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Deluged By Common-Core 'Aligned' Materials

I'm not the first to tell you that these days, all you need to do is take one step to trip over materials that are allegedly aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

This stuff turns up in my email inbox all the time, and, believe it or not, does a good job crowding my old-fashioned [physical] mailbox as well. And I'm guessing that what's arriving here at EdWeek reflects only a small slice of what's showing up in teachers' and administrators' inboxes. I wanted to share a couple of examples to see what you think.

Educators face quite a challenge as they try to figure out what's good and what isn't in the world of instructional materials for the new standards. Of course this is hardly a new situation. State standards—and the flood of vendor-produced materials that respond to them—have been around for decades now. And caveat emptor applies as much to the educational-materials marketplace as it does to any other swath of the free-market system. But in an era when one set of standards is being used by so many states, vendors have a shot at selling the same product to many states.

Here is a recent example of the kind of thing some of them are offering. This SpaceShipOne Foamie Glider Kit was accompanied by a letter that opened like this:

"We hope you enjoy building and flying them—and maybe even having a contest with a friend—but we also hope you can see how this kit connects to science, technology, history, and the new Common Core standards."

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Here is another example of materials I've received lately that boast about their usefulness in common-core instruction. It's a box of laminated cardstock strips, each printed with one of the standards in math or English/language arts. These cards were accompanied by a canvas wall hanging with transparent pockets that can hold and display each card. Together, the system is called "The Complete Common Core State Standards Kit."

The idea, it seemed, was to have standards on display in the classroom, for student and teacher use. On one side of each card is the standard itself, word for word. The other side of each strip translates the standard into a more student-friendly "I Can" statement. The box I received was for the 4th grade level.

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Here's one card from the math standards:

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Here is the flip side, with the "I Can" statement:

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Here's an example from the English/language arts literature standards:

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Here's the flip side, with the "I Can" statement:

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Here's another example from the literature standards:

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... and its "I Can" version:

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This common-core kit, which sells for $19.99, came with a letter from manufacturer Carson-Dellosa expressing the hope of "sav[ing] teachers valuable time when making their classrooms common core compliant."

How useful teachers find products like the standards-display package and the paper-glider kit is yet to be seen. But the market is getting quickly saturated with products that boast of alignment and scream for teachers' attention.

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