Ensuring Access to High-Quality Learning Materials and Assessments – Whose Responsibility Is It?July 20, 2020
Kentucky has committed to reviewing all academic standards and state assessments to ensure their alignment by scheduling committee reviews on one or two content areas each year and every six years thereafter on a rotating basis. Despite this commitment, much crucial work and support needs to be provided to ensure teachers have clear, easy access to high-quality, aligned materials that offer appropriate opportunities for assessment and data collection. Kentucky educators and institutes of higher education have voiced their concerns on the need for further professional development on the use of the academic standards for social studies and science, as well as support on selecting (or even finding) high-quality instructional resources. Currently, Kentucky does not provide a listing by the State Textbook Commission of acceptable adoption textbooks or online professional learning resources.
The recently revised Kentucky Model Curriculum Framework defines for school districts and councils that curriculum includes the vast array of pedagogy, readings, learning experiences, instructional resources and local mechanisms of assessment. All of this is to be selected at the local level. Subject to available resources, local school boards allocate an appropriation to each school for expenditures related to textbooks, instructional materials, and student support services. School-based decision-making councils determine what shall be provided in the schools.
The challenge that continues to exist is that school councils, districts and states lack trusted, transparent information about the quality of the materials and tools they use to guide instruction. Due to this lack of information, instructional resources used within our schools often are determined by factors other than alignment or quality. If we really want to tackle the inequities in what we deliver for Kentucky students, we need to adopt strong support and guidance so that there is clear public reporting on what materials and instructional resources are used within our schools – and what high-quality materials exist that aren’t being used in our schools.
Unfortunately, schools with larger populations of vulnerable students often struggle to create access to quality learning materials and teachers in these schools are often told to do more with less. A push by Kentucky to provide access to this information to all schools in the state would be a significant step in bridging this gap and help schools and districts live up to the promise of what high standards can deliver. It is no secret that teachers equipped with the right, high-quality tools are much more able to support their students in meeting the rigor of grade-level standards.
Yet, the questions remain: whose responsibility is it:
- to ensure that teachers are trained in the Science of Reading and Learning so they may reach all children?
- to insist that science and social studies are given instruction time at every grade level?
- to provide greater transparency for students, parents and teachers on the resources that exist to really gauge their students’ progress and learning?
Federal law stipulates the use of annual standardized assessments, but we need to advocate for better local systems, improved feedback loops, and timely data and supports so that educators can better align the results of that data to the instructional tools and materials that will best support every student in reaching their academic goals. Every level of government has a role to play, but as a state, Kentucky has to do better to transparently share information on available high-quality materials, so that teachers can do even more with their high-quality standards and aligned assessments.
Jana Bryant is the district math instructional coach for Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro, Kentucky and is a National Board-Certified Teacher in Mathematics. She serves as a 2019 Educators for High Standards fellow and a EdReports Klawe Lead Fellow. She served as 2017-2019 Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) Member for Hope Street Group, an EdReports mathematics content reviewer, and a Standards Advocate with Student Achievement Partners. She is passionate about finding ways to develop state and national leadership teams that have a pulse on the needs and concerns of teachers, students and their families. Follow Jana on Twitter at @JanaBryant14.