This toolkit, along with an accompanying workbook and slide deck, is intended to help district and school leaders investigate and reflect on the extent to which coherence is present in their instructional systems.
Coherent Instructional Systems
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Academic standards. Curriculum materials. Professional development. Learning communities. Teacher evaluations. Student assessments.
These are some of the key components that make up an instructional system. But how can schools and districts be confident that all components work together in ways that help teachers know what and how to teach?
Coherence in messaging is key when it comes to giving all students opportunities to master standards and experience academic success. To support student success, schools, districts, and states can intentionally design coherent instructional systems. What might it mean for a school or district to have a coherent instructional system?
- All education components—from textbooks to teacher development to end-of-term tests—would support high-quality standards.
- Teachers would know what standards to teach and how to teach them to the student populations they serve. Curriculum and professional learning opportunities support teachers in doing so.
- Students would be assessed according to their mastery of the standards. Interim assessments aligned with a standards-based curriculum would help teachers gauge students’ progress and make instructional adjustments.
- Professional learning supports and evaluations would to help educators use a standards-aligned curriculum and assessment data in ways that help all students succeed.
Comparing Instructional Systems
Want more examples of what it means to be in a coherent instructional system? Or an incoherent one? Drawing on their qualitative case study interviews with school leaders and teachers, RAND researchers developed a toolkit that guides district and school leaders to reflect upon and improve coherence within their instructional system. The toolkit includes illustrative vignettes of two teachers: one in a coherent system and one in an incoherent system.
Access the Toolkit and Read the Vignettes
Of course, education systems are complex; designing and implementing a coherent instructional system is no simple feat. RAND Education and Labor researchers are exploring how states, schools, and districts across the United States are successfully creating coherence to shed light on what works and what doesn’t to support best practices.
State Curriculum Reforms and Their Potential Contribution to Instructional System Coherence: A Case Study of Rhode Island and Tennessee 2023
RAND researchers investigate how English language arts curriculum reforms in Rhode Island and Tennessee might be related to the adoption and use of standards-aligned curriculum materials and teachers’ perceptions of instructional system coherence.
Teachers' Perceptions of Coherence in K–12 English Language Arts and Mathematics Instructional Systems 2023
RAND researchers interviewed a sample of members of the American Teacher Panel who responded to the spring 2022 Coherent Instructional Systems Survey to examine how teachers perceive and navigate coherence within their instructional systems.
Coherence in English Language Arts and Mathematics Instructional Systems Across the United States 2023
Using survey responses from a nationally representative sample of public school kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) English language arts and math teachers, RAND researchers examine teachers' perceptions of instructional system coherence.
The authors focus on teachers' perceptions of the guidance received on English language arts instruction and instructional system coherence during the first full year of COVID-19 (2020–2021), and how teachers' perceptions compared with 2019–2020.
Coherence among instructional components is key to changing teachers' practices in standards-based reforms. This report uses survey data to explore the coherence of school-level instructional systems in Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.