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Chapter 3: Aligning Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

The dog lesson from the introduction is a not-so-subtle reminder of the problems we may encounter when curriculum and assessment are not properly aligned. I really like teaching the dog lesson during my training sessions, and participants seem to enjoy it. They commend me for being prepared, engaging everyone, using visuals, inserting humor into the lesson, teaching to different learning styles, and using effective teaching strategies. This great lesson, however, does not usually bring about great results on the dog test.

What if I added some new teaching innovations to the dog lesson? I could use state-of-the-art technology to teach the lesson, create a brain-compatible environment, use dynamic instructional grouping based on detailed running records—the list goes on and on. But would this impact scores on the dog test? No, because these cutting-edge instructional methods, as important as they are in our classrooms, cannot correct my content errors.

The dog lesson does not yield successful results for one simple reason: I have not aligned what I am teaching and what I am assessing. No matter how well I teach, the best the participants—all college-educated teachers and administrators—typically can do on the dog test is an average score of 50%. New innovations will not increase scores; they can only be effective if I am teaching what I am testing. And this alignment is even more critical than ever before considering the importance of assessment in the lives of today’s students.

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Chapter 4: Aligning Instruction

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

Many schools and districts have devoted a small fortune in human, material, and financial resources to aligning standards, curriculum, and assessment through the development of aligned curriculum documents. All this work, however, will make little difference if it does not impact instruction at the classroom level. We all know that what happens when the classroom door closes and the teacher begins instruction is what ultimately matters the most.

Before the onset of standards, teachers could teach whatever they thought was important for their students to learn. For example, as a beginning teacher, my favorite social studies unit was one on service jobs (what we called “community helpers,” such as police officers, firemen, doctors, and nurses). I developed this unit during a university teaching methods class. I invested many hours in the development of that unit, and I had a wealth of materials to accompany it. I enjoyed teaching it, and the students seemed to enjoy learning about community helpers. In retrospect, I am really not certain that the goals I established in the unit were actually part of the local district curriculum for first-grade students; however, it did not matter at the time. There was no focus on accountability as there is today, no designated testing program designed to measure whether or not students met certain predetermined learning goals.

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Chapter 1: What Is Total Instructional Alignment?

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

Have you ever overheard two doctors discussing a medical issue? They use terms with which we are totally unfamiliar, but they seem to understand one another clearly and are able to communicate their thoughts very freely. Most professions have this type of common language that allows practitioners to communicate with one another about the concepts in their field. Educators, however, have developed only a very limited ability to do this. For whatever reason, educators do not seem to have this kind of precise professional vocabulary when it comes to instruction. Half a dozen terms may be used to refer to a single idea, or one common “buzz phrase” can be applied to a number of concepts that are barely related.

“Alignment” is one such word that has entered the jargon of education without any widespread agreement as to its precise meaning. In training sessions, I will often ask principals and teachers to work in small groups to develop a common definition of the term “instructional alignment.” Although they all claim to be familiar with the term, they often struggle within their groups to come to consensus on its definition. And I have yet to see two groups yield definitions that are the same. Their definitions often include parts of the alignment process, but it is clear that there is no common understanding of what alignment is and how it works.

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Big Idea Five: Learn and Adjust Based on Data

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

My job causes me to spend a lot of time on airplanes. Thankfully, over the years most of my flights have been fairly routine and uneventful. However, there is one particular flight that I will never forget. I was flying from Atlanta to Albuquerque. It was a relatively smooth flight, and everything had gone along pretty much as usual. Toward the end of the flight, the pilot announced that we had been cleared for landing and should be on the ground in just a few minutes. He asked the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing. As we approached the ground, I looked out the window and noticed the sky was getting unusually dark. I also noticed what appeared to be a wall of rain in the distance quickly moving in the direction of our plane. The landing gear had already dropped and we were almost touching the ground when, without warning, the pilot suddenly pulled up the nose of the plane, causing it to shoot straight back up into the air, the force of gravity throwing all the passengers back in our seats.

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Conclusion: Leadership and the Five Big Ideas

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

I once heard someone say that if you think you are leading, but turn to discover there is no one behind you, you are probably just out taking a walk. It does little good for those in leadership positions to forge on if they do not have the support of those they are leading. Successful implementation of the Five Big Ideas presented in this book will involve changing the way a school does business. From our own experience, most of us have come to realize that true and lasting change in education is never easy. It requires hard work, effort, and commitment on behalf of leadership. The Effective Schools research defines instructional leadership as a key component for the strength of any school (Lezotte & McKee, 2002). Strong leadership must directly relate to the primary mission of schools—learning for all. Leadership for learning requires leaders who can establish clear and positive direction and transform their schools into organizations where all students are able to succeed.

Without effective leadership, it is very unlikely that any school can experience the kind of lasting change proposed by the Five Big Ideas. Leading the school transformation process will require courageous leaders open to new ideas and willing to seek creative solutions, who persevere even when times get tough. Most important, it will require leaders who can visualize and effectively articulate the big picture of the school transformation process to all stakeholders. Without a compelling vision communicated clearly from the very onset of school transformation, it may be difficult to convince others to come on board and support the process. In the past, many educators have experienced change as passing initiatives that start out with good intentions but eventually devolve into fruitless efforts that yield minimal results.

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