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What is the Nebraska Instructional Materials Collaborative?
How is curriculum being defined? Instructional materials?
The NIMC includes definitions for content area standards, curriculum, instructional materials, assessment, and classroom instruction.
A curriculum is determined locally and reflects “how” teachers help students learn the content within content area standards. A curriculum outlines the intended outcomes, content, experiences, assessments, and resources for measuring student learning, and it also includes the scope and sequence of what is taught in grades K-12. Instructional materials are the tools and resources that are used as part of a locally-determined curriculum.
Why the focus on high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials?
First, and most importantly, this is an equity issue. We have a responsibility to ensure that all students have equitable access to the education necessary to achieve their full potential. A key aspect of this is that all students receive strong, standards-aligned instruction. Schmidt et al. (2015) found that low-income students are less likely to have access to high-quality content or textbooks in the classroom than students in higher income communities. This inequity, in part, accounts for the significant achievement gap between these students and their more affluent peers.
Additionally, when students receive instruction from instructional materials not aligned to state standards, the opportunity to learn decreases. For example, middle school students using high-quality instructional materials receive the equivalent of an additional eight months of learning versus students using low-quality materials. Furthermore, when high-quality materials were combined with professional development, students gained four months of learning over two years versus comparison groups (Taylor et al., 2015). This research supports the claim that high-quality instructional materials create additional opportunities for students to learn.
Why not just rely on the content teachers can find online or create for themselves?
A significant portion of teachers lack access to standards-aligned, high-quality instructional materials, making it difficult to provide standard-based instruction. This means that teachers are more likely to spend a great deal of time searching for or modifying instructional materials they find online. On average, teachers spend 12 hours per week creating or searching for instructional materials. Additionally, a recent study showed that 73% of teachers report using materials found online more frequently than textbooks, and more than 93% of teachers report frequently using their own or locally-developed materials. This is a problem because the constant hunt for materials can be exhausting and time consuming for teachers. In some instances, the materials are not strongly aligned to state standards, thus impacting the ability of teachers to facilitate standards-based instruction.
High-quality instructional materials provide a clear roadmap for delivering effective lessons and provide a solid starting point for personalized instruction. With easy access to reliable, engaging, high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials, teacher reliance on online resources won’t need to be as urgent, and supplemental materials sourced online can still be used to complement lessons, as needed.
Does this mean the Nebraska Department of Education will decide what instructional materials districts should select?
What is EdReports? Why does the NIMC use EdReport reviews?
The NIMC draws upon the independent reviews of instructional materials for ELA and mathematics, as provided by EdReports (www.edreports.org). EdReports is an independent, nonprofit organization that reviews instructional materials to help educators seek, identify, and demand the highest-quality instructional materials. Educators complete the EdReports reviews and each report represents hundreds of hours of work by the reviewers. These reviews are organized by “gateways,” wherein each gateway considers standards alignment, fundamental design elements, and other attributes of high-quality curriculum. The EdReports reviews reflect reviews of instructional materials compared to the Common Core State Standards. Because of this, the NIMC includes resources to determine how EdReports reviews support alignment to Nebraska’s standards and instructional shifts.
Nebraska is included in the national marketplace for instructional materials, and with limited capacity, it would be difficult for Nebraska to conduct similar reviews in such a thorough manner. EdReports reviewers look at every grade and indicator, ensuring that instructional materials are considered in full. Review teams touch every page of the series and look for the presence of standards, how well the standards are sequenced, the depth with which standards are included, and other important characteristics of high-quality instructional materials. These comprehensive reviews are evidence-rich. No other review process provides as much detail about how materials meet or do not meet the criteria, including specific examples from the programs.
The instructional materials that my district uses are not reviewed by EdReports. What does this mean?
EdReports reviews full-year, comprehensive materials in K-12 math and ELA, and 6-8 science, including materials from for-profit, non-profit, and Open Education Resources. If the instructional materials used by your district are not reviewed by EdReports, they are not considered by EdReports to be a comprehensive set of materials.
Should we adopt new materials because of revised state standards?
The Nebraska State Board of Education approved college and career ready standards for English Language Arts (2014), mathematics (2015), and science (2017). These standards reflect what students in our state should know and be able to do. NSCAS Summative Assessments are built from the revised standards. This means that students should be learning from high-quality instructional materials aligned to these standards and that teachers receive the professional development they need to help them effectively implement these materials.
It is important to determine if the instructional materials currently used are strongly aligned to revised state standards. Instructional materials selected prior to the revision of ELA, mathematics, and science standards may not reflect the instructional shifts included in revised standards
What should we do if we discover our instructional materials are not strongly aligned to state standards? Should we select new materials?
By using the NIMC, educators are able to determine the alignment and quality of instructional materials. The EdReports reviews prioritize alignment and quality of content first and foremost. The EdReports rubric reflects this commitment to standards-alignment and then considers other high-quality attributes of curriculum as recommended by educators. If materials do not meet expectations for alignment, they are not reviewed for usability. To be reviewed through all three gateways, the materials must demonstrate that they meet the criteria of alignment.
EdReports uses a color coding system to signal the quality of reviewed materials:
Green: Meets expectations for alignment (HQ-IM)
Yellow: Partially meets expectations for alignment
Red: Does not meet expectation for alignment
If you discover your instructional materials do not meet expectations for alignment, the EdReports reviews can provide additional information regarding the misalignment. In some instances, supplemental resources may be available for materials that are not strongly aligned. Student Achievement Partners has developed free resources that can be used to supplement some instructional materials. If supplemental resources are not available, districts should consider selecting a higher-quality set of materials. To offset the cost of purchasing new materials, many publishers have opted to produce instructional materials that are free and open. This includes instructional materials that meet the expectations for alignment and quality, as reviewed by EdReports.