Are You Discussing Instructional Material Alignment in Your PLC?

According to Solution Tree, the first of four critical questions around which effective PLCs focus their work is, “What do we expect our students to learn?” This fundamental question lays the foundation for the remaining work of the PLC.

In response to this question, your PLC is likely discussing the relevant state standards, the district curriculum, and pacing. You may be missing a large piece of the puzzle if you are not also discussing the alignment of the instructional materials you will be using to support student learning.    books

Consider the following:

  • Simply using a resource on a state-adopted list (if your state has one) or on the AP Example Textbook Lists does not necessarily mean that the resource addresses all of the standards for the grade and subject area. For example, materials are eligible for adoption in Texas and for inclusion on the 2016 Example Textbook Lists if they align to at least 50% of the relevant standards.
  • Just because the publisher claims that a material is aligned to 100% of the standards, does not mean it is. Learning List finds that on average, comprehensive (full-course/year) materials are aligned to 80% and supplemental materials are aligned to 60% of the relevant standards.
  • Even if a material is aligned to 100% of the state standards (i.e., it’s aligned to each standard in at least one location) it does NOT mean that it’s aligned in all the places the publisher claims it to be.
  • From an instructional perspective, it’s critically important to student success for teachers to be sure that the particular citations (e.g., page numbers, lessons) that they assign in their instructional materials are truly aligned to the standards they are teaching.

How do you evaluate “alignment” during your PLC?

Step 1: Check whether the material addresses the standard(s) you are using it to teach.

Publisher’s should be able to provide a correlation document or an online “correlation” that shows exactly where in their material each standard is addressed. Use the publisher’s correlation to identify whether your material(s) address the standard(s) you will be teaching in the unit or lesson.

  • If the material does address those standards proceed to Step 2.
  • If the material does not address the standards, find another resource that does.

*If you do not have a correlation document you can request one from the publisher. If the publisher does not have one, you may want to reconsider using that resource.

Step 2: Check that the citations you plan to assign are aligned to those standards.

Just because a material addresses a standard, does not mean it’s aligned to the standard. As part of your PLC work, check that each citation (e.g., each  page, lesson or unit in your material) you intend to assign is aligned to the standard you are using it to teach, A citation is aligned to a standard only if it addresses the  content, context, and cognitive demand of the standard.

  • The content of the standard describes what the students are expected to learn.
  • The context of the standard describes where or when the learning should take place (e.g., type of science, genre of ELA, place/time in history).
  • The Cognitive demand of the standard describes what the student is expected to do (i.e., the level of rigor)

A citation must be aligned to all three C’s of the standard in order to teach students all the knowledge and skills the standards require them to learn. If the citations in your material address only part of the standard(s) you will be teaching, then either (1) adjust your instruction to cover the parts of the standard the material does not, or (2) find citations in another resource that are aligned to those standards

Answering the question, “What do we expect our students to learn?” leads the important instructional work of the PLC. Ensuring that the materials you use are aligned to the standards they are being used to teach is a critical step in preparing your students for success. Doing that work during the planning stage that should save you from having to do as much remediation later.

Learning List’s detailed alignment reports and alignment comparison tool can save PLC’s hours of work. Contact us to find out how.


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