We define Program Alignment as the process of taking conclusions from the Data Reflection phase and setting students up for success by making sure that state and local standards, school curriculum, classroom teaching, and all testing are focused on the same results.
While specific implementation varies (as it does in all parts of a DDIS), schools in our initial study have usually pursued Program Alignment through consideration of content standards, teacher and peer observation (to see how standards are translating in the classroom), and non-curricular initiatives like guidance and support services.
Our research indicates that this process of aligning standards, curriculum, and assessment is a key element in creating conditions that improve student achievement.
One of the schools in our study pursued Program Alignment by adopting Direct Instruction (DI) as a school-wide instructional program. The principal at this school had observed a huge range of variance in the practices of her teachers and reading instructors. She recognized that bringing consistency to literacy practices was key for not only figuring out what was happening in her school, but for improving student performance.
By first assessing what sort of instruction was taking place at the school and then utilizing volunteers to investigate programs at other schools, this principal enabled her teachers to build consensus around utilizing DI as a means of creating program coherence.
Because DI provides direct and ongoing measurement of student learning in relation to curricular goals, it was well suited for helping this school begin to align program aims, curriculum, and assessment.
It is significant to note that this principal did not see DI as a one-stop solution for student learning issues. Instead the staff continued to engage in problem-finding activities within the constraints of the DI program. Consequently, in the third year the staff engaged in ongoing alignment activities to determine where the DI program needed to be supplemented with other programs and technologies to meet the needs of particular student groups.