By Lee Kappes, Ed.D., Managing Director and Maria Akinyele, Assistant Director of Strategy and Innovation at the Danielson Group
How often are students in your school community engaging with high-quality tasks and materials that support their academic and social-emotional success?
- In every class?
- Daily, a few times?
- Don’t know?
If the answer is less than in every class, don’t fret too much, we’re here to help.
A myriad of research supports the notion that the quality of academic tasks students engage with daily heavily predicts their academic performance (Elmore 2014; TNTP 2018). Rich and engaging tasks are part and parcel of high-quality instructional materials, meaning they are standards-based, promote intellectual engagement, and are appropriately scaffolded to meet the needs of learners while maintaining high expectations. Although the quality of tasks can hinder or promote student academic achievement, emphasis on tasks alone is not enough to guarantee student academic success. Students’ sense of safety and belonging in a learning environment also heavily impacts how well they perform. To meet the equity imperative that all students deserve to learn important content at every grade level in a supportive and inclusive learning environment, the Danielson Group created a guide for you and your school community: Teaching Important Content: A Case for Implementing High-Quality Instructional Materials.
Equity is the pursuit of academic and social-emotional excellence for all learners, not just some. Leading and teaching with an equity imperative means school communities recognize their learners’ needs and provide the right resources to meet those needs. Although, as educators, our primary focus is to cultivate students’ success with the right resources and support, we also need to apply an equity lens to ourselves and other educators. By doing this, we are able to identify educator needs as learners and provide the right professional learning support to meet those needs. Teachers who want to teach important content have distinctive needs and implementation challenges and, as such, deserve support.
In creating this guide, we canvassed the needs of various school communities in their quest to teach important content in every subject and grade. Our research identified the following equity needs of students and educators in their pursuit of instructional excellence:
- Students need access to high-quality instruction every day.
- Teachers must have access to high-quality instructional materials.
- Teachers need to engage in effective professional learning to use those materials well.
These student and educator needs helped the Danielson Group to create the features of the Guide, and the resources included in it.
Access to high-quality instruction every day –
The guide outlines a subset of FFT components and research-based strategies educators can adopt to provide students with high-quality instruction every day. Some priority components further illuminated in the guide include: educators must know and value their students (Component 1b); know how to cultivate inclusive learning environments (Component 2a); assess the learning needs of their students (Component 3d); and can find high-quality instructional materials and then appropriately scaffold to meet the learning needs of all students.
Access to high-quality instructional materials –
The guide provides a working definition of High-Quality Instructional Materials and outlines its key features to help educators and school communities navigate curricula decisions in service of students.
Effective professional learning to use those materials well –
Additional companion tools were developed to support effective and cohesive professional learning practices:
- Self-Assessment and Reflection Guide for Educators
- Observation Guide for Education Leaders and Observers
- Professional Learning Communities Implementation (PLC) Guide
We recognize the complexity of teaching and offer you these equity-focused tools as resources. We encourage you to download the guide upon its release in early April. Lastly, we offer our support as professional learning thought partners and providers. Explore partnership opportunities today if you are interested in further professional learning support to ensure every student learns important content at your school or district.
We wish you a wonderful remainder of the month.