Capacity for Customization: Algebra Teachers, Curriculum Design, and Common Core
Adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) has created a need for teachers and school districts to realign their curricula to the new standards. While some districts may purchase new, better-aligned materials, many districts will make adaptations to current materials. These adaptations should be seen as both necessary and expected, and attention should shift away from the fidelity of implementation and towards supporting productive adaptations to curricula.
This project is an example of design-based implementation research, where researchers from CU-Boulder and UCAR partnered with algebra teachers and district curriculum leaders to support teachers’ selection and use of high-quality mathematical tasks. Over two years, 15 teachers and 5 leaders were directly involved from the district. Our participatory design process yielded tools for task analysis that considered qualities of CCSSM alignment, cognitive demand, language, and technology. We identified a set of high-quality tasks that filled gaps in the existing curriculum, both with respect to content and opportunities to engage in mathematical practices.
Data from year one of the project indicate two noteworthy results. Reliability data suggest improved rubrics may be needed. On average, raters agreed on rubric levels or categories 50 to 70 percent of the time. Classroom observations using the Instructional Quality Assessment suggested that teachers maintained the cognitive demand associated with highly-rated tasks. Prior research indicated this was not to be expected and demands further analysis.