Research and Reflections

IMET Evolution: Math

An SAP math specialist explains how small changes to the IMET can have a big impact on users

As a Math Specialist at Student Achievement Partners, I have been deeply involved with the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET) since I started my job 18 months ago. Over the course of this time, I have had the opportunity to talk and work with a multitude of organizations, districts, and states who are using the IMET to build understanding of what Common Core-aligned math instructional materials look like.

I’ve learned a lot through this work, most notably that reviewing is hard. The ability to build a deep understanding of materials that span hundreds of pages requires intense concentration and collaboration. The metrics of the IMET help reviewers wade through all of the pages to look for the characteristics of books that truly align to the major features and Shifts of the Common Core Standards. I’ve also seen, time and again, that engaging in this process is an unparalleled learning experience for the reviewers. Every person with whom I’ve worked  who participated in reviews left with a clearer understanding of what the Standards mean and how they should look in classrooms.

Through this work, we’ve seen the power of the IMET to help review teams judge alignment; it has helped reviewers look for the right things. Based on feedback from many sources, including educators in local school districts and state education agencies across the country and our partner organizations (CCSSO, Achieve, and the Council for Great City Schools), we’ve also identified a few places where the language of the tool could be clearer. As a result, we made a number of small (but impactful) improvements to the tool. Here are some of the most important changes:

  •  Clarifying confusing language: We know the importance of precision in mathematics instruction and we found several places where we needed to tighten up the language in the IMET to make it more precise. For example, we fielded a lot of questions about the language of Non-Negotiable Metric 1A which says that “Similarity, congruence, or geometric transformations” are not introduced in the Common Core Math Standards until grade 8. That left educators looking at grade 7 materials wondering about lessons that address 7.G.A.1 Solve problems involving scale drawings of geometric figures, including computing actual lengths and areas from a scale drawing and reproducing a scale drawing at a different scale. It seemed that lessons that address 7.G.A. would necessarily be in conflict with Non-Negotiable Metric 1A. At play in 7.G.A. is the concept of similarity, as it relates ratio and proportions to geometric relationships. So in the revised IMET, the metric clarifies that, while a formal definition of similarity should not appear before grade 8, materials that address the concept of similarity as outlined in 7.G.A.1 are not a sign of misalignment.
  •  Providing more guidance for users: Although we received positive feedback on the “How to Find Evidence” column which we introduced in the last version of the IMET, there were a few places where users needed more guidance than we had provided on how to evaluate the metric.  For example, the metrics in Alignment Criteria 1 ask reviewers to consider the time and attention paid to each aspect of rigor. The IMET provides some suggested clusters and standards as a starting point for evaluating each of the metrics in the criterion. However, sometimes reviewers thought they only needed to look at lessons or units related to those specific standards or clusters. The supporting text now makes it clear that reviewers should consider the treatment of each aspect of rigor for multiple clusters and standards.
  •  Ensuring full coverage of the Standards: The IMET was developed to be used very differently than a crosswalk review. The intent is not to go through a textbook crossing off each standard as it appears, because looking for evidence of each individual standard does not ensure that materials are presented in a coherent way. As we used the tool with teachers and district leads, however, we realized that the IMET was not communicating sufficiently the importance of publishers addressing all of the clusters in each grade level. So the revisions to the IMET include guidance to look for complete coverage as part of Non-Negotiable Metric 2C.

Cumulatively, these small changes add up to more clarity and support for users. While these revisions won’t necessarily yield different results than reviews done with the previous version, we hope that these changes, made in direct response to feedback from users, will improve the usability and functionality of the tool. Additionally, because the IMET doesn’t examine all of the many considerations a district needs to contemplate when adopting materials, we provided links to other evaluation tools that could enable further analysis of individual grade-level alignment, supports for special populations, and other aspects of quality in aligned materials. Finally, in order to provide more support to those using the IMET, SAP will be publishing professional development modules in the fall to help districts and states engaging in this difficult and important work.

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About the Author: Marni Greenstein is a Curriculum and Professional Development Specialist on the Mathematics team at Student Achievement Partners. Marni taught elementary school in Washington DC before teaching middle school and serving as a Math Coach in New York. Most recently, she was the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for a network of K-8 charter schools in Brooklyn. Marni holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Wesleyan University and a master’s degree from the Mathematics Leadership program at Bank Street College of Education.