Research and Reflections, Standards-Alignment Information, Tools and Resources

What My District Gained From Collaboration

Even when districts approach materials review processes from different perspectives – and with different objectives – collaboration provides important benefits

The Instructional Materials Taskforce (IMT) has provided a great opportunity to collaborate long-distance with our IMT colleagues in California, Washington, Wisconsin and New York. We each bring a different perspective shaped by our local district/state traditions and processes but are united in our goal of developing a deeper understanding of alignment. Together we are collaborating to develop mastery with  the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET) and learn how to apply it to our own unique circumstances. The conversations we have had around the IMET have challenged us to think deeply about the intent of the Common Core and the significance of the instructional Shifts. Here’s how:

Focused Discussion

Though we meet virtually, the structure of our conference calls allows, even encourages, us to go deep into understanding what it means to be aligned to the Common Core. On each conference call we focus on several of the criteria in the IMET, building an understanding of the purposes of the criteria and how they relate to each other. At first, some criteria seemed similar to each other and we questioned, in some cases, why two criteria were needed instead of just one. But as we discussed the criteria together, we identified nuances that make the need for two criteria obvious.

Practicing Review Together

In our conversations, we cite evidence regarding our recommendations that materials do or do not meet a particular criterion. Others in the group will cite additional evidence that supports the same conclusion or brings into question the interpretation of the criteria or the previously presented evidence. We seek to be precise in our language and in our reasoning, and we are open to learning from and questioning each other to clarify ideas and understand the criterion at hand.

Benefiting From Our Colleagues’ Expertise

While we come from different districts with different timelines and processes for selecting instructional materials, learning to use the IMET together has allowed us to also learn from each other’s experiences. For instance, some of our colleagues who have already been trained to use the IMET bring a more thorough understanding of the IMET criteria to the conversation, sharing insights that additional training has allowed them to develop. The questions and ensuing discussions demonstrate true collaboration as we all come away with a clearer understanding about the IMET, the particular criteria being considered or some aspect of the Common Core itself.

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About the Author: Julie Spykerman began her professional life as a high school math teacher in an urban, Title I high school. While teaching she coordinated several state and federally funded programs (Title I, SIP, and QEIA), mentored new teachers, and led school and district math workshops. She left the high school classroom for one year to join California State University, Fullerton faculty as a Visiting High School Lecturer. Julie enjoyed the interaction with the pre-service teachers as she visited their classrooms and taught the methods course in the Single Subject Math Credential Program. Upon returning to her high school teaching position, she became the coordinator of the site’s Title I Program. She also found ways to continue to work with new teachers as a support provider for beginning teachers needing to clear their credentials (BTSA). When the opportunity arose, Julie applied for and was appointed to be her district’s Math Curriculum Specialist which combined her love for teaching and learning, working with teachers and playing with math! Julie is honored to serve on the California Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory board to the California State Board of Education. As the Co-Chair of the IQC Math Subject Matter Committee she headed the California Math Materials Adoption process. Saving the best role for last, it is Julie’s greatest pleasure to be ‘Gramma’ to her three grandkids. Life is GOOD!