Overcoming Challenges of Standards Alignment

(3) Teachers’ ability to evaluate alignment : Understanding the concept of alignment is relatively easy; applying the concept is much more difficult. Having interviewed and trained hundreds of educators to review the alignment of materials, we have found that determining whether a material is aligned is a technical skill that few educators have the opportunity or time to hone. Thus, teachers' lack of understanding of how to review the alignment of a citation may cause them to think that the material is not well aligned. This white paper explores what alignment means and why it is so important to use standards-aligned instructional materials. We then illustrate common challenges in reviewing materials’ alignment to standards and provide strategies for overcoming them.

The Three Cs of a Standard

For purposes of this paper, the word citation refers to either a stand-alone resource (e.g., worksheet, activity, lesson plan) or part of an instructional material.

To determine whether a citation is aligned to a standard, one must understand what the standard requires students to know and be able to do. Each standard contains three parts: content, context, and cognitive rigor . These are the three Cs of a standard .


The standard’s content describes what students are required to learn/ know by the end of the course. The content of the standard is typically stated in the noun(s) of the standard. For example:


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