The Intersection

Inside the Instructional Materials Taskforce (Part 1)

January 28, 2015

By Lisa Goldschmidt, Digital Director, Student Achievement Partners

Representatives from six districts from across the United States are embarking on a project that will culminate in their ability to support an instructional materials selection process that trains reviewers to identify alignment to the key shifts of the Common Core State Standards.

It can be a frustrating time for educators who recognize the need to use Common Core-aligned content and instructional materials, yet have access to few good options. Their need is an urgent one. Every day that students must work with outdated or misaligned materials is a day that the quality of their classroom instruction suffers. Identifying aligned materials can be a confusing process, however. What does “good” look like? What must be present in curricular materials for them to be aligned to the standards? What content from previous textbooks should not be there? Many materials claim to be aligned, but research shows that few actually are.

Together with Student Achievement Partners, these six districts (Anaheim, CA; Granite Falls, WA; Long Beach, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Seattle, WA; Walla Walla, WA) are taking action. They are part of a new pilot program called the Instructional Materials Taskforce (IMT) aimed at building the capacity of districts to identify high quality, Common Core-aligned materials.

Each district brings its own goals and priorities to the table. For example, some are entering a purchasing cycle, some want to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their current materials, and some want evidence to help them advocate for the need for new materials. All of them share the common goal of building the district’s capacity to take ownership of a critical process: identifying the right materials to help their students succeed under the Common Core State Standards.

The primary tool used to guide the group’s work is the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET). The IMET is a set of criteria to help identify the alignment of curriculum to the Common Core State Standards. The tool provides two categories of criteria: non-negotiables (elements that must be fully met in order to be considered aligned) and alignment criteria (which identify indicators of high quality and deeper alignment to Common Core). Though the districts have different goals, they are all using the same tool to deepen their understanding of what it means to be “Common Core-aligned” and strengthen their ability to take action based on that understanding.

As part of IMT, the districts will develop a deep familiarity with the alignment criteria in the IMET, and thus the capacity to recognize those elements (or the lack thereof) in existing textbooks. To do this, the district representatives are meeting every two weeks via virtual meetings, in which they do everything from listening to presentations by content experts to conducting their own practice reviews. Along the way, district representatives have the opportunity to share their district’s specific circumstance and apply what they’re learning to create their own unique review process. Using the same tool and sharing the same expectations for alignment has facilitated meaningful, focused conversations among the participants. This cross-district work allows them to consider how to effectively normalize the expectations of the reviewers in their local settings.

Read about the progress the districts have made in Part 2 – Inside the Instructional Materials Taskforce: (Unexpected) Lessons Learned

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