Achieving Alignment in Standards-Based Reform
Alignment, often referred to as "coherence," requires that all elements of a standards-based system are in place—standards, curriculum, professional development, resource allocation, assessments, accountability and community and stakeholder engagement. Additionally, the system must be continuously evaluated and improved upon, including appraisals of its intended and unintended, positive and negative effects. The AFT believes that the success of standards-based reform rests with the alignment of all the components; without alignment, there is little hope for effective education reform.
The AFT's criteria for aligning a state standards-based system include:
- Specific learning goals that direct the overall educational program, provide internal consistency and build system coordination.
- Sequentially phased-in and embedded components that include:
a. Common, rigorous, publicly known academic standards
b. Curricula and materials to support the standards
c. Professional development and capacity-building efforts to support teaching to the standards
d. Resources to maximize support to struggling students
e. "Best practices" models and research to help schools meet standards
f. Systematic, early assistance to students not meeting the standards
g. Engagement of the community and stakeholders around standards-based reform
h. A strong standards-based assessment system
i. A fair and sound accountability policy that makes the standards "count"
The AFT recognizes that state and local contexts vary; nevertheless, all states should take the following first steps toward aligning their standards-based systems of education:
- Involve teachers in all phases of standards-based reform, including developing curricula, test items, performance tasks.
- Explain and justify the standards and performance levels they establish.
- Ensure that parents and the public understand the standards.
- Develop the capacity of schools and teachers to help students meet the high standards.
- Provide assessment results to teachers and the public in a timely manner so that the results can be considered and used to improve instructional programs and professional development activities, and to target interventions and resources most effectively.
- Provide intervention in a timely manner, rather than waiting until students have failed to meet the achievement levels.
- Identify or develop the curricula, materials, and instructional approaches that can be used in effective intervention programs and provide funding for their implementation.
- Continuously evaluate and improve the assessment and accountability systems.