Tennessee – Instructional Materials
In a study of 15 Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states, researchers at SREB identified the degree to which the Tennessee 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
- Notable professional learning and technical assistance to support local efforts to align instructional materials. The Tennessee Department of Education provided annual summer teacher trainings that reached large numbers of teachers. The department’s Centers of Regional Excellence (CORE) offered follow-up teacher training and support for interested districts. The department provided school and district leaders with extensive support through a leadership course, collaboratives for district curriculum leaders and Networked Improvement Communities for a group of districts across two CORE regions. These efforts helped build local instructional capacity on the Tennessee State Standards, implemented in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and will assist local efforts to implement the new Tennessee Academic Standards, which educators will begin implementing in 2017-18.
- Strong use of data to guide continuous improvement. The department gathered multiple types of data on a regular basis. Data included educator use of state guidance and instructional materials, and educator participation in the professional learning and technical assistance the department offered, gathered through eduToolbox and TNCore usage reports. The department collected data on educator perceptions of the quality of the state’s offerings, and educators’ emerging needs for resources and support, through regular meetings with educators. The department also gathered information on local curriculum alignment practices, through annual district reports and a statewide survey of district leaders. The department measured the impacts of participation in summer teacher trainings through examination of teacher- and student-level outcomes. To use the data gathered to inform state efforts, leaders and staff from across the agency met regularly, and the commissioner met quarterly with educator advisory groups.
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?
Tennessee provided essential leadership and support in this area.
The department used two approaches to establish criteria for assessing the quality of instructional materials and their alignment to the state’s college- and career-readiness standards—the Tennessee State Standards. To review textbooks, the department developed criteria based on nationally recognized tools. To develop, review and select the online, on-demand instructional materials and formative assessment items that it offered, the department did not use alignment criteria beyond the standards. The department established a clear process that involved educators to develop, review and select the online items, generally on an annual basis.
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 provided the Tennessee Textbook Screening Instrument to the State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission. The department, in partnership with Student Achievement Partners, developed the instrument based on Student Achievement Partners’ alignment tools, which are nationally recognized as clear, detailed and accurate tools to assess the quality and alignment of textbooks to college- and career-readiness standards.
The State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, made up of members appointed by the governor and state Legislature, was responsible for reviewing and recommending items for adoption by the board. The department could provide training to the commission on the screening instrument, and the commission could appoint advisory panels of educators and content experts for additional support. Typically adopted every six years, ELA was most recently adopted in 2010, followed by reading in 2013 and math in 2015.
|Online, On-Demand Instructional Materials
|The department provided the eduToolbox (formerly TNCore) repository, which included a collection of model unit plans and assessment tasks. Educators could use these items to inform their planning.
|Department content area experts and trained Tennessee educators reviewed items based on the state standards, without additional criteria to assess the quality and alignment of items to the standards.
|The department collaborated with trained Tennessee educators and the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning & Innovation to develop and review items, generally on an annual basis. The department conducted a full review of existing items in 2016 for the launch of the eduToolbox website.
|The department provided a collection of sample assessment items. Educators could use these items to inform their planning.
|The department and the assessment vendor reviewed items based on the state standards, without additional criteria to determine the quality and alignment of items to the standards.
The department collaborated with trained Tennessee educators and the assessment vendor to develop and review items, generally on an annual basis.
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?
Tennessee provided essential leadership and support in this area.
The department provided several types of guidance and instructional materials for on-demand access by educators. The department offered professional learning that reached large numbers of teachers. It also provided extensive professional learning and technical assistance for large numbers of school and district leaders across the state. These services including training on how to use nationally recognized tools to inform the alignment of instructional materials. 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. Tennessee provided the following guidance documents.
- List of board-adopted textbooks
- ELA and math guides for selecting texts and planning literacy and vocabulary lessons, and archived tools from the department’s summer trainings
- Online professional learning modules provided in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service
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. Tennessee provided the following types of instructional materials.
- eduToolbox collection of model ELA and math unit plans by grade band; assessment tasks, rubrics and toolkits; and a literacy toolkit. The department collaborated with the Ayers Institute at Lipscomb University to develop the eduToolbox.
- Sample assessment items, provided in collaboration with the assessment vendor
Professional Learning and Technical Assistance
- Summer trainings for teachers led by nearly 1,370 trained teachers on understanding the standards, and designing aligned curriculum. Over 62,000 teachers attended since 2012, with 15,000 attending in 2014, 12,000 in 2015 and 3,900 in 2016.
- Teacher training and technical assistance provided by the department’s eight CORE, that districts selected to complement the department’s summer teacher trainings. Topics included integrating literacy across the curriculum and supporting diverse learners. District participation varied across CORE regions.
- Extensive professional learning and technical assistance for leaders of schools and districts
- Integrated leadership course focused on topics including how to use Achieve’s nationally recognized Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) rubrics and department-provided resources to support instructional materials alignment. Since 2013, approximately 7,000 leaders have participated in the course’s four face-to-face sessions.
- Regional instructional supervisor collaboratives, each with its own focus, such as aligning student work to the standards and literacy and writing instruction. Beginning in 2015-16, curriculum leaders from 100 of the state’s 140 districts participated in eight collaboratives, consisting of quarterly face-to-face meetings, monthly virtual learning sessions and monthly online collaboration activities facilitated by the department in partnership with Student Achievement Partners.
- Networked Improvement Communities for districts to collaboratively design and select instructional materials to address challenges with third-grade reading proficiency. In 2016, a group of districts across two CORE regions began participating; supported by a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, the department reported plans to continue the initiative in 2016-17.
- Training for 200 to 300 district-level instructional coaches on reading in grades K-3, planned in 2015-16 for implementation in 2016-17
“We had such a strong response from our districts to our supervisor collaboratives pilot that the program is much larger now than we originally expected. We are helping supervisors, who are often leading textbook selection in their districts, to identify strengths and gaps in their current curriculum, use local funding and support teachers in addressing needs.”—Staff member, Tennessee 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?
Tennessee provided strong leadership and support in this area.
The department frequently gathered all five types of data that SREB deemed key for state leadership. These data included impacts of the department’s summer trainings on teacher and student measures, and information on local curriculum alignment practices. Leaders and staff from across the agency, as well as educators and partner organizations, 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
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 three of its supports for local instructional materials alignment:
- Professional learning and technical assistance services
- Guidance and instructional materials
- Communication with educators about state instructional materials, professional learning and technical assistance
The department established the following routines to analyze data, discuss findings and determine actions to address identified needs:
- In summer 2015, the department reorganized and developed strategic plans to guide its initiatives. The plans guided the work of staff from across the department who served on cross-functional planning teams that met quarterly.
- Three department teams—the commissioner of education’s executive leadership team of deputy commissioners, the senior leadership team of assistant commissioners across the department, and the academic leadership team of assistant commissioners, executive directors and CORE staff—met regularly.
- Department staff collaborated with staff at Lipscomb University to inform design of the eduToolbox website.
- The commissioner of education met quarterly with various educator advisory groups.
As Tennessee strives to continuously improve, state leaders may wish to consider the following recommendations.
- Continue to expand and enhance efforts to establish clear, rigorous and consistent conventions for identifying high-quality instructional materials aligned to state standards. Develop rubrics to inform the development, review and selection of online instructional and assessment materials. Align the criteria in the rubrics to the criteria in the department’s instrument for evaluating textbooks. Verify that all the rubrics fully reflect the content and rigor of the state standards—for example, by submitting them to trusted, third-party experts for review, or basing them on nationally recognized tools. Use the rubrics to develop, review and select online items at least annually, to ensure educators have access to up-to-date materials to meet their emerging needs. Consistent, rigorous conventions will help to build local instructional capacity on the Tennessee State Standards, which educators are implementing in 2016-17; they will also assist local efforts to align curriculum to the new Tennessee Academic Standards, which educators will implement beginning in 2017-18. See strong state efforts to establish consistent, rigorous conventions described in the Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina profiles.
- Continue to expand the online, on-demand guidance and instructional materials the department offers educators. See efforts to provide extensive online, on-demand guidance and instructional materials noted in the Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina profiles.
- Continue and enhance the state’s strong use of data to drive improvement. Build on the department’s evaluations of its summer teacher trainings, to examine how educator use of other key state materials and services impact educator practice and student learning. See descriptions of other strong state efforts to use data for continuous improvement noted in the Arkansas, Delaware and West Virginia profiles.