Arkansas – Instructional Materials
In a study of 15 Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states, researchers at SREB identified the degree to which the Arkansas Department of Education provided leadership and support for the statewide use of high-quality instructional materials that aligned to the state’s K-12 college- and career-readiness standards in English language arts (ELA) and math.
SREB developed a list of actions that demonstrate state leadership and support in each of the three areas listed below. These actions, or “look-fors,” guided data collection and the analysis of state efforts. Read about the look-fors in the full report, located to the right. State efforts in each area fell into one of three levels of implementation: minimal, essential or strong. In some cases, SREB researchers also designated a state action as notable. Below is a detailed description of this state’s efforts.
Table of Contents
|Highlights||Area 1||Area 2||Area 3||Moving Forward|
- Notable support for local efforts to align instructional materials. Teams from all middle grades and high schools in the state participated in professional learning and technical assistance to support implementation of Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) and Mathematics Design Collaborative (MDC) tools and practices. The state Department of Education provided this support in collaboration with SREB, regional Education Service Cooperatives (ESCs) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Centers. In 2015-16, the department expanded the LDC and MDC work statewide in grades K-12. The department also housed ELA and math specialists at the ESCs and STEM Centers to provide tailored training and assistance to districts in curriculum alignment. This support helped build instructional capacity on the Common Core State Standards, implemented in 2014-15 and 2015-16; it also helped educators design and deliver instruction on the Arkansas Mathematics and English Language Arts Standards, implemented beginning in 2016-17.
- Strong use of data to guide continuous improvement. The department gathered multiple types of data on a regular basis. The department gathered data on local curriculum selection practices through a 2015 statewide survey of educators. It gauged the emerging needs of educators for resources and support by analyzing trends in student achievement data, conducting school site visits, and soliciting educator suggestions through training evaluation forms and the 2015 statewide survey. The department examined the impact of teacher participation in Arkansas IDEAS online courses and state professional learning events through pre- and post-assessments for participants. To use the data gathered to inform state efforts, leaders from across the agency and the ESCs met monthly, and staff members at the agency and the ESCs and STEM Centers met monthly.
Did the department establish clear criteria and a clear process for identifying high-quality instructional materials aligned to the state’s college- and career-readiness standards?
Arkansas provided essential leadership and support in this area.
The department used three sets of criteria for assessing the quality of instructional materials and their alignment to the state’s college- and career-readiness standards—the Common Core State Standards. First, the department recommended the use of nationally recognized tools to support textbook selection processes in districts. Second, the department used input from state and national experts to recommend instructional materials in one online repository. Third, it developed its own rubric to review items for another online repository. Department staff reviewed items annually for posting in the repositories.
Table 1: State Criteria and Processes for Reviewing Textbooks and Online, On-Demand Instructional Materials
|State authority and role in developing and selecting instructional materials||Criteria the state used to develop and select materials||Process the state used to develop and select materials|
|In accordance with state law:
The department recommended the local use of textbook reviews on EdReports.org and Achieve’s Toolkit for Evaluating the Alignment of Instructional and Assessment Materials to the Common Core State Standards. Reviews on EdReports.org and Achieve’s toolkit are nationally recognized as clear, detailed and accurate resources for assessing the quality and alignment of instructional materials to college- and career-readiness standards.
Arkansas did not adopt textbooks at the state level.
|Online, On-Demand Instructional Materials|
|The department provided the Arkansased.gov repository, which included a collection of hyperlinks to recommended items. Educators could access these items to inform their planning.||Recommendations from several sources: nationally recognized experts at Achieve’s Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) project and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); education leaders in other states; and staff at Arkansas’s regional ESCs and STEM Centers.||The department consulted with national experts and state education leaders and posted hyperlinks to their recommendations. Department content area teams annually reviewed and updated the links.|
|The department provided an iTunes U library of model lessons, courses and books. Educators could access these items to inform their planning.||The department developed a rubric (a document that outlines expectations, guidelines and procedures) for assessing the educational value, concept, instructional format, content requirements, copyright compliance and technical specifications of these items.||Items were developed and submitted for review by Arkansas educators, districts, and educational organizations. Department content area teams annually reviewed and updated items.|
Did the department provide guidance, instructional materials, professional learning and technical assistance to build local knowledge and skills, and support educator use of aligned materials?
Arkansas provided essential leadership and support in this area.
The department provided several types of guidance and instructional materials for online, on-demand access by educators. The department offered notable professional learning and technical assistance, with some of the services reaching large numbers of schools across the state. Examples of the department’s efforts include the following.
Guidance could include information about the standards and aligned teaching strategies, rubrics for gauging alignment of instructional materials, templates for designing aligned instruction, lists of adopted textbooks and online professional learning resources. Arkansas provided the following guidance documents.
- Collection of hyperlinks on Arkansased.gov to curriculum frameworks and lesson planning tools from nationally recognized organizations such as CCSSO, Achieve and the Teaching Channel
- LDC and MDC information and tools
- ArkansasIDEAS online professional learning courses on aligning instructional materials for general, special, gifted and English learner education, and Response to Intervention (RtI) archived training materials and implementation guide
- Archived presentations and materials from department trainings between 2011 and 2013 on using Achieve’s EQuIP rubrics, applying Universal Design for Learning principles, integrating literacy in the content areas, and developing aligned lessons and formative assessments
Instructional materials could include a variety of tools and resources that educators use to plan and deliver instruction, such as model lesson and unit plans, sample formative assessments, textbooks, student workbooks and manipulatives, recommended texts and videos, and multimedia learning tools. Arkansas provided the following types of instructional materials.
- Collection of hyperlinks on Arkansased.gov to model lesson and unit plans from nationally recognized organizations such as CCSSO, Achieve and the Teaching Channel, as well as other states such as Louisiana and New York
- iTunes U library of model video and audio lessons, interactive books and full digital courses in ELA, math and English language development
Professional Learning and Technical Assistance
- LDC and MDC training, provided in partnership with SREB and the regional ESCs and STEM Centers. Several hundred regional specialists and teachers participated in the training, and then led local trainings and provided implementation support for all middle grades and high schools in the state. The department and its partners also provided webinars throughout the year for school leaders to support LDC and MDC implementation. This work continued the department’s partnership with SREB, in place since 2010, to build capacity statewide to implement LDC and MDC practices. In 2015-16, the training also incorporated RtI and professional learning community practices.
- Technical assistance for districts in selecting and developing aligned curriculum materials, and training for general, special and English learner educators on differentiating instruction, implementing RtI and integrating literacy across the content areas. These services, provided by department ELA and math specialists housed at regional ESCs and STEM Centers, varied widely across the state, depending on a number of factors including differences in regional capacity, local needs and participation.
“Rather than looking at particular curricula, the department has provided professional development to our ESCs and STEM Centers on effective teaching practices, so that districts have the tools and support to analyze what their needs are. There’s not one program that is best for everyone.”—Staff member, Arkansas Department of Education
Did the department regularly gather and use multiple types of data in order to continuously improve its leadership and support for the statewide alignment of instructional materials to college- and career-readiness standards?
Arkansas provided strong leadership and support in this area.
The department gathered four of the five types of data that SREB deemed key for helping states continuously improve, including data on the impact of teacher participation in state-provided professional learning, as well as information on local curriculum alignment practices. Leaders and staff from across the agency, and partner organizations, participated in analysis and discussion of the data. The department used the data in two ways to inform its work.
Table 2: Data the Department Gathered to Inform its Efforts
|Key types of data||Data sources|
Educator use of state guidance and instructional materials, and educator participation in the professional learning and technical assistance the department offered
Educator perceptions of the quality of the state’s offerings
Educator emerging needs
Impact of state offerings on measurable teacher or student outcomes
Local curriculum alignment practices
The department used this data to improve two of its supports for local instructional materials alignment:
- Guidance and instructional materials for the new Arkansas Mathematics and English Language Arts Standards, which educators began implementing in 2016-17
- Professional learning and technical assistance for schools and districts
The department established the following routines to analyze data, discuss findings and determine actions to address identified needs:
- The commissioner of education, deputy commissioners and directors from across the agency, and regional ESC coordinators met monthly.
- Unit managers from across the department met monthly with ELA and math specialists stationed at ESCs and STEM Centers.
As Arkansas strives to continuously improve, state leaders may consider the following recommendations.
- Enhance efforts to establish clear, rigorous and consistent conventions for identifying high-quality instructional materials aligned to state standards. Establish consistent criteria for developing and reviewing both textbooks and online, on-demand instructional materials. Verify that the department’s review criteria for all types of items fully reflect the content and rigor of the state’s standards – for example by submitting the rubrics to trusted, third-party experts for review, or ensuring that the rubrics are informed by nationally recognized tools. To ensure that items in the online repositories meet educator needs, include Arkansas educators in the regular reviews of the items. These actions will help ensure that the state, educators and others who develop tools for educators have consistently rigorous expectations for the materials teachers use to teach the new Arkansas Mathematics and English Language Arts Standards. See strong state efforts to establish clear and consistent criteria described in the Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina profiles.
- Expand and update the state’s repositories of online guidance and instructional materials to assist educators as they implement the state’s new standards. See strong state efforts to provide extensive on-demand tools in the Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina state profiles.
- Continue and enhance the state’s strong use of data to drive improvement. For example, build on the state’s evaluations of some of the department’s professional learning resources and services to examine how educator use of other state services and materials impacts educator practice and student learning. See other strong state efforts to use data for continuous improvement noted in the Delaware, Tennessee and West Virginia state profiles.