On occasion I would make a purchase only to find out later that the product was not quite what I had expected it to be. I’d been taken in by the surface level “buzz words” only to find very little difference between what I’d purchased and a resource I already had. This seems to be an issue that many of us continue to deal with, particularly when it comes to finding materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I’ve had teachers tell me their districts have purchased materials only to find little or no difference from pre-standards texts.
Long before the final version of the CCSS was released, some educational vendors were in the process of updating their products to align to the standards. Needless to say, this was impossible given that no one knew for sure what the final version would look like. But unfortunately, some schools and school districts fell prey to these claims and purchased these products to find that the only thing aligned to the CCSS was an update to the title or label on the same old product.
Reviews conducted by William Schmidt (MSU) of textbooks supposedly aligned to the CCSS show that many grades one through nine textbooks used by 60 percent of U.S. school children are identical to pre-standards texts. Morgan Polikoff (USC) found in textbook reviews that 15 to 20 percent of material covered was not tied to the grade-level CCSS and most failed to cover between 10 and 15 percent of the content in the Standards.
Just slapping a new label on an old textbook is like putting a fresh coat of paint on a dilapidated barn. It may look good on the outside, but structurally nothing has changed. And you end up with an “uncommon” Common Core aligned textbook that doesn’t convey the focus, coherence, and rigor outlined in the Standards. So what should you be looking for when determining CCSS alignment?
The three major authors of the mathematics CCSS Bill McCallum, Jason Zimba, and Phil Daro have compiled a set of criteria to aid you in evaluating a material’s alignment to the CCSS (http://www.achievethecore.org/page/686/publishers-criteria ). In addition to the indicators of quality, comments about lesson structure, kinds of problems, and the visual design of materials the guide also includes four non-negotiables that must be evident in order for the resource in question to be identified as aligned to the CCSS as outlined in Figure 1.
The Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool for CCSS Alignment (IMET) guide for evaluating K – high school mathematics print and digital comprehensive materials may also help your alignment analyses. This tool pretty much walks you through the process and provides specific criteria for evaluating the materials.
At a bare minimum, any resource or material aligned to the CCSS should adhere to and convey the shift in mathematics instruction that is at the heart of the Standards including:
- a focus on the topics and concepts the standards identify for a grade or course
- coherently link topics within and across grades
- pursuing conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application with equal intensity
And these shifts are all at the heart of LearnBop! Our program conveys the spirit and intent of the CCSS and meaningful connections of the content and practice standards. Our content development team consists of experienced award winning educators along with some who have developed CCSS aligned assessment items for one of the major assessment consortiums. So they know and understand that resources aligned to the Standards call for shifts and changes from pre-standards resources and that’s reflected in our program.
As in Figure 2, graphics, diagrams, questions, and hints included in our online program support the conceptual understanding of mathematics. The real time data helps teachers quickly assess mastery and identifies any gaps of prerequisite concepts within and across grades for each individual student.
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