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.