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Influencing the Instructional Core: Examining Changes in Alignment of Teachers' Instruction to College- and Career-Readiness Standards

Mon, April 20, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Virtual Room


College-and-career-readiness standards marked dramatic changes in instructional expectations for teachers. Building on prior work (Authors, 2018), this study examines changes in teachers’ standards-aligned instruction since 2016 and the factors—professional development (PD) opportunities and perceptions of the policy context—that explain these changes.

This study is grounded in policy attributes theory (Porter, 1994), which identifies five factors critical for successful policy implementation: specificity (degree of prescriptiveness), consistency (alignment of policies and resources), authority (legitimacy of the policy change), power (rewards and sanctions associated with the policy change), and stability (whether the policy is likely to change). Further, PD that is content-specific, collaborative, includes active learning, is administered over a sufficient span and duration of time and is coherent supports developments in teacher learning and practice (Author, 2009). Grounded in this theoretical framework, we examine the relationship between alignment of teachers’ self-reported instruction to standards, the supports teachers receive, and perceptions of their policy environments.

The key outcome variable of interest in our study is changes in alignment of teachers’ self-reported instruction with content emphasized in the standards. Key independent variables of interest include teacher reports of the focus and nature of PD received and its usefulness, and multi-item composite scales of policy attributes (Authors, 2018). We employ t-tests to examine changes from 2016 to 2019 in key variables and examine differences for teachers of English Language Arts (ELA), math, students with disabilities (SWDs), and English Language Learners (ELLs), and for rural, suburban, and urban teachers. Finally, we employ hierarchical linear modeling to examine the extent to which supports and teachers’ perceptions of their policy environment predict changes in standards-aligned instruction.

Data for this study comes from a survey of Texas and Ohio educators during the 2015–2016 and 2018–2019 school years. We used stratified random sampling to ensure a district-representative sample that includes ELA and math teachers, teachers of ELLs and SWDs, and teachers at elementary and high school levels.

Preliminary results suggest that higher levels of standards-aligned instruction is associated with (1) higher reported levels of specificity with their school’s/district’s standards policy (e.g., clear district guidance on standards coverage and implementation), (2) higher authority of the standards (e.g., whether teaching the standards is a district priority). Furthermore, teachers of SWDs overall report lower levels of standards-aligned instruction than other teachers.

This study contributes to the body of work that examines the relationship between policy and instruction (Coburn, 2004; Cohen, Moffitt, & Goldin, 2007; Authors, 2018) and indicates that consideration for teachers’ beliefs about standards, coupled with access to resources and supports, is critical for influencing the instructional core through standards policies.


Author, 2009; Authors, 2018

Coburn, C. E. (2004). Beyond decoupling: Rethinking the relationship between the institutional environment and the classroom. Sociology of Education, 77(3), 211-244. doi:10.1177/003804070407700302

Cohen, D. K., Moffitt, S. L., & Goldin, S. (2007). Policy and practice: The dilemma. American Journal of Education, 113(4), 515-548.

Porter, A. C. (1994). National standards and school improvement in the 1990s: Issues and promise. American Journal of Education, 102(4), 421–449.