way for us to support teachers within our district in operationalizing the Standards with fidelity in their practice.
Our journey with the Instructional Materials Taskforce has already transformed our district’s materials review process and will impact adoptions in multiple disciplines for years to come. As we continue collaborating with our partner districts in deepening our understanding of professional learning, communication, and implementation in relation to selected materials, we envision continued positive change, with an impact on student success now and into the future.