Creating Conditions for Teachers' Use of High-Quality Instructional Materials

A Research, Policy, and Practice Conversation

Published Aug 4, 2022

by Sy Doan, Julia H. Kaufman, Kathy Kelly, Tenette Smith

In this webinar, RAND researchers and state department of education officials in Delaware and Mississippi discuss the work that states and districts are doing to encourage and support the use of high-quality materials. RAND researchers shared findings on adoption, use, and supports for high-quality materials across the United States, and the state representatives reflected on their curriculum reform efforts and highlighted particular school districts that are serving as models for these efforts.


Julia Kaufman

Good afternoon, everyone. It's wonderful to be here to talk through some findings from our just-released report from Tuesday. So, I'm just going to get us started, because we have a lot to talk about.

The report that we just released puts a spotlight on 13 states that are part of the Council of Chief State School Officers Network called the High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development, or IMPD, Network. As we document in our report, these states have made some really impressive strides. Decades of research suggests that states can't do much to impact the instructional core of classroom practice, but these data suggest that that is what's happening in some ways.

So, we've set up this presentation as more of a conversation between our research and the work that is actually happening in these IMPD Network states. I will play a small role in the presentation today by setting up the discussion. My colleague Sy Doan, who has led this report and these analysis, will share some of the most critical findings. And we're really excited to have two state officials here who've been thinking about high-quality materials a long time here to reflect on what is happening in their states.

So, I first want to introduce Kathy Kelly. She's the director of curriculum instruction and professional development at Delaware Department of Education. She began teaching elementary school in Delaware over 28 years ago and has experience as being an instructional coach, ELA curriculum specialist, and along the way has earned her Master's in Educational Leadership and Curriculum. After earning her certificate in school leadership, Kathy was a building administrator for four years. She's been at the Delaware Department of Education for over seven years.

Dr. Tenette Smith currently serves as the executive director of the Office of Elementary Education and Reading with Mississippi Department of Education. Like Kathy, she has served in a wide variety of educator roles. She served as the assistant state K–3 literacy director, an elementary school administrator, a curriculum specialist, a kindergarten teacher, a first-grade teacher, and a field coordinator for an NSF-funded Delta Rural Systemic Initiative. Dr. Smith began her professional career as the director of the Lottie B. Thornton Early Childhood Center at Jackson State University. She has a doctorate in early childhood education and a Master of Science in educational leadership, as well as a Bachelor's of Science in education.

These two women have such a wealth of experience, so I'm so pleased to have them here today. They are also tireless advocates of ensuring all children have access to equitable, rigorous instruction. I'm really looking forward to their remarks.

So, today we're going to talk about— first just give you a brief overview of our report. Then we'll walk through some key findings and invite reflections from our guests. And we'll talk about the next steps for our American Instructional Resources Survey after that.

So, I'm just going to give you a really high-level picture of our report. The first thing we do in our report is summarize strategies of states within the Council of Chief State School Officers Network for Instructional Materials and Professional Development. And then we walk through ten indicators that we've chosen that we think demonstrate whether these state policies are leading to any shifts in teaching and learning. We are looking specifically at adoption of high-quality materials, supports for high-quality materials, teachers' buy-in regarding instructional materials, and use of those instructional materials. Those are the things we can gather through our teacher survey reports. Of course, there are many more things that we cannot gather through teacher survey reports, but those we can see sort of as a first indicator of whether these IMPD Network policies are actually making a difference. The report also shares state-specific profiles on all these indicators across 13 states as well as nationally. And importantly, we explore relationships between IMPD Network participation, adoption, supports, and use of high-quality materials.

Now I'm going to walk briefly through our theory of action—a very simplified theory of action—for what we looked at in order to do these analysis and what's guiding the Council of Chief States School Officers Network in terms of how these things are imagined to play out.

I just want to remind you, too, that there is a Q&A. So, if you do have a question and it's just coming to mind as you're listening, please feel free to type it in. We may have to save a lot of questions to the end, but we can also type responses as you pose questions. So, please do feel free to use that Q&A freely. That'll just help us know what's on your mind as you listen. It'll help us know what kinds of questions are popping up for you.

So, I'm going to walk through this. It's a simplified theory of action in that we know that many other things are going on in the world and in teachers' classrooms that affect what they teach and how they teach. But the basic theory of action for this work is that states' actions—their signals, incentives, mandates, suggesting, encouraging adoption of high-quality materials, as well as their signals about supports, are hoped to lead to actual adoption of more standards-aligned materials in districts. Are hoped to lead to more provision of supports. And the supports we particularly look at in our survey are that the principal encourages use of such curriculum; that schools and principals incorporate curriculum use into their observations and evaluations; and that the school or district provides curriculum-specific professional learning, such as collaborative learning, coaching, workshops. That is hoped to lead to teacher buy-in for these materials—teachers' perceptions that these materials actually adequately help students master standards and cover content in assessments—and lead to their regular use in the classroom. And eventually, then, lead to teachers' engagement in standards and practices in their classroom if they are using these materials that have been vetted to be standards-aligned, which then will lead to students mastering standards. We call it simplified, because we know there's so much more out there in the world that's affecting these outcomes. But the things we are looking at in this report are really in those first sets of boxes from what states are providing to what teachers are doing.

So, how we measure states' actions: We did interviews with State Department of Education officials to really understand the work that they are doing. We also consulted with our Council of Chief State School Officers—officials that we know have a lot of deep knowledge about what's happening—and we also took a look at policy documents and websites.

Now, how we measure school or district actions and teachers' perceptions is through our American Teacher Panel data. There are both some great things about this data and some drawbacks. What's great is that we can really understand what teachers are doing in the classroom using these materials, and we also rely on them to tell us what their school district has adopted or used. Survey self-reports do have, of course, a lot of drawbacks, but we have a lot of data from a lot of teachers across the United States and in these states, which does provide some helpful indications of what is happening.

Just briefly, the American Educator Panels are how we've gathered this data. We have an American Teacher Panel, an American School Leader Panel, and an American School District Panel. These panels consist of educators and administrators who have agreed to respond to periodic surveys on educational issues of national import.

Now, the American Instructional Resources Survey is just one survey of the American Educator Panels. The educator panels randomly select participants. They provide honorariums for the participants based on survey length. And teachers who are on the panels—and there are about 25,000 teachers on the panels and about 8,500 school leaders at this point—they get several online surveys per year. Results can be looked at over time or just by survey.

The American Instructional Resources Survey is the survey in which these findings were based. The survey focus is on what instructional materials for ELA, math, and science are being used in schools; how and why those materials are used; and what factors support their use. Teachers and school leaders who are part of the American Educator Panels received this survey in Spring 2019, 2020, and '21. The 2022 Spring administration has just completed, and we expect to be doing the survey again in future years. Elementary teachers of all subjects, along with ELA, math, and science teachers, are included in our samples. And the sample for this year actually includes social studies teachers, but those aren't findings we can talk about today, because we're focused on Spring 2021 data.

So, I'm just going to briefly talk about some of the strategies that these states have engaged in across the IMPD Network. And then, when Kathy and Tenette talk, they'll dig into what strategies in their states seem to be the most impactful.

We grouped what states were doing in terms of signals and in terms of incentives. These are the most typical ways that states are signaling and encouraging use of these materials. By signals, we mean providing indication of what is high quality in terms of materials and supports for schools and districts to encourage them to use those materials. By incentives and mandates, we mean ways to tie uptake to requirements or resources or some way to incentivize their use.

So, first, I'm going to talk through some of the strategies states are undertaking to encourage use or adoption of high-quality materials. There are about six main strategies that we categorized states as engaging in. The first is provide definition and guidance regarding the quality of instructional materials. For example, Louisiana provides reviews of specific materials which are available online so people can read the reviews and understand what is high quality, what is not, according to Louisiana's ratings. Guidance documents are provided by some states, including Delaware and Mississippi, among others, providing guidance documents to help districts select and implement curriculum. And some districts also provide information about who—which districts—are taking up high-quality materials as a way for all districts to see what's happening in their state and to encourage adoption.

In terms of incentives or mandates, only a few states mandate the adoption of high-quality materials. Instead, states more typically offer a lot of incentives. States like Mississippi and Louisiana have done the procurement work for high-quality materials. It's actually a lot of work for districts to procure materials, but if the states do that work, they can provide low-cost statewide contracts. Then districts don't have to do that work. In addition, many states—including Mississippi and Delaware—offer grants or other funding contingent on the adoption of high-quality materials. So, they say, "you can have this grant money if you've adopted high-quality materials." So, these are just some of the ways that states provide encouragement, signals, and incentives to encourage adoption.

Now, in terms of supports, most states provide guidance on the quality of professional learning. New Mexico, for example, offers a list of high-quality professional learning vendors, and Delaware has just launched Delaware DE—Digital DE—which includes an online vendor guide for supporting high-quality materials. Most states also directly provide at least some high-quality professional learning, and they fund vendors as well. Mississippi has state and literacy and math coaches that provide support aligned with high-quality materials. But in addition, Mississippi has engaged vendors to train math content leaders and literacy ambassadors who are then charged with supporting adoption and implementation.

Now, I'm going to turn it over to Sy so he can talk through a few of the patterns we see in our data and then ask Kathy and Tenette to reflect on them.

Sy Doan

Fantastic. Thanks, Julia. And so, as Julia mentioned, happy to talk about what some of our national survey data say about how states might differ on adoption and usage of HQIM. And then next, we'll talk about supports of HQIM.

And so, what did we do with this mountain of data that we collected? And so, we looked at what teachers said were adopted in their schools in terms of curriculum materials and then what they actually used. And so, we took these teacher-reported data on adoption and usage and matched them to ratings of curriculum materials provided by EdReports. And using that, we were able to calculate the percentages of teachers that said that their school or district adopted at least one standards-aligned curriculum material. And so, what you see here is—in the blue—the percentage of math teachers who indicated that their school or district adopted at least one standards-aligned curriculum material, which is 44%. And in the red, ELA teachers at 32%.

And of course, adoption doesn't necessarily equate to usage. And so, we also asked teachers, well, which of these materials did you actually use? And so, we have two different indicators of usage. One is what we call regular usage. So, this indicates that they use this material at least one time a week. And at the very bottom, we have an indicator called intensive usage. And these are teachers that indicated they use the standards-aligned material for at least 50% of instructional time. And so, two broad trends to notice here is that both adoption and usage of HQIM is higher among math teachers than it is among ELA teachers. And secondly, as we go from adoption to regular usage to intensive usage, you can see the percentage of teachers reporting each of those indicators dropping off a little bit. And then this highlights sort of the implementation pipeline and the troubles and challenges of getting teachers to actually use HQIM within the classroom.

For states in the IMPD Network, we were also able to look at state-specific numbers and kind of compare them to the national average in terms of adoption and usage. And so, this is a big chart here, showing whether or not each of the states in the IMPD Network significantly differed from the national average in terms of ELA, in terms of adoption and usage. And so, we can see here is that on average, states in the IMPD Network were more likely to adopt and use standards-aligned materials relative to the rest of the nation. But even within the network, there's a lot of variation in terms of whether states had higher rates of adoption and usage, about the national average rates of adoption and usage, or significantly lower adoption and usage. And so, that's what the trends looked like in ELA.

And then this is sort of an analogous chart showing what it looks like for mathematics as well. And so, what's very, very exciting here is that, if you look at the column for Delaware and the column for Mississippi here, we have two leaders in two states that do particularly well in terms of both adoption and usage of HQIM.

And so, what I would like to do here—to talk about something rather than data and talk about actual policy on the ground—is switch over to our two representatives from Delaware and Mississippi here just to talk a little bit more about the different policies that they've been using in their state, where they've seen a lot of traction in terms of encouraging adoption and usage of HQIM. And so, Kathy, I'm going to ask you to start here and talk a little bit about what Delaware has been doing to help encourage adoption and usage.

Kathy Kelly

Thanks, Sy. So, initially we began our work in Delaware just by continuing to use the benefit of being a small state and build those relationships with our districts and charters. Each of our content areas in ELA and mathematics has cadres and coalitions that we meet regularly with representatives from across the state. So, that allows us to work with our an LEAs and determine what instructional materials they do have in use and kind of really talk to them and provide them some professional learning around the importance of high-quality instructional materials.

We also took advantage of the relationships that we were able to build within the IMPD Network. We had access to national experts from across the nation that we could reach out to and bring them in and have them support our districts and charters. With one of those trusted partners, Rivet Education, we conducted a landscape analysis to more clearly define what success should look like in a classroom. Were we able to walk into these meetings that we were having with our an LEAs and define for them what we expected from a state level?

So, that led us to develop our own coherent theory of action. We had a vision in Delaware that we wanted every student to leave school ready for success in college, career, and life. But were we seeing that when we went into classrooms? So, we wanted to define what does that look like in action in districts and charters? What school-system shifts do districts have to—and charters—have to make for that to happen?

So, what we established was that students— in order for students to leave school ready for college and career and life, teachers must provide them with high-quality, standards-aligned instruction every day. In order for teachers to do that, they have to have the knowledge and skills to provide that standards-aligned instruction to students, and high-quality instructional materials were essential to that. And in order for them to be able to do that, district and charter leaders had to provide the high-quality professional learning. And that became our theory of action. Back to Julia's point earlier, where her theory of action was very simplified—so was Delaware's. It was a very simple theory of action, but it was a place for us to start our professional learning. And that became our theory of action and our instructional vision that we took back to our districts and charters. Our data didn't always show that that's what was happening. So, that became the cohesive academic foundation that we helped districts and charters kind of rally around.

After we had that vision, then we worked as a team to define academic priorities and definitions and key messages so that everyone was speaking the same language, not just within our workgroup, but across the department and across the state. And we did this by defining what high-quality instructional materials and high-quality professional learning was. Creating a set of these priorities not only guided our work within the agency, but it helped us scale HQIM and an HQPL, helped us focus the districts and the tasks that they should be using to create this work.

And then we created a set of key messages. Rivet helped us create one-pagers that defined high-quality instructional material and—or, materials—and high-quality professional learning. What does that look like? So, when someone asked, we had at the ready these materials that we could hand out, these one-pagers and guidance documents and informational pieces that we were able to give to anyone who asked the question, from legislators to school board members, anyone. We could give them the information that really, in a very succinct and easy-to-understand way, understand why this work was important.

We also brought in these experts that we had access to. We brought in EdReports and had them meet with our curriculum directors directly and talk to them about the why and how EdReports worked. We brought in Student Achievement Partners to talk about the shifts that we needed to make in instruction. We adopted the standards many years ago, but we hadn't changed our instructional practices. We hadn't changed the work that we were doing. So, there was some unlearning that had to take place. So, we talked about— we talked about what needed to happen. And then we worked with an LEAs to provide consultative services just around that work. What does it look like to just pilot materials?

And then we provided lots of guidance documents and resources. We worked with Instruction Partners to really figure out, how do we leverage the curriculum support guide? And that became one of the guiding documents that our districts use as probably one of the most-accessed documents on our website, is really looking at that curriculum support guide to think about all of the stages of piloting, launching, adoption, and sustained implementation. That has become one of the greatest resources we have. And, you know, we got this from one of our vendors.

We want to always try to make the right choice the easy choice for them. What can we do from a state agency that really supports them in just making it as easy as possible? As a local control state, we want to make sure we're giving them all of the information that they need to make the right choice the easiest choice they can make. We have a regulation in Delaware, while we don't control— like I said, we're local control. So, they make the choices that are best for their districts and charters. We do have a regulation that indicates that their curricular adoptions must be aligned to our state standards. So, the right choice and the easy choice is adopting high-quality instructional materials. If you do that in ELA and mathematics, then it's aligned to state standards. So, that's one of those carrots that we have for our districts and charters.

We also followed Louisiana's lead and began working with Teaching Lab to train ELA and mathematics content leaders so that we had experts that could go back into districts and charters and provide the support that they needed during this process. And then, like Julia mentioned before, we created lots of guidance documents and supports. And in every one of those guidance documents and supports, high-quality instructional materials were a core tenet. They had— that had to be; that was a non-negotiable.

And so, once we had all of these resources, we had to have a place to have them. We would— we would have professional learnings, or we would present to teachers of the year and different groups, and we would find out that they didn't know certain things existed. So, we really needed to create a place where things were getting out to teachers and— that we could really market. And that's where Digital DE was born. So, it became this online portal for the best-in-class resources, and that was where we were really able to spotlight high-quality instructional materials as a piece of that portal that was just spotlighted there. And so, that's when we really started to see a rapid and steady increase in math and ELA adoptions. It was like a snowball. It was almost faster than we could keep up with. And that's when we started to shift into the professional learning that educators needed to skillfully implement those high-quality instructional materials that they had.

We also partnered with Knowledge Matters to do a school campaign. And so, we saw three of our districts—Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, and Seaford—who were doing some amazing things, and we were able to really spotlight the stories that they could tell of where they were in their journey. And then they were able to provide inspiration for other districts and charters across the state. So, they helped share the story of how their high-quality instructional materials can really deliver knowledge-rich curriculum to Delaware students—all of our students. Not just some students, but every student that was sitting in front of them, regardless of what they brought to the table. So, that was really an inspirational piece that then other districts were like, "How do I get my story told? And what else can I share across the state?"

So, we knew that the professional learning piece was the next piece that we really needed to focus on and get that out there for all of our— get more supports out there for all of our districts and charters. And so, that's when we really needed to start focusing on our strategy, our core strategy for professional learning. And I think I'll talk about that a little more in our next section, but that's really around our Reimagining Professional Learning Grants that Julia mentioned very briefly before. And I think I'll turn it over to Tenette now.

Tenette Smith

Hi. Thanks, Kathy.

So, Mississippi—I think it's important that we note that when these surveys were conducted, it was— they were conducted in spring of '19, spring of '20, and spring of 2021. And we all know what was happening during that time, or beginning to happen, correct?

So, in Mississippi, we followed our—used our—textbook adoption timeline. We are bound by state statute as to when, how– when and how we can adopt instructional material in the state. And so, the state statute tells us who can serve as a part of the review committee. The Mississippi Department of Education is provided the option of setting the parameters. And in the past, we were loosely— our parameters were very loosely set at, you know, instructional materials only had to be 80% aligned. Well, the alignment differed based on the view of the review committee. Right? The belief— so, it was very subjective. And we sought—when we became a member of the IMPD Network in 2017—we sought to make it more objective in nature, and we knew that we wanted to increase the amount of students who had access to this high-quality instructional material.

So, in 2017, as we looked across the state, we noted that we had about 15% of our districts respond to a survey, and very few of them were using anything that would have been considered high quality at that time. And we knew that we had to set in place— we needed to do it in shifts. Whereas Delaware has the option of working from a small parameter, in Mississippi, we have— in Mississippi, we have 152 districts that we serve, 138 public schools, seven charter, and three state schools. And so, our plan of action had to be very strategic and sequential in nature.

So, our math adoption was next in line, so we decided to start with our math adoption. And we started that out by working with EdReports to develop rubrics so that our reviewers, as they came in, they would understand what we were meaning when we said 80% aligned to our Mississippi College- and Career-Readiness Standards. We worked with SAP to sort of frontload those reviewers so that they would come in and they would understand what this— what those standards talked about when they looked at those mathematical practices. So, we started with math. And you noticed in the chart, in the data collected, that math saw— had a significantly higher amount of teachers who said they had adopted high-quality instructional material.

Well, our math adoption took place in spring of '20 with implementation rollout planning for the fall of '20. And we were basically providing instruction via hybrid or in a virtual setting. So, with that in mind, we knew that we had to provide some additional supports, because the one thing we did not want to happen was, as teachers and students transition back into the classroom— it's hard to teach with high-quality instructional material, because you have to change the way you think. We did not want them to drop it because it was hard. So, we put in place many support strategies to assist them with the use of that.

We worked with Instruction Partners to help superintendents think about the contingencies, all of the things that could happen as the students were working in a virtual or hybrid setting. And what your teacher— the teachers needed in order to be able to effectively implement those high-quality instructional material in math that they received. We worked with Instruction Partners, who focused on a small group of the willing districts. We had about 14 districts who participated in a cohort, or a community of practice, where they focused on the adoption—process for adoption—plus how they planned to roll out and implement in a unsure setting, whether it's virtual or hybrid. So, we worked with those two partners to help us get these—we call "them districts of the willing"—ready and able to roll that implementation strategy out. So, that's why you see that big increase in the mathematics portion.

We noted that within the cohort of the willing, we also had some stars, some bright lights. Jackson Public Schools, they were what we consider early adopters. They not only adopted math, but their superintendent was a Mississippi transplant. And so, he knew that high-quality instructional material was a key or pivotal piece—component—of what he needed to improve that district's outcomes. So, not only did he implement or adopt high-quality math instructional material, but prior to our review and adoption of high-quality ELA, he sought it— took it upon himself to have his teachers do a review and vet and adopt high-quality ELA instructional material.

Mississippi— most of Mississippi's school districts across the state, they vary. We have one that is considered urban. We used to have— Jackson Public Schools used to be considered the only urban. But it's shifted; their population has shifted. DeSoto County is the urban school district, and Jackson Public School is right under the urban threshold, as they've lost several of the student population. And then the majority of our school districts are very rural. And so, we knew that we had to provide access to professional learning opportunities to support their implementation of that math high-quality instructional material.

In the meantime, we were providing supports in the schools who had been identified with our coaching practices, and I'll talk a little bit more about that as we move to the next section. Within the confines of our schools, we had about 18 school districts who really are what we consider highfliers in wanting to go above and beyond. And within that, we have several who are spending—investing—more than a quarter of a million dollars' worth of funding or more to provide professional learning and long-term support for implementation of both ELA and math instructional material. Itawamba School District, Pass Christian, as well as Bay Waveland School District. And we had some school districts that have consistently underperformed who are working— doing innovative practices and things that go beyond what we usually see in those school districts, including Clarksdale School District in our Mississippi Delta. And so, they are working to provide long-term systemic—or systematic—support in the implementation of their high-quality instructional materials.

Julia Kaufman

Thank you so much, both of you. Really struck by just how purposeful you've been in setting the groundwork for all this. How much communication. How many partnerships. It's not easy work, but it is impressive how much you've done. I'm going to pass it back to Sy now. But just a reminder to just post questions if you have them for Kathy or Tenette or any of us as we go, and we can try to even answer them during— through typing in responses if we don't have quite enough time at the end. Sy, I'm going to pass it back to you.

Sy Doan

Sounds good. And I just want to echo Julie again: Kathy and Tenette, thank you so much for sharing all of those strategies. We had— there's a boatload of different strategies there that I think are really interesting and fascinating, and it really cues up the next section perfectly when we're talking about, what are the different supports that are in place for adopting and using HQIM?

And so, some of the things that we can measure within our survey are— one is, kind of, measures of principal feedback. And so, Tenette and Kathy, I was struck by how much you were talking about trying to encourage buy-in at the district level, buy-in at the school level, about the importance of HQIM. And so, in the context of the survey, this is sort of our way of trying to get at that. And so, we asked teachers to indicate whether or not principals encouraged them to use the required curricula and whether or not principals considered how teachers use curricula and the context of their observations. And so, we sort of use these as proxy indicators for how bought-in were principals are about encouraging use of HQIM within their schools? And the second big bucket of supports that we asked about here were professional learning. And so, we asked specifically teachers whether or not they engaged in collaborative learning, coaching, or workshops at least four times a year that was focused on their use of main materials. And of course, that engagement in professional learning that's specifically tied around usage of curriculum, another important indicator of support for HQIM.

Like what we see for adoption and usage—a lot more in terms of adoption and usage—a lot of the states within the IMPD Network were higher on average, but on the whole they looked more similar to the nation when we compared to adoption and usage. And so, this was true for ELA. Again, Delaware—particularly for professional learning when it comes to ELA—significantly higher than the average. And then in terms of mathematics, both Delaware and Mississippi kind of reflecting Tenette's earlier point about an earlier focus on adoption of HQIM in math in terms of their strategy as well.

And so, what we're going to do is, again, return to both Tenette and Kathy here and ask them to reflect a little bit on supports. And so, something that would be awesome if you could reflect on, and so— in a lot of ways, you can't talk about strategies for adoption and usage without talking about supports. And so— those things are kind of intertwined in our earlier conversations. And so, I think what would be best right now is if both of you—and starting with Tenette—you know, what was the most impactful support in terms of the various multitude of things that you shared? What would be the most impactful strategy for adopting HQIM strategies that you used in Mississippi? So, Tenette, I'll ask you to start first, talk about Mississippi, and then Kathy. What's your one silver bullet, so to speak, about supports for HQIM use?

Tenette Smith

Well, we never say— see, we never say "silver bullet" in Mississippi. There is no silver bullet. But we do tribute a lot of our successes to our coaching strategies that we implemented within the state. Mississippi has invested millions of dollars in providing literacy support coaches to schools and districts across the state. Our literacy coaches are well-versed in all of the instructional materials. Some of them are experts in Wit & Wisdom, some of them are experts in myView, some of them are experts in Wonders, et cetera. But they are experts in the— in literacy, in the science of reading. And we've also recently implemented math coaching strategies to support our schools who are struggling with implementation of mathematics or having lower outcomes in math. So, I think that the long-term systematic explicit support of teachers within the classroom as they are implementing the instructional material has led to greater outcomes for us because it's not as easy to set it down or set it to the side if you have someone there who is available to support you and encourage you not to.

Sy Doan

That's fantastic. And Kathy, would you like to share one of your key strategies, not necessarily a silver bullet, but a key strategy, shall we say?

Kathy Kelly

Sure. Thanks, Sy. So, we have our Reimagining Professional Learning Grants. And we've been offering those competitive grants since 2016, and they were an outcropping from Common Ground for the Common Core, which was an initiative we started after districts needed support for implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

However, we started to— they've been an evolution since 2016. We leveraged that strategy to more tightly align those awards of those grants to high-quality professional learning aligned to high-quality instructional materials. And then we worked with our partner Rivet to develop a multi-year plan to strategically align those grants and make those intentional connections between HQIM and an HQPL over that course of three years. So, it wasn't to say that districts were automatically going to stop receiving supports that they had, but we were slowly transitioning them to align to our theory of action. And teachers and school leaders need many other types of an PD, but we wanted to send a message that this was the kind of professional learning we were going to support from the curriculum and instruction team.

So, the grants are programs that were started by an DOE, and they're really— we really want to tie those pieces together. So, over the past two years, the department's worked to shift the priorities of these grants from funding a variety of professional learning to only funding professional learning that includes the selection of HQIM that supports a district's instructional vision, the implementation of new HQIM aligned to that vision, or refining instructional practice through the skillful use of high-quality instructional materials.

So, each year we really work to support those districts. We provide liaisons from the department who are highly trained in the systemic approaches it takes to build that vertical spine from the superintendent's office to the district curriculum office to the building admin level, to the classroom, to the student experience. So, really building that vertical spine all the way through. And that's— we've finally, between last year and this year, gotten to that point where we really see those tight connections.

And we had another Knowledge Matters tour this past spring where we were able to highlight three more districts who were really doing a nice job. We were able to visit Appoquinimink, Brandywine, and Caesar Rodney and really spotlight the work they were doing and see that vertical spine in action where everyone was speaking the same language, from the superintendent all the way down to the classroom teacher, and, in some cases, students were having— they were all speaking the same language about their materials. And to the teacher and superintendent level, they were speaking the same message about the professional learning.

So, I would say that's probably our highest-impact strategy. And we've tied it to that online vendor guide that Julia mentioned before so that people know who are the trusted vendors they can partner with, who can do this work with them. They don't have to do it on their own.

Sy Doan

That's fantastic. And Kathy, I'm not going to waste the opportunity to use an excellent— something you said as an excellent transition. So, you used the phrase "tight connections." And so, that's something that we look at in the context of our national data as well. And so, we wanted to see how— broadly, how all of these things were interconnected. And so, if you're a part of the IMPD network, does that lead to more adoption usage supports? If you have more supports nationally, do we see evidence that that's linked to adoption and usage? And to kind of give a summary of what we find, we find that it depends. It depends on being in specific conditions where these supports and usage can grow. And so, what do I mean by that?

First, what we looked at here was just whether or not the adoption of a standards-aligned material was different within teachers within IMPD states and teachers who were not in IMPD states. And so, in ELA, we find that both longstanding original IMPD Network members and new IMPD members were significantly more likely to report that their teachers in ELA had adopted a standards-aligned material. And within math, teachers in original IMPD Network states were significantly more likely to report having adopted a standards-aligned material.

So, what did I mean by HQIM thriving in specific conditions? And so, we can look at sort of the classification of where teachers are based on whether or not, one, are you in an IMPD state? And two, have you adopted high-quality instructional material? And so, you can think about the four quadrants of these things. But the quadrant that we find the best success in is that, what we call, condition four. And so, these are teachers who are both in IMPD states and receiving these supports, as well as teachers who said that their schools or districts had adopted an HQIM.

And to just show one sort of illustrative example for why this matters, we take a look at the rates of professional development reported by teachers and kind of split them out across these four conditions. And so, what we see here is just the percentage of teachers that indicated that they participated in workshops or trainings on materials at least four times a year. It's at 12% among teachers who are neither in IMPD and they said that their school or district had not adopted HQIM. If we shift to the right, these are teachers in an IMPD state, but not in a school or district that had adopted an HQIM. So, not much of a difference there. Shifting to condition three here, these are teachers not in an IMPD state, but their schools or districts had adopted an HQIM, and so a little bit higher. But where we see that dark green bar, right, the one that's the highest—that's in condition four. And so, these are the teachers who are both in IMPD states and their schools or districts had adopted HQIM, where you see those highest rates of the supports that we were talking about. And this is sort of a broadly consistent pattern we see across the different types of professional development that we have on the screen here, such as coaching and collaborative learning, as well as some of those personal support indicators that we had talked about previously.

When we look at how these conditions for flourishing are related to actual usage of HQIM, what you see on the bars here is in the light green bars—the lightest of the green—those are teachers that said they did not use an HQIM whatsoever. In the middle green bars, those are teachers that said that they regularly use HQIM—so, that's once a week or more—but they didn't intensively use them, which is using for 50% or more of instructional time. And in the darkest green bars on top, those are the teachers that said that they use these materials intensively. And so, as a reminder, in conditions one and two, those are the teachers that said that their schools or districts didn't adopt HQIM. And so, as you can expect—and this is sort of the biggest no-brainer that we find in our report—if you said that your school or district didn't adopt an HQIM, you were very likely not to use it at all. And so, that's kind of one key finding.

But where we see a little bit of nuance is if we compare teachers specifically that said that they adopted an HQIM, but we see a little bit of difference depending on whether or not they are in an IMPD state. And so, among those teachers that said that they adopted an HQIM, teachers in IMPD states were more likely to use these materials intensively. And so, this means for 50% or more of instructional time. And so, what this says is that once you've adopted, other factors, like being in an IMPD state, this can influence the intensity with which you use your HQIM.

And so, sort of a summary for these other factors that we talked about. Do these matter for usage or not? So, again, we find that these factors matter, but again, only in the conditions where these materials are set to thrive, which we define as being in both an IMPD state and your school or district having adopted an HQIM. And so, specifically within teachers where both those conditions apply, we find that principals encouraging the use of required curricula and considering curricular use and observations, that drives up the intensity of usage for standards-aligned materials. And similarly, when we ask teachers what they believed of the materials themselves—whether they mastered state standards or whether they were adequate for mastering the content of state assessments—this mattered, too, for the intensity of usage, but again only if these teachers were in IMPD states and their schools or districts had adopted HQIM. If neither of these things were apparent in your state, these factors didn't matter. And so, one key for unlocking sort of that theory of action that Julia had described in the beginning was making sure that you had all the prerequisite steps of being in an IMPD Network and receiving those reports as well as adopting an HQIM. And so, right now I'm going to pass it off to Julia to summarize what we found and some next steps for this work.

Julia Kaufman

Thank you, Sy. So, what we find really compelling about these findings in particular is just the benefits of being in an IMPD state over and above not being an IMPD state for making this theory of action work. Which suggests that, taken together, all the things that the IMPD Network is doing are likely leading to shifts not only in what teachers— what's being adopted, but also what teachers are using and whether they're using these things more intensely and whether they're receiving the supports that are intended. So, the theory of action is indeed playing out in some way, which is amazing to see as a researcher. That's not something, to be completely candid, we often see.

So, some of the implications include adoption as an important gateway for both usage and how supports are linked to usage. So, that adoption is big for all these other things, even for supports on your curriculum. So, it does suggest that districts that are more likely to adopt these high-quality materials are also thinking about the importance of curriculum-aligned supports and that it's so important for teachers to receive some support on what they're actually going to be using in the classroom. And so, it's more of, like, an overall mindset among these districts in some ways and maybe encouraged by the network.

Our findings suggest roles for leaders at every level of governance, from state leaders to district leaders. Really struck by what Tenette and Kathy talked about in terms of just the need for collaboration between the state, between districts to make all this work happen. Bringing in other partners to support districts and support schools. And support school leaders as well. School leaders are sometimes left out of the picture but appear to be a really important part of all this in terms of supporting teachers to use curriculum, observing and seeing whether teachers are using curriculum, and really trying to support use of curriculum in classrooms among teachers.

So, just briefly, these are our next steps for the American Instructional Resources Survey. We completed our data collection for this year, and what is really exciting this year is we're also gathering data on what's being used in social studies, which is far different from ELA and math and even science in terms of our knowledge of what's happening in social studies classrooms. So, very excited about that. We're thinking about a number of different reports that include those— addressing what new instructional materials have been used this past year, potentially purchased through an ESSER funding. Are they meeting teachers' needs? What materials are used for social studies? And how much time and money do teachers spend on their instruction? So, we'll be excited to share all that.

Now we'd like to turn to some questions. And there was one question asked in the Q&A that I'm going to ask now. And if you do have other questions, would love for you to post them in the Q&A so that we can try to address them here.

So, this question is one I'd be really interested in Kathy and Tenette's take on. The question is: Learning Forward recently updated professional learning standards. Similarly, Danielson released an updated framework for teaching. Both of these resources weave in the use of HQIM. Do you recommend states adopt and/or align publicly with these resources to signal use of HQIM to schools and district leaders?

What I think is really exciting is that HQIM is weaved into these kinds of resources and tools. But maybe I'll start with Kathy here. Kathy, do you have any thoughts about this? Like, do you think about adoption and alignment to these kinds of tools and how it supports your work to encourage use of HQIM?

Kathy Kelly

Absolutely. And we actually—in Delaware—adopted the Standards for Professional Learning into regulation, and so we'll be looking to update Learning Forward's most recent version of the standards in the next— probably within the next school year. And they are part of our Reimagining Professional Learning Grant. So, when— we offer, as part of that grant and part of the technical assistance, we have an annual professional learning summit. And we had— I guess it was last year, in 2021, when those standards were still in draft, we had Learning Forward come and present those standards to kind of set the stage of why the connection between professional learning and instructional materials. And it wasn't just a Delaware thing; it was— this was a national movement. And— that Learning Forward and the Standards for Professional Learning for educators was embracing this movement behind high-quality instructional materials. So, that's work that we already had underway in Delaware. So, yes, we are definitely looking at, you know— would advise that, making those connections.

Julia Kaufman

And Tenette, how does this look in Mississippi?

Tenette Smith

Yeah, I agree with Kathy completely. We've done very similar work. We've made sure that we have used the alignment from Learning Forward—the Learning Forward standards—with our Office of Professional Development.

The other thing that I've neglected to say is that Mississippi has been very purposeful in our adoption and use of the term high-quality instructional material. We don't use that very leniently. It's very structured. We do have— within my office, the Office of Elementary Education and Reading, we do have English language supports. We have intervention supports. And so, we always talk about tier one instruction being given back through this high-quality instructional material. And so, it's embedded within the confines of our multi-tiered systems of supports. It's embedded within the confines of what we provide for students with disabilities. It's embedded within how we— our English-learner standards. So, we are very cognizant of the fact that they have to have this instructional material.

And teachers and administrators as well as kiddos need to know that, you know, we are listening to them. We have a student advisory council who sits on our superintendents— sits on the State Board of Education, and they convene students from all over the state to weigh in. And they have been very vocal in their support of high-quality instructional material because unfortunately, in some of their schools, they did have books that were very, very outdated, and especially in social studies. And so, they have made it very clear that their expectation as a student is that they would have access to high-quality material for usage in the classroom.

Julia Kaufman

Thank you. That's really helpful. So, Giovanni asked a great question that I would love also to get Kathy and Tenette's thoughts on. To support teachers, do language learner standards, Universal Design for Learning, and social and emotional standards provide the instructional support that enables students to have success with high-quality materials?

That's such an important question right now, because oftentimes when we talk to teachers, we hear them struggling with use of some high-quality materials, sometimes because they feel like they don't provide scaffolds, that they don't support students to get to that grade-level material. What— maybe I'll start with Tenette here. What are your thoughts about Giovanni's question?

Tenette Smith

Yes, Giovanni. As I stated before, we work very closely with our English-learner support personnel, as well as with our Office of Special Education, who developed our an UDL frameworks. And our office of— our counseling office, who we worked with on our social and emotional standards. And so, all of that is embedded. And we're working on support documents that show them—teachers—we're not asking you to do something that's outside of the framework of those, you know, the supports that you need to provide for your English learners or your students with emotional or social issues. Within the confines of our definition of high-quality instructional material, we want it to be all-inclusive. And so, it should speak to students who are struggling, students who are gifted, students who are learning a different— from a different language. So, it was very broad definition. And so, as we looked at the instructional material, we made sure that they aligned with that. So— and if it does not align, we also identify resources that will plug in and fill those holes. And I think that's the important part. If— because not every material has all of the components that you'll need. And so, it's about finding those supports or those resources that will fill those holes that you've identified and providing the supports to the teachers so that they are able and feel more confident in providing instruction.

Julia Kaufman

Thank you. Kathy, thoughts?

Kathy Kelly

I would just echo everything Tenette just said on that one. You know, we have done a lot of work around Universal Design for Learning and using an UDL as the pathway for students to gain access— all students to gain access to high-quality tier one instruction. And that there are multiple shades of green on EdReports. And so, just because it's green, it doesn't mean it's the right resource for every district and every charter, you know, every school system that's out there. That's why one of the reasons the Curriculum Support Guide has been so helpful to a lot of our organizations and our systems within Delaware is that it really forces them to look at what's right for their students. And like Tenette said, not every resource has all of the pieces that you need for all of the learners that are in your system, so you really need to dig deep into all the criterion within EdReports.

Julia Kaufman

Thanks so much. There is one last question here. We only have about a minute, but I think it's a good question. It's about how— without national standards akin to Next Generation or the Common Core, how do you measure the ability of a resource to be HQIM in social studies? I know states are working on some resources there. Kathy or Tenette, do you have any thoughts on that right now?

Tenette Smith

We are still reviewing our social studies standards, so I'm going to—

Julia Kaufman

Yeah, pass on that one for right now.

Kathy Kelly

We're still struggling, too.

Julia Kaufman

Yeah, yeah. I think it's a big area of discussion moving forward.

Well, thank you so much, everyone. Thank you to our panelists. Thank you to our audience. Thank you for your questions. We so appreciate it.

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