Kentucky – Instructional Materials


In a study of 15 Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states, researchers at SREB identified the degree to which the Kentucky 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

Highlights from Kentucky

  • Strong support for local efforts to align instructional materials. The department provided extensive, on-demand guidance and instructional materials to assist teachers, schools and districts with instructional materials alignment. The department also provided multiple types of professional learning and technical assistance for leadership teams from all districts. This included work with district Leadership Network teams, and Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) and Math Design Collaborative (MDC) trainings and coaching for teachers.  
  • Strong use of data to guide continuous improvement. The department gathered multiple types of data on a regular basis. Data included trends in educator use of the guidance and instructional materials on the department’s online Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS), gathered through system usage reports; and the perceived quality of CIITS items and state support services through CIITS user ratings, feedback from an educator advisory group and district site visits. The department gathered data on educators’ emerging needs for support and local curriculum alignment practices through input from district leadership teams, district site visits, annual student assessment data and textbook selection reports. To use the data gathered to inform state efforts, the commissioner met weekly with associate commissioners, and associate commissioners met monthly with directors from throughout the department. Additionally, the department’s CIITS team regularly met with vendors and the CIITS advisory group, which included educators.

Area 1: Establishing Clear Conventions

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?

Kentucky provided essential leadership and support in this area.

The department established consistent criteria based on nationally recognized tools to assess the quality and alignment of both textbooks and online, on-demand instructional materials to the state’s college- and career-readiness standards­—the Kentucky Academic Standards. The department established a clear process that involved educators to develop, review and select textbooks and online, on-demand instructional materials. Online instructional materials were reviewed when possible.

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 State Textbook Commission was required to adopt recommended textbooks.
  • Districts were required to select textbooks from the state-adopted list, or demonstrate to the commission that they used the state criteria to select items not on the list.

The department provided its Evaluation Tool for Basal Instructional Materials to the State Textbook Commission. The department based this tool on the Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards for ELA, and on Student Achievement Partners’ Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET) for math. Both of these tools are nationally recognized as clear, detailed and accurate instruments to assess the quality and alignment of textbooks to college- and career-readiness standards.

The State Textbook Commission was responsible for reviewing and adopting items. The commission was made up of teachers, school and district leaders, teacher preparation program faculty, community members and parents appointed by the state board of education. For additional support, the commission could appoint textbook reviewers – teachers, higher education faculty, parents, textbook experts and school and district leaders. Items were usually adopted on a six-year cycle. ELA items were most recently adopted in 2005, followed by math in 2008. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, districts could use the Evaluation Tool for Basal Instructional Materials to guide the local selection of textbooks.

Online, On-Demand Instructional Materials

The department provided teachers with the CIITS repository, which included a collection of model lesson and unit plans and formative assessment items. Educators could use these items to inform their planning.

Achieve’s Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) and Open Educational Resources (OER) rubrics, as well as LDC and MDC rubrics. These rubrics (documents that outline expectations, guidelines and procedures) are nationally recognized as clear, detailed and accurate tools to assess the quality and alignment of instructional materials to college- and career-readiness standards.

Department staff reviewed items developed by vendors and Kentucky educators, predominantly those who participated in the department’s Leadership Networks (see “Professional Learning and Technical Assistance” below), for inclusion in the CIITS repository. The department also reviewed items created and shared by districts. Submitted instructional materials were reviewed when possible.

Area 2: Supporting Local Efforts

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?

Kentucky provided strong leadership and support in this area.

The department provided extensive guidance and instructional materials for on-demand access by educators. The department offered multiple types of coordinated professional learning and technical assistance, much of which reached all districts in the state. This included training on how to apply the nationally recognized criteria the department used to review online, on-demand instructional materials (described above). 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. Kentucky provided the following guidance documents.

  • List of state-adopted textbooks, as well as recommended OER and additional tools to supplement local curricula
  • Standards/Content Areas website offering extensive guidance such as the state’s Characteristics of Highly Effective Teaching and Learning, deconstructed standards, the Kentucky Model Curriculum Framework and grade level progression documents, curriculum and assessment alignment tools, text complexity documents and online professional learning courses  
  • Extensive guidance for differentiating instruction, including the Novice Reduction for Gap Closure guide and tools; Response to Intervention webinars, implementation manual and list of model school sites; handbook and sample instructional strategies for gifted education; and online special education professional learning  

Instructional Materials

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. Kentucky provided the following types of instructional materials.

  • CIITS extensive online collection of thousands of model lesson and unit plans, instructional activities, assessments and rubrics, and SAS Curriculum Pathways materials. CIITS also enabled schools and districts to create their own item banks for educators to share resources, and provided planning and reporting functions.
  • LDC  and MDC repositories with modules and formative assessment lessons, many of which were created by Kentucky educators

Professional Learning and Technical Assistance

  • LDC and MDC training and coaching services for ELA, math and content area teachers statewide, offered since 2011. In 2015-16 the department added full-time field specialists who supported training and implementation in more than 95 percent of districts. Trained teachers agreed to help scale the use of these tools and practices across their districts.
  • Assistance with ELA and math curricula alignment for districts and schools, provided by the department’s 16 regional instructional specialists and Kentucky’s regional educational cooperatives. This assistance extended and complemented the professional learning provided to Leadership Network teams from all 173 districts, beginning in 2010-11. In 2016-17, the department added specialists to enhance support for district teams. See SREB’s May 2016 Kentucky professional learning profile for a full description of the Leadership Networks.
  • Multi-day trainings for general educators and English learner specialists on using the state English language development standards to differentiate instruction, and a three-year program for ELA and math teachers and school leaders to support differentiated instruction for students with disabilities

“I’m very thankful that our state accessed funds for LDC and MDC. These initiatives have really helped strengthen literacy in language arts, science and social studies, and we’ve been able to include teachers from all these content areas to learn about incorporating reading and writing into their units, lessons and tasks.”—Kentucky school leader

Area 3: Using Data to Continuously Improve State Efforts

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?

Kentucky provided strong leadership and support in this area.

The department frequently gathered four of the five types of data that SREB deemed key for helping states continuously improve, including information on local curriculum alignment practices. Data showed that large numbers of educators statewide used the agency’s online, on-demand instructional materials. Leaders and staff from across the agency, and educators and partners, participated in analysis and discussion of the data. The department used the data in three 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

    • Monthly use of CIITS, including the number of visitors, number and type of items downloaded, length of time spent on the platform, and participation in online professional learning. Data showed that in 2015, at least 90 percent of teachers in 116 of the state’s 173 districts used CIITS lesson plan tools.
    • Site visits to districts

    Educator perceptions of the quality of the state’s offerings

    • CIITS user ratings and recommendations
    • Feedback from a CIITS advisory group including teachers, school and district leaders, and education association representatives
    • Biennial Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning (TELL) statewide survey of educators, last administered in 2015
    • Site visits to districts

    Educator emerging needs

      • Monthly feedback from Leadership Network teams from over 90 percent of districts
      • Annual statewide student assessment results
      • Site visits to districts

      Impact of state offerings on measurable teacher or student outcomes

      • None reported

      Local curriculum alignment practices

        • District textbook selection reports, submitted according to the state’s six-year textbook adoption cycle
        • Site visits to districts
        • Information gathered through work with district teams in the Leadership Network initiative, described above under “Professional Learning and Technical Assistance”

        The department used this data to improve three of its supports for local instructional materials alignment:

        • Professional learning and technical assistance for Leadership Network teams
        • Online guidance and instructional materials
        • Communication with educators, especially to encourage their use of the CIITS platform and other department-provided resources

        The department established the following routines to analyze data, discuss findings and determine actions to address identified needs:

        • The commissioner of education met weekly with associate commissioners. These weekly meetings then informed monthly meetings of associate commissioners and directors from across the department.
        • The department’s CIITS team met monthly with vendors and regularly with the CIITS advisory group, which included educators.

        Moving Forward

        As Kentucky strives to continuously improve, state leaders may wish to consider the following recommendations.    

        • Enhance efforts to provide educators with online instructional materials that continually meet their emerging needs. Evaluate items submitted for inclusion in CIITS, and review existing items in CIITS, at least annually. See state efforts to maintain robust and current online repositories described in the Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina profiles.
        • Continue and enhance the department’s strong professional learning and technical assistance efforts. For example, continue and enhance the focus on ELA and math materials alignment provided through the Leadership Networks, regional instructional specialists, regional cooperatives, and LDC and MDC training and coaching. See other professional learning and technical assistance initiatives that were intensive, integrated and sustained, and that reached large numbers of districts, schools or educators described in the Alabama and Louisiana profiles.
        • Continue and enhance the state’s strong use of data to drive improvement. For example, examine how educator use of state materials and services impacts educator practice and student learning. See descriptions of other strong state efforts to use data for continuous improvement noted in the Arkansas, Delaware, Tennessee and West Virginia profiles.