By Guest blogger: Steven Helton, Department of Public Instruction with NC Public Schools

2016/08/26

It was my discovery of EdReports.org, their process, and comprehensive reviews that compelled me to become a reviewer on the EdReports team. The reports provide a golden opportunity to strengthen programs and support teachers. For teachers already asked to do so much with limited time, EdReports reviews are a wonderful gift. The reviews assist them in selecting the best-aligned resources so they can focus their time on refining and differentiating their instruction rather than on supplementing and filling gaps in materials.

I’ve spent three decades in education in a variety of roles representing a myriad of opportunities in education – roughly a third as a teacher, another third as an assistant principal and principal, and a third at the district level as the elementary education director for a North Carolina public school district. At the district level I supported 10 schools and their teachers, coaches, and administrators, helping to make decisions that fostered increased outcomes for our students.

In particular, I led the district’s process of identifying the best standards-aligned math materials. We reviewed many programs and materials using rubrics and online resources to guide our work. Ultimately, we made a recommendation to use a large portion of Title 1 funds to implement a new series in all of our K-5 classrooms. We poured our hearts and souls into that process, knowing the importance of our decision.

Shortly following our new implementation, EdReports.org launched its reviews of K-8 instructional materials, including the series we had chosen. Because of my role with the district, I was able to compare the depth of their review and our own, validate our decision with my colleagues, and share with the teachers and coaches using the materials.

The adoption of new materials is difficult at best, and being able to refer to our own work and now that of a national organization with educators doing the reviews, helped to motivate and reinvigorate our teachers in the implementation at the classroom level. I only wish we had the reports to consult during our own selection process, because it would have made the process much easier. The EdReports.org reviews are an invaluable tool for teachers, schools, and districts as they make critical materials adoption decisions that will affect student learning for years to come.

Additionally, the reviews can strengthen administrator and teacher collaboration. While the reviews don’t replace ongoing dialogue among teachers about how they bring materials to life in their classrooms, educators can use the reviews and the evidence across indicators to inform their vision of how materials should be used in their classrooms. The reports are a rich source of information that helps teachers identify strengths and needs in their curriculum resources.

I now regularly share my excitement about being an EdReports reviewer with other educators, and it has become even more clear to me that the math and ELA review tools, the front-line role of educators, and the deep examination of materials against standards is improving the quality of instruction. I congratulate EdReports.org on the inaugural 3-8 ELA reports to be released, and encourage you to take advantage of a golden opportunity to discover the reports and how they can work for you.

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