Master the Art of Content Alignment


Master the Art of Content Alignment

Practical Tips for Standard Alignment Success

What’s Included in This Post?
• Tips for Analyzing Standards
• Guiding Questions for Analyzing Alignments

Here at Instructure, the services team associated with Elevate Standards Alignment creates, maintains, and analyzes standard alignments for a number of stakeholders. We examine all parts of the standards to understand their meaning. We scrutinize the learning objects (e.g. lesson plans, test questions) presented to our team to determine the fit of the standards. When we review these learning objects, we often see engaging, thoughtful material that is not fully aligned to the intended standards. 

Scrutinize the Standards

When reviewing standard alignments there are common areas that we generally address with various stakeholders. Here is a partial list of these focus areas: 

  • Align the correct standard level. In the beginning of most standards documents, the authority describes what level of the document is expected to be the alignable statement. Often a standard higher in the hierarchy appears to be a performance expectation, but it is really meant to be organizational in nature to further the intent of the standards. Sometimes we see learning objects aligned to standard examples or clarification statements instead of the standards themselves.  
  • Align to the correct hierarchy of standards. Authorities include a great deal of information about the intent of the standards in the hierarchy. This information can include intended limiters in math (e.g., add up to 100), genre in ELA, or time period in social studies. We see mis-alignments due to hierarchy, where the organizational structure was not considered. 
  • Thoughtfully consider the verbs when aligning content. The verbs presented in the standards have been chosen carefully by the publishing authority. Many times these verbs (e.g., evaluate) reflect a higher cognitive level. It can be tempting to align all related content to a standard, but the verb in the standard is crucial as it directs the intended performance expectation. In order to be fully aligned to a standard, the verb in the standard needs to be addressed within the learning object.  
  • Address the limiters and qualifiers present in the standards. Math standards, in particular, can include number limitations, particularly in the elementary grades. Curriculum should build up to and meet these limitations. It can fall short (adding up to 20, when the standard specifies 100), or surpass the expectations (adding up to 200 when the standard specifies 100). Similar to number limitations, some standards contain additional phrases that further clarify intent. For example, a standard could specify that the targeted performance expectation be completed with the use of a calculator. For that standard to be fully met, the content would include the use of a calculator. 
  • Review all standard clarifications statements before aligning. Along with the standards, oftentimes an authority will add more information in clarification statements. For example, in math it is common to see function types listed in clarifications beneath standards about functions. Standards can be incorrectly aligned to content when clarification statements have not been reviewed.

Reflect Upon and Revise Standard Alignments

When adding or reviewing the standard alignments to your content, there are a number of questions you can ask to be sure you are considering all aspects of your adopted standards. 

    • Have I reviewed all levels of the standard document, including the front matter and the hierarchy of the standards, before aligning?
    • Does the verb in the standard match my content? Are the students really completing the task intended in the performance expectation?
    • Did I take into account all standard limitations, qualifiers, and clarification statements?

Final Thoughts

Thoughtful alignments to standards will ensure that your content meets student learning goals. If you find that parts of your curriculum do not fully align to the adopted standards, consider adding material to meet the standard or removing those curriculum pieces from your lesson sequence. After all, those 180 days need to count! 

For more information about Elevate Standards Alignment, visit us in the Community. Curious about state, national, or even international standards? Check out our Standards Reference Page!

Please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Our Design and Curriculum teams offer a variety of services, including course templates, consultation hours, badging and certificate services, course reviews and evaluations, instructional workshops, course authoring, content reconstruction, and much more! If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact your CSM or Miranda McIntosh, Manager, Learning Services, via