Frequently Asked Questions on the Instructional Materials & Professional Learning Strategy
The instructional materials and professional learning (IMPL) continuous improvement strategy is a research-based strategy focused on ensuring that all students have equitable access to the education necessary to achieve their full potential. A key aspect is that all students receive strong, standards-aligned instruction. When students receive instruction based on 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 not fully aligned to standards. 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., 20151). This research supports the claim that high-quality instructional materials create additional opportunities for students to learn. Find additional supporting research here.
The following chart briefly summarizes what this strategy is and is not.
What IMPL is
The next step in standards implementation
One continuous improvement strategy showing promise
Continued support for local materials adoption activities
Ensuring teachers and students have equitable access to the materials they deserve
Freeing up teacher time to focus on the art of teaching
What IMPL is not
A state approved list of materials
Taking away local control
A magic bullet solution
All about one single tool
A new idea
The most important thing
- 1. What tools can determine alignment to standards?
- 2. Professional Learning and IMPL?
- 3. What is the Ed Reports evaluation process?
- 4. What is the difference between the Ed Reports tool, What Works Clearinghouse, and Success for All?
- 5. What if school materials aren’t rated by Ed Reports?
- 6. What does using green/fully aligned materials well look like?
- 7. What if school materials are rated yellow/red or not fully aligned?
- 8. What do high quality, standards-based lessons look like?
- 9. Equitable multi-level/tier systems of support (RtI) And IMPL?
- 10. Educator Effectiveness and IMPL?
- 11. WISExplore and IMPL?
- 12. Continuous Improvement and IMPL?
- 13. Personalized Learning and IMPL?
- 14. Culturally responsive practices and IMPL?
- 15. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and IMPL?
- 16. How do we begin implementation?
- 17. What should a standards-based materials adoption process include?
- 18. What scaffolds give all students access to grade-level, standards-based instruction?
- 19. Student-selected readings and IMPL?
- 20. Workshop model of instruction and IMPL?
- Ratings of instructional materials developed by nonprofit, independent reviewer Ed Reports (https://www.edreports.org/)
- Close attention should be paid to the edition and year of publication since, in some cases, different editions have different ratings.
- Review tools developed by national organizations for educator teams to determine their own ratings:
In order for high quality, standards-aligned instructional materials to be most effective, educators need on-going, job-embedded professional learning and supports (Taylor et al., 20152). Such professional learning and supports could be focused on topics such as understanding what makes the materials high quality and standards-aligned, understanding why the materials are organized in the ways that they are, peer observation, collaboratively planning and designing scaffolds that give access to the grade-level learning to all students, or collaboratively analyzing student work, among others.
Ed Reports recruits practicing educators to evaluate collections of instructional materials. Find details of their evaluation process here. Find out how to join other Wisconsin educators and become a reviewer here.
#4. What is the difference between the Ed Reports tool, What Works Clearinghouse, and Success for All?
- Ed Reports evaluates collections of instructional materials for universal instruction in literacy and mathematics. Their evaluation rubrics have three categories, two of which are based in the academic standards for English language arts or mathematics. The third criteria is in the area of instructional supports and usability. A set of instructional materials achieves a green rating only if it has met criteria in all three categories. See the ELA and math rubrics with specific criteria here.
What Works Clearinghouse shares the outcomes of research that meets specific design criteria. They generally share the outcomes of research on literacy and math interventions, as opposed to collections of instructional materials meant for universal instruction. Interventions reviewed focus on developing specific skills. This infographic shows how the WWC rates a research study. See a summary of how they report their findings here.
The Success for All Foundation offers school improvement programs in reading and math both for universal instruction and for interventions. They are designed using similar success criteria as What Works Clearinghouse, focusing on specific skills rather than academic standards. Explore their research archive.
- Schools can still determine whether materials are aligned to academic standards by reviewing them against one of the other tools mentioned in FAQ #1.
- It is also possible to submit a request to Ed Reports to review specific titles of instructional materials. Submit a request to Ed Reports to review a specific title here.
- Instead of focusing on fidelity, schools and districts should focus on skillful use of instructional materials. Just because instructional materials are rated green by Ed Reports, or fully aligned to standards by another tool, does not mean that those materials do not require some adaptations. Rather, starting with a set of instructional materials that are fully aligned to standards and understanding how and why those materials are fully aligned to standards, gives schools and districts a solid foundation to build a coherent horizontal and vertical arc of K-12 instruction for students. A school or district may choose to make adaptations in order to be more culturally responsive to their students (see FAQ #14), or to respond to other local priorities. It is important to note that skillful use means making adaptations that do not lower the grade-level or alter the academic standards that a particular lesson or unit is intended to meet.
- If the instructional materials have been rated yellow or red by Ed Reports, they should read the in-depth Ed Reports review of those materials to identify why/how those materials did not meet expectations. Identifying and understanding the gaps informs the professional learning and/or collaborative work needed to supplement the materials in order to provide standards-based, grade-level instruction.
- If the instructional materials that do not meet the criteria of other tools, such as the IMET or Equip rubrics, they can utilize the specific criteria where the materials did not meet expectations to inform professional learning and/or collaborative work needed to supplement those materials in order to provide standards-based, grade-level instruction.
- Student Achievement Partners has done the work of creating adaptations for popular collections of literacy and math instructional materials, additional collections of literacy instructional materials and for ELA anthologies. When added to an anthology or set of instructional materials, these adaptations fill identified gaps, resulting in instruction that meets grade-level standards.
- A school or district could also make the choice to adopt new instructional materials that are aligned to standards. Ed Reports has rated some free OER instructional materials as aligned to standards.
- It is important to note that simply selecting isolated, standards-based lessons or units do not result in coherence within a single grade-level, let alone coherence throughout a student’s K-12 academic career.
- Math examples:
- Here is one math module made up of units and lessons building an understanding of linear and exponential functions in a first-year high school algebra course. This module highlights the important connections between the conceptual categories of algebra and functions. This collection of lessons builds upon important connections from eighth-grade work on function to high school work functions. Over a series of lessons, students are continually engaged in the rigor of mathematics which in turn leads to a deeper understanding of the connections between algebra and functions.
- Student Achievement Partners has lessons that illustrate the Instructional Shifts of the college- and career ready standards. The lessons shown here reference a specific progression of mathematics which are then made to form a unit.
- EQuIP is an initiative from Achieve that has created and used rubrics to evaluate lessons and units. Achieve provides a sample of lessons and units that have been peer-reviewed and shows alignment to the standards, the shifts, and instructional supports through the use of rubrics and a quality review process.
Here is one literacy module made up of several units that focus on analyzing and developing perspective and point of view in writing, including building an understanding of how one’s identity and culture impact perspective and point of view, found within a set of high-quality, standards-based instructional materials for grade 6.
- These systems within a district or school provide equitable services, practices, and resources to each learner based upon their responsiveness to effective instruction or intervention. Schools provide a continuum of supports at differing levels of intensity to proactively adjust to the needs of the whole child. One of the core elements is high-quality instruction at the universal level for all students. High-quality instruction at the universal level is defined as instruction for each student that meets grade-level academic standards, is research- and evidence-based, data-driven, culturally appropriate for all students, and engaging and differentiated through the principles of Universal Design for Learning. Therefore the IMPL improvement strategy is about strengthening a school’s equitable multi-level system of supports.
- Find more information and resources for an equitable multi-level system of supports at https://dpi.wi.gov/rti.
The Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System is a performance-based continuous improvement system designed to improve the education of all students by supporting guided, individualized, self-determined professional growth and development of educators. A teacher or principal could choose to participate in professional learning necessary to successfully implement high-quality, standards-based instructional materials as an instructional or leadership strategy supporting their Student/School Learning Objective (SLO), or as the primary focus of their Professional Practice Goal (PPG).
Find additional information and resources for Wisconsin’s Educator Effectiveness System at https://dpi.wi.gov/ee.
WISExplore is a process for analyzing a school’s data in order to inform school improvement planning and identify specific innovations or strategies to apply to the continuous improvement process. Because Wisconsin’s state summative assessments are aligned to state academic standards, a foundational question for schools to answer when analyzing student data should be whether all students have access to appropriate, grade-level instruction and instructional materials that are aligned to the academic standards. If not, this could be the root cause of students’ low test scores.
Find additional information on the WISExplore process at https://dpi.wi.gov/wisexplore.
- Continuous improvement is a process that districts and schools engage in to adjust and refine their system in order to meet the needs of each student. This process consists of determining system readiness and then engaging in a “plan,” “do,” “study,” “act” cycle. IMPL is an innovation or strategy that a district or school may choose to apply the continuous improvement process to if their data points them toward that as a root cause of undesirable student achievement outcomes.
- Find additional information and resources on the continuous improvement process at https://dpi.wi.gov/continuous-improvement.
- Personalized learning is an approach to designing and facilitating learning and instruction. Personalized learning strategies or approaches focus on giving students more agency in their learning. All students can benefit from a personalized learning approach. The IMPL improvement strategy does not dictate an approach to instruction, but rather, asks educators to ensure that all students are being engaged with standards-based, grade-level instruction supported with scaffolds as necessary. Educators utilizing a professional learning approach to instruction should utilize the available tools referenced in FAQ #1 to ensure that the goals they establish and the instruction or learning they facilitate is standards-based and has a coherent arc that is vertically and horizontally aligned to the instruction and learning those students will receive over the course of their academic career. Thoughtful alignment to standards helps teachers and students provide evidence of learning at each step, and provides a map of progressions to help shape learning pathways. While students may progress at a different pace, use a different modality for instruction, or use a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning, all students should have access to high quality, grade level instruction every day.
- Find additional information and resources for personalized learning at https://dpi.wi.gov/personalized-learning.
- Educational equity means that every student has access to the educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background and/ or family income (Aspen Institute & CCSSO, 2017, p. 3). Wisconsin's Model to Inform Culturally Responsive Practice describes the the beliefs, knowledge, and skills adults within the system cultivate to reach and teach diverse learners in order to advance equity within their schools and districts. The instructional materials and professional learning improvement strategy is a starting point toward educational equity because its purpose is to ensure that every student has access to and is engaged with standards-based, grade-level instruction supported with scaffolds as necessary.
- Being culturally responsive is specific to the student population of a particular school or district, so one must first identify the identities and cultures that students in that school ascribe to themselves or belong to. Because student identities and cultures vary across the state, there is no one rubric for cultural responsiveness that schools or districts could use to rate materials for their degree of cultural responsiveness. There is a great deal of evidence on the benefits of providing students with both “mirrors,” or reflections of their own lives and experiences, as well as “windows,” or views of the world and experiences that are unfamiliar (Delgado, R., and Stefancic J., 19993; Hanley, N.S., and Noblit, G.W., 20094; Tatum, A.W., 20095; Tatum, A.W., 20136; Tatum, B. D., 19977).
- Once alignment to grade-level standards has been verified using one of the resources listed in FAQ #1, educators are encouraged to further analyze instructional materials through the lens of culturally responsive practice by using any of the following tools:
- Midwest and Plains Equity Assistance Center tool for assessing bias in standards and curricular materials
- Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards
- English Learners Success Forum tool for reviewing instructional materials for effectiveness with students who are English learners:
- Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools ELA Curriculum Scorecard
Find additional information and resources for Wisconsin’s Model to Inform Culturally Responsive Practice at https://dpi.wi.gov/rti/equity.
- UDL is a framework for removing barriers in instruction. UDL’s three main principles are to provide multiple means of representation, to provide multiple means of action and expression, and to provide multiple means of engagement. All students can benefit from a UDL approach to instruction. The IMPL improvement strategy does not dictate an approach to instruction, but rather, asks educators to ensure that all students are being engaged with standards-based, grade-level instruction supported with scaffolds as necessary. Educators applying the UDL framework to instruction should utilize the available tools referenced in FAQ #1 to ensure that the goals they establish and the instruction or learning they facilitate is standards-based and has a coherent arc that is vertically and horizontally aligned to the instruction and learning those students will receive over the course of their academic career. While students may progress at a different pace, use a different modality for instruction, or use a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning, all students should have access to high-quality, grade-level instruction every day.
- Find additional information and resources for UDL at https://dpi.wi.gov/universal-design-learning.
- Education leaders and other educators can support a district in creating and implementing a plan for the adoption and implementation of high-quality instructional materials (see FAQ #17).
- Education leaders and other educators can begin supporting schools and districts in the IMPL school improvement strategy by assisting them in the evaluation of their instructional materials using the tools referenced in FAQ #1. This work should also be part of any needs assessment that a school or district engages in for continuous improvement or school improvement purposes.
- Education leaders and other educators can work with a school or district to create a professional learning plan to implement the standards-based instructional materials. A professional learning plan to implement instructional materials may include any of the following: facilitating PLCs focused on delivering specific units of instruction or instructional lessons from a set of instructional materials, coaching to identify any gaps in content knowledge or pedagogy needed to facilitate instruction in specific units or lessons from a set of instructional materials, coaching to facilitate the scaffolding of instruction in specific units or lessons to ensure all students have access to grade-level content, etc. Education leaders could also work with a school or district to create a professional learning plan to supplement the instructional materials and fill in any identified gaps in the cases where materials are not fully aligned with academic standards.
- Education leaders and other educators could create and support a network of local schools or districts that are using the same instructional materials. Schools or districts within such a network could pool their resources and leverage purchasing power, engage in collaborative lesson study together, analyze student work together, or engage in professional learning together to implement the instructional materials.
- EdReports offers guidance for a materials adoption process that schools or districts can consult and modify as needed.
- The state of Nebraska also offers guidance for adopting instructional materials that schools or districts can consult and modify as needed.
- This school improvement strategy is effective because all students are provided with grade-level, standards-based instruction. In some cases, students will need scaffolds to fill in gaps in knowledge or skills in order to be able to do the work of the grade-level standards. Continuing to engage students with instruction that is not at grade-level, maintains or widens student achievement gaps.
- In the area of English language arts, standards are a staircase where each standard leads to the next. Educators can use the ELA vertical alignment document to identify gaps in student knowledge or skills and trace back through the prerequisites to develop appropriate scaffolds.
- In the area of Mathematics, standards relate to each other across grade levels. The Coherence Map can support educators in identifying gaps in student knowledge and trace back through the prerequisites. Additional content support can be found in the Math progression documents.
Research clearly points to the value of student-selected reading both in terms of increased motivation and academic achievement (Johnson, D., & Blair, A., 20038, and Whitten, C., Labby, S., and Sullivan, S, 20169). A school or district may decide that self-selected reading is a local priority that they want to look for within or add to existing sets of standards-based instructional materials. If a curriculum does not include opportunities for students to select their own texts for reading, a school or district may decide to add this component to their adopted curriculum.
The workshop model is an approach to designing and facilitating learning and instruction. Workshop model strategies or approaches focus on providing all students with a variety of learning experiences on a regular basis, including whole group instruction, small group instruction or learning/work time, and independent learning/work time. The IMPL improvement strategy does not dictate an approach to instruction, but rather, asks educators to ensure that all students are being engaged with standards-based, grade-level instruction supported with scaffolds as necessary. Educators utilizing a workshop model approach to instruction should utilize the available tools referenced in FAQ #1 to ensure that the goals they establish and the instruction or learning they facilitate is standards-based and has a coherent arc that is vertically and horizontally aligned to the instruction and learning those students will receive over the course of their academic career. Grade-level, standards-based instruction, learning, or work time could occur at any point in a workshop model. While students may progress at a different pace, use a different modality for instruction, or use a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning, all students should have access to high quality, grade level instruction every day.
1 Taylor, Joseph A., Stephen Getty, Susan Kowalski, Christopher D. Wilson, Janet Carlson, and Pamela Van Scotter. "An Efficacy Trial of Research-Based Curriculum Materials With Curriculum-Based Professional Development." American Education Research Journal 52, no. 5 (October 01, 2015): 984-1017.
2 Taylor, Joseph A., Stephen Getty, Susan Kowalski, Christopher D. Wilson, Janet Carlson, and Pamela Van Scotter. "An Efficacy Trial of Research-Based Curriculum Materials With Curriculum-Based Professional Development." American Education Research Journal 52, no. 5 (October 01, 2015): 984-1017.
3Delgado, Richard and Stefancic, Jean. (1999). Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
4Hanley, M.S., & Noblit, G.W. (2009). Culturally responsiveness, racial identity, and academic success: A review of the literature.
5Tatum, A.W. (2009). Reading for their life. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing.
6Tatum, A.W. (2013). Fearless voices: Engaging a new generation of African American adolescent male writers. New York: Scholastic.
7Tatum, B.D.(1997). “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” And other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.
8Johnson, D., & Blair, A. (2003). The Importance and Use of Student Self-Selected Literature to Reading Engagement in an Elementary Reading Curriculum. Reading Horizons, 43 (3). Retrieved from https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol43/iss3/3
9Whitten, Christy, Sandra Labby, and Sam L. Sullivan. "The Impact of Pleasure Reading on Academic Success." The Journal of Multidisiplinary Graduate Research 2, no. 4 (2016): 48-64. https://www.shsu.edu/academics/education/journal-of-multidisciplinary-gr...