14 December 2005

Sanity Prevails...For Now

I had the second meeting with my grades 7 - 9 materials' adoption group today. I was a little uncertain about things going into this meeting. This is a good group, but it's hard for any teacher (myself included) to get away from the "sexy" things the publishers send and focus on what we really need to look for.

Using some tools I found on our state education website and something that our district math god developed, I created a "deep alignment" tool. The alignment was specific to student tasks (worksheets, end of chapter questions, labs, activities, etc.). The "deep" part refers to...
  • Content--What knowledge, skills, processes, or concepts does the task address?
  • Context---How is this information presented, practiced, and then tied to other skills/learning?
  • Cognitive Demand---Does the task require ask students to demonstrate the same level of thinking as required by the standard?

The grade level groups of teachers picked two of their GLEs and then set out with the three curricula they'd selected for further review to do some deep alignment. The outcome was quite magical. It made it painfully obvious just which materials would support students to meet the standards. The conversations that teachers had were really interesting for me. And several of them actually thanked me for using this approach to things today and mentioned how meaningful it had been.

That's the good news. We have some wonderful materials to pilot later this winter and we feel confident about the quality of the curricula.

The bad news is that we will be seriously over budget if we get these. The student books alone will be $30,000 more than we have been allotted...never mind the support materials for teachers. And this doesn't take into account the needs for grade 6. Teachers were a bit depressed to discover this at the end of our day today, but we'll just see what happens.

For now, I'm just going to be happy that the work was productive and meaningful and that we're on track for making an enormous impact on what happens in science classrooms. I'll worry about getting the extra $100,000 tomorrow.

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