Common Core Aligned! Nice new cover.

I’m just back from the NCSM and NCTM national conferences in Indianapolis.  I have nothing but kind words for the city and venues for the conferences.  It is a wonderful location for a conference; additionally, I highly recommend the haggis at MacNiven’s Restaurant and Bar on Massachusetts Ave.

As I walked through the exhibit hall, I was struck by all the textbooks that were plastered with labels claiming they were Common Core Aligned/Ready/Optimized/…  What does this new label mean?  What can I assume about materials that state they are Common Core Aligned?  I can assume that the book has a newly designed cover, that’s it.

I found two versions of these new “aligned” textbooks:

  1. Textbooks with new covers and the same exact lessons contained between the covers.  Sure, the state standards that were previously cited are now replaced with Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  But, the lessons and assignments are the same as last year’s edition.
  2. Textbooks with new covers and additional lessons interspersed in the book, but the new lessons have no connection to the rest of the material.

For instance, my colleague evaluated a new “Common Core Aligned” algebra 1 textbook against its previous edition and found it contained new material addressing recursion.  Now, recursion is contained within the CCSS algebra strand and therefore should be part of the book.  The problem is that the book never references recursion after this lesson.  Students never use recursive routines to build their understanding of linearity—it is simply taught as a “fun math fact.”  That is analogous to students learning about the passage of the Civil Rights Act and then never discussing or evaluating its effect on American society afterward!

Rather than looking for labels and correlations that claim coverage of material, we should understand where our new standards come from.  They are NOT handed down from divine intervention (there are no burning bushes associated with this document).  These standards are built upon foundational pieces that came before.  To quote from the CCSS document:

“These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up”

If you are evaluating materials for their alignment to the CCSS math standards, look for materials that are built upon this same foundational thinking.  Both the NCTM Standards and Adding It Up have been around for 10 years.  There are materials written by authors who took to heart what these documents stand for, just as the CCSS authors also found inspiration in them.

I believe the embodiment of what these documents stand for is in this paragraph from Adding It Up:

“The mathematics students need to learn today is not the same mathematics that their parents and grandparents needed to learn. When today’s students become adults, they will face new demands for mathematical proficiency that school mathematics should attempt to anticipate. Moreover, mathematics is a realm no longer restricted to a select few. All young Americans must learn to think mathematically, and they must think mathematically to learn.”

Therefore, if the math in a “Common Core Aligned” textbook looks like the math you experienced as a student, put it down.  It is not aligned to anything other than a marketing plan.

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About Jim Ryan

Jim Ryan no longer works with Key Curriculum Press. His posts and biography have been preserved for the archives. -- I began teaching math at Carlmont High School in the early 90s in the Academy program (read, high-risk students); after 5 years of teaching I moved next door to the San Mateo Union High School District to be an administrator. In 2002 I joined Apple to work on their PowerSchool software. And now, I’ve been with Key for over 6 years. During that time I’ve been the Textbook Product Manager, Professional Development Director, Director of Marketing and now Vice President of Marketing. Yet, when I am asked to evaluate an educational service or product, the first question I ask myself is: How would this help my Academy students learn math?
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20 Responses to Common Core Aligned! Nice new cover.

  1. avatar Heather says:

    Excellent advice! Thank you for pointing this out!

  2. avatar Rick says:

    Good point! I agree that publishers have just claimed “Common Core Alignment” as quickly as they could, making minimal changes. It’s just like before when they would publish versions and try to convince teachers that it was aligned to a particular state’s standards. When you looked closely, the only difference between any of the states’ editions were the standard numbers they were correlated to. I would often read the standard, then look at the section and realize that the standard was only addressed by one problem at the very end of the section (especially standards focused on conceptual understanding or application).

    • avatar Jim Ryan says:

      Rick, you bring up another problem with the “alignment” claims. What constitutes coverage of material? As you describe, many times it is solely a single problem in the homework set.

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  5. Thank you for your insights and experience. Alignment has such great potential, and I feel it is often watered down to meaninglessness for the sake of marketing. I think your advice is wise…caveat emptor. I hope as time passes that we can get some independent, or at least somewhat independent, critical examinations of alignment of curriculum materials out there so we can find out the sort of information your sharing without each teacher having to do it over and over again.

  6. avatar Odena LaFreniere says:

    I completely agree, but now we are stuck with a lack of textbooks. I teach middle school math and I have yet to find a textbook that has sufficient and appropriate alignment to the common core.

    • avatar Lisa Lingle says:

      Have you checked out Glencoe Math? It is written to the CCSS not just aligned to them. It does not come out until Jan. 2012. We are evaluating our text at the middle school level and have not found any other text that comes close.

      • avatar Linda Coffey says:

        Dear Lisa,
        Is Glencoe coming up with a really revamped Algebra 1 textbook in Jan. 2012 that is “really” aligned to the Common Core Standards? If so, what is the name & author?
        Thanks!
        Linda

  7. avatar Katrina S says:

    Anyone have suggestions as to which publishers I should request materials from for grade 7?

  8. avatar Donna says:

    What about Pearsons EnVision series, anyone have this series? Is there anything out there now? We need new texts badly, but our district will not adopt until a math series is aligned with the cs.

    • Have you tried Kendall Hunt’s series? They bought our Discovering Math series for high school which are awesome, but their middle school program is great – inquiry based and more aligned to CCSS (as is Discovering Mathematics series) then the majority of textbooks out there. Standards of Mathematical Practice expecially.

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  11. avatar Linda Coffey says:

    I agree with comments about new cover-same material. We are looking for an Algebra 1 Math book/program that could be used in a two part Algebra 1 course, starting in grade 8 and finishing the Algebra 1 curriculum in grade 9.
    Any ideas???
    Thanks!
    Linda

  12. avatar Amy Salem says:

    Hello,

    What textbook series would you recommend that is alligned to the common core standards for Pre-K through 6th grade for Math and English?

    Thank you,
    Amy

  13. avatar Melisa Hancock says:

    Very good point! We need to be very cautious of any publisher claiming to be aligned to the CCSS, especially anything with a copyright date of 2010 or before since CCSS final draft was NOT released until June 4, 2010. AND, there is no way any company has had time to totally revamped their texts to be aligned to the CCSS, so beware when they make this claim! In the early 90′s there were several “reform curriculum” developed or written FOR the NCTM Standards and funded by NSF. These curriculum are probably the closest thing to the CCSS that you’ll find now……especially in terms of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, the depth of knowledge or cognitive demand that we know students will be expected on the Common Assessment, etc. Here are those reform curriculum: Elementary: Investigations and Trailblazers, Middle School: Connected Mathematics Project (CMP2) and Math in Context (MiC), and High School: Core Plus. Even these publishers do NOT claim to be 100% aligned to the CCSS but say they are working around the clock to revamp their texts so that they are aligned to the CCSS and hopefully, they’ll be ready in a few months. The UT Dana Center did an analysis on several texts, some mentioned above. They analyzed texts for alignment to CCSS Content as well as the Standards for Mathematical Practice. The highest rating a book could get is Moderate with Minimal being the lowest rating. If you go to this site, you’ll see their results:
    http://www.doe.in.gov/achievement/curriculum/mathematics-textbook-reviews-2011

    • Melisa,

      Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I don’t think many folks look beyond the ‘check list’ of requirements for alignment, versus really analyzing whether someone truly does demonstrate real-world application, or provide opportunities for students to think critically or make valid arguments. I would say true alignment is years in the process, especially as we are unpacking the standards.

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