Materials Alignment Quick Check

Introducing a new evidence catcher to facilitate instructional materials decisions

People are asking about a tool we’ve been sharing in recent presentations—a pithy evidence-catcher for ELA instructional materials evaluations. We originally created it to facilitate note-taking when we were in groups discussing the features of different high-quality programs. It offers an easy structure for capturing information about what is unique and especially strong from program to program, which helps when you are trying to differentiate between programs that are highly-aligned.

If you’ve seen the alignment criteria in the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET), the language in this tool will look familiar. For our purposes we gathered the criteria into eight clusters to help people capture information as it was presented – not by Non-Negotiable and Alignment Criteria, but by relationship to the Shifts. Talking about programs thematically allows us to communicate much more efficiently, and to help people better understand the big picture and to see patterns within and across instructional programs. The eight clusters of criteria are as follows:

  • Close Reading of Complex Text
  • Building Academic Language
  • Volume of Reading to Build Knowledge
  • Evidence-Based Discussions
  • Volume of Writing to Build Knowledge
  • Foundational Skills and Fluency
  • Supports for All Students
  • Fit to Your Setting

Between the eight, they get at every standard and every strand of the ELA and foundational skills standards for any high-quality, college- and career-ready (CCR) standards-aligned program.

Here’s a sample of two clusters from the tool:

When collecting evidence with this tool, we always recommend that people pay especially close attention to “Fit for Your Setting” which asks people to consider:

  • How easy is this program to learn and implement given your resources, personnel, and history to allow all students to meet grade-level standards?
  • Does the program fit into your existing school and community culture?
  • Is the program more affordable relative to others that are equally effective and appropriate to your circumstance?

You can find the original version of the tool here.

Other Use Cases

Since we began sharing this tool, people have shared other ways they’ve been able to put the tool to good use. In one case, when schools wanted to purchase materials not found to be highly-aligned by EdReports, they were asked to fill out the evidence-catcher to demonstrate their understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the program they were interested in pursuing. This allowed central curricular support staff— trained on the Shifts and familiar with the IMET—to check the school’s understanding about what’s aligned and ensure that the school had a strategy for addressing gaps in alignment. In another instance, a district used this tool to guide them in a swift check of a large number of programs so that they could do a thorough IMET analysis on only the programs that emerged as both aligned and likely to fit their needs. When the users above adapted our tool for their purposes, they also borrowed from the rating and scoring language of the IMET. The results in both cases looked similar to this.

The tool does not replace the IMET or the use of EdReports reviews, but it can help narrow and focus your search and assist you in determining what’s worth further consideration. Said another way, it’s not a shortcut for an instructional materials review: it’s a shortcut for determining to which reviews you should allocate more time.

If you try these tools in your local setting, let us know what you think by sending us an email or tweeting @AchievetheCore on Twitter.

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About the Author: Meredith Liben is the Director of the Literacy and English Language Arts team at Student Achievement Partners. Meredith has taught and administered in a wide range of settings over the past 30 years. She has taught every grade from kindergarten through grad school and has been collaborating with David Liben for the past twenty-eight years in many of these endeavors, including the founding of two innovative model schools in New York City - New York Prep, a junior high school in East Harlem, and in 1991, the Family Academy. Meredith has a bachelor’s degree in Classics and Government from Oberlin College and a master’s degree and advanced work from the University of Massachusetts and City University of New York.

About the Author: Susan Pimentel was a lead writer of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy and is a Founding Partner of Student Achievement Partners. Susan’s efforts have been focused on helping communities, districts and states across the nation work together to advance education reform and champion proven tools for increasing academic rigor. Her work has resulted in the phase-out of student tracking, enriched core curricula, and advances in results-based school accountability programs. Susan also has led several national improvement efforts, including two multi-state adult education reform initiatives under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Adult and Vocational Education (OVAE), and the development of content for the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence—a rigorous discipline-specific national teacher test. Susan holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a law degree from Cornell University. Since 2007, she has served on the National Assessment Governing Board that advises on the nation's report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In addition to several articles, Susan is co-author with Denis P. Doyle of the best-selling book and CD-ROM, Raising the Standard: An Eight-Step Action Guide For Schools and Communities.