This is the second of two blog posts about mapping instructional materials to a district curriculum. The first blog discussed developing a common definition of alignment, becoming familiar with your materials, and important considerations when identifying citations (lessons, activities, quizzes) in your materials to map to the district curriculum. This blog contains five more tips.
(6) Citations should specifically identify the aligned content. Pages (physical or online) in a material often have several subsections. To be most useful to busy teachers, the citations listed in the district curriculum should pinpoint the portion of the page where the standard is aligned. While teachers will likely use other parts of the page or surrounding pages too, it important for them to know precisely where alignment exists so that they do not inadvertently skip the aligned portion of the page.
(7) Look for additional citations in the material’s supplemental components/resources. When doing curriculum alignment, first verify the alignment of citations listed in the teacher’s guide, because those are designed to align to standards fully. However, if a standard is repeated, and you do not have a sufficient number of aligned teacher guide citations, check the alignment of the material’s supplemental resources, such as graphic organizers, anchor charts, rubrics, and leveled texts. In our experience, supplemental resources are likely to be only partially aligned to the standards, but they may provide valuable instruction and/or practice. If you cite partially aligned citations in your curriculum documents, be sure to provide guidance about what teachers need to do to fill in the resource’s gaps.
(8) Consult external resources when struggling with an alignment decision. Our reviewers and Directors are highly experienced educators who are very familiar with the standards. On occasion, however, reviewers disagree about whether a citation is aligned to a standard within the context of the particular curriculum unit. In those instances, we consult external resources, such district or state vertical alignment documents, released assessment items, and other explanatory resources. Seeing a different explanation of the standard often helps reviewers reach consensus about the citation’s alignment to the standard within the context of the curriculum unit.
(9) Avoid reusing text-dependent citations. This tip is particularly relevant when mapping English Language Arts and Reading materials but may also have cross-curricular applicability. Identify whether the citation you are reviewing requires students to read or refer to a particular text. If so, the citation is text-dependent and should only be cited in a single curriculum unit, otherwise, students will have to re-read the same text multiple times throughout the year. While text-dependent citations should only be mapped to a one curriculum unit, non-text-dependent citations (e.g, “paraphrase the text” or writing process exercises) can be cited in multiple curriculum units, because teachers can use these types of citations with a different text each time.
(10) Expect Gaps. No matter how diligent you are about looking for citations that align to each of the standards in your district curriculum, you should expect gaps. The material may have been written to align to the state’s standards, but it was not written to align to your district curriculum. The curriculum may repeat certain standards more often than the material envisioned. The curriculum may emphasize standards for which there is insufficient content in the material. The goal of the curriculum alignment exercise should not be to try to force the material to cover all of the standards in the curriculum, but rather to identify where gaps exist in the material when examined through the lens of the district curriculum. Those gaps do not mean the material is weak; rather, they just identify where additional resources must be used to supplement the core material in order to fulfill the mandates of the district curriculum.
We hope that these pointers prove useful during summer curriculum writing. While easy to explain, this work is difficult and time consuming. If you need more support, consider our online professional learning courses that help cultivate the skills needed for successful curriculum writing: What Alignment Means, Why It Matters, and How to Do It, and Mapping Materials to the District Curriculum. We also offer curriculum alignment services tailored to meet districts’ unique needs. Contact us for more information.