Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012

Teachers learn about Total Instructional Alignment at a recent conference held on the Idaho State campus.

ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan

Meeting New Standards

Fall 2012 Issue | By Andrew Taylor

Idaho's ability to meet the challenge of adopting the national Common Core State Standards that will be implemented in the 2013-14 school year for preschool through high school students may hinge in part on instructional integration method developed and being presented by the Idaho State University College of Education's Intermountain Center for Educational Effectiveness (ICEE).

The ICEE began offering a method of teaching, Total Instructional Alignment, to 10 Idaho school districts in 2008 and now has trained hundreds of K-12 teachers throughout the state in scores of the state's school districts utilizing the Total Instructional Alignment model. The ICEE has offered it to 52 school districts in Southeast Idaho alone.

The Common Core State Standards are designed to ensure every student that graduates from an Idaho high school is prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce, and once there, not need remediation. These standards have been adopted by 45 U.S. states and three territories.

"Total Instruction Alignment (TIA) is a method of unpacking and implementing the new standards. TIA will help ensure that kids are taught exactly what they need to know and be able to do," said Chuck Zimmerly, ICEE director.

"The new core standards and Total Instructional Alignment are the platforms to address four major challenges for educators," Zimmerly said.

Those challenges are:

  1. the implementation of the State Board of Education's Complete College Idaho program, which has the ambitious goal that 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25-34 will have a degree or certificate by 2020;
  2. student achievement;
  3. college and career readiness of high school graduates; and
  4. positioning Idaho students to be competitive in the global marketplace.

"The question for us has been 'how do you take the new, more rigorous student standards and package them in a way that teachers can deliver them in the classroom?" said Chuck Wegner, director of curriculum for Idaho School District 25 in Pocatello.

He said that his district began research on how it could organize standards into units for the purpose of instruction, which led it to the Total Instructional Alignment program.

"It's hard work and a bit ambiguous, but it is a starting point and a program that an individual teacher can tweak and then take to their own classroom in preparation for implementing the new standards," said Wegner, who was among nearly 500 educators attending a summer TIA training at ISU's Pocatello campus this summer.

The founder of Total Instructional Alignment and author of a book by the same title, Lisa Carter, was among those in attendance at the TIA training in Pocatello. She pointed out that although there are other states and educational institutions using her system to address the challenges posed by the Common Core State Standards, Idaho State University's Intermountain Center for Education Effectiveness efforts are unusual.

"The partnership between the Idaho State University College of Education and Idaho local education agencies to deliver TIA to Idaho K-12 teachers and administrators is unique in the nation," Carter said. "What's unique about Idaho is the extent universities are working with the prekindergarten to 12th-grade teachers to help meet the Common Core Standards. Those standards will help graduating K-12 students be prepared for universities. It only makes sense that universities should be involved in the process."

Teams of educators at this summer's conferences learned and implemented the TIA teaching model, which aligns standards with curriculum, curriculum with instruction, and then assesses how effectively the standards have been met.

"The Idaho Total Instructional Alignment is a grassroots, teacher-driven process to design and develop a method by which the Common Core State Standards can be integrated into classroom instruction," Zimmerly said. " It is essential to begin the integration of the CCSS into classroom teaching this fall."

"Meeting the Common Core State Standards is a big deal," said Susan Jenkins, director of the TIA project and College of Education assistant dean. "The time is now for learning to meet these standards and our work with Idaho teachers is critical. The ISU College of Education is in the lead pack nationally on helping educators learn TIA so they can meet the challenge inherent in these new national standards."

"Classrooms, schools and districts that have implemented the TIA program have shown a measurable improvement in their Annual Yearly Progress Reports as mandated by the state under the No Child Left Behind Act," Jenkins said.

Conference participants were organized into teams of teachers, which are organized by content area and grade level. Those teams used the software and technology provided at the conference to develop "Total Instructional Alignment" documents that will be uses as roadmaps for their class instruction and assessment for the upcoming academic year. These documents have become a pivotal instructional tool for participating districts and are routinely used in professional development workshops and classrooms.