When it comes to implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), one of the first things teachers want to do is order new resources to support those standards. That seems like a simple thing to do because virtually all publishers will tout their latest products as being aligned to the CCSS. However, it is important to note there are degrees of alignment. Some resources may address the standards only in the broadest sense, leaving interpretation and details up to the teacher. Other resources may deal with the content standards, but leave out – or inadequately address – other fundamental aspects.
The Math Practice Standards provide a good example of sections often inadequately addressed. For example, the Practice Skills, at all levels, emphasize the need to improve skills for problem solving by justifying or verifying the appropriateness of solutions. Verifying and explaining the thinking processes for problem solving is to be done all the way through, starting during the initial stages of learning new concepts. However, many resources include these steps only at the end of the learning process for new concepts. Students using such resources may view the need to verify appropriateness of problem-solving strategies only as “end product” perspectives rather than as vital, on-going steps in all content and problem-solving approaches.
In making effective resource choices, educators must have a clear understanding of the additional standards and emphases included in the CCSS.
Similarly, the English/Language Arts Standards require students to examine and evaluate texts from new perspectives, including citing evidence and looking for how text structures affect or contribute to the meaning of the text. Again, this perspective needs to be part of the initial learning rather than left to the end of reading comprehension strategies. Resources selected for writing must also emphasize the writing of arguments and gathering and citing evidence for those arguments rather than writing from a narrative perspective. Although the standards still include narrative writing, the emphasis is on writing arguments and writing to inform the reader. Also, it is no longer enough to assure that reading passages are of the appropriate complexity and focused on informational text. The skills indicated in the standards must also be evident in the activities and prompts provided for students. Numerous resources are extremely weak in this area.
In making effective resource choices, educators must have a clear understanding of the additional standards and emphases included in the CCSS. In both math and language arts, the resources’ suggested instructional activities and processes must be structured to emphasize these additional skills – not just the content specified for each grade level. In the Curriculum Leadership Institute Model, educators complete a careful alignment of resource content to each outcome and component of the curriculum. The use of rubrics and item-by-item comparisons are part of the process. It is only through such careful analyses of the standards themselves and the complete local curriculum that effective resources can be selected. Otherwise, either students will fall short of expectations, or teachers will need to employ extensive innovation to supplement the inadequate materials selected.