How does vertical alignment improve student performance in the schools?

Posted by Ronald | November 26, 2012  |  No Comment

When our automobile begins to drift to the left or right, it is probably time for a wheel alignment. The alignment reduces the possibility of tire wear and enables the vehicle to travel in a straight direction rather than pull to one side. The mechanic adjusts the angles of the vehicle’s wheels to ensure that the wheels are running parallel to each other and meets the road in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

Just as the wheel alignment to an automobile must meet certain specifications for high performance, the same is essential for student performance in the classroom and on standardized tests. Teachers are expected to facilitate instruction according to district and state standards and assessments. For best results, these standards and assessments are to be aligned with the district’s curriculum.

While teacher performance is increasingly being measured by student performance on standardized tests, the questions to be asked are, how does vertical alignment improve student performance? What are the challenges to vertical alignment in the schools? Can vertical alignment be used as a means of assessing the performance of students across the curriculum?

According to the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement (CCSRI), vertical alignment has been regarded as one of the best strategies to improve student performance in the schools. For example, vertical alignment “ensures what is being taught and tested in the classrooms aligns with the state standards and assessments. It articulates the logical, consistent order for teaching the standards-based content at each grade or course level, which allows teachers to focus on building skills and knowledge while reducing the need for excess review and repetition.”

Vertical alignment is a complicated district-wide process designed to engage the instructional staff to develop curricular over a period of time that will be taught and assessed in the learning environment. Although a comprehensive vertical alignment plan with timelines, leadership roles, outcomes, responsibilities, assessments and the like can yield positive results, it is a challenge for schools to implement according to CCSRI.

Some of the challenges include having the leadership team to engage the teachers in the curriculum review and development process, getting the teachers to buy into the rigorous and time consuming instructional process and finding time for teachers to collaborate with their colleagues across the grade levels, subject areas and departments. Despite the challenges of vertical alignment (district-wide), CCSRI reports the success of two school districts’ vertical alignment implementation plans and their student performance on state assessments in mathematics and reading. Both districts credit their success to the vertical alignment process including the team effort of districts and school officials and the utilization of curriculum mapping software.

With the high demands of educational standards and achievements, everyone is pointing the finger at each other regarding the problems of America’s schools. This includes K-12 teachers, college professors, and corporate leaders who are the recipients of the graduates. For example, the kindergarten teachers often complain that the parents do not prepare their children for school and, subsequently, that is the reason they are unsuccessful. In contrast, the business leaders often complain that the college professors do not prepare their students for employment and, subsequently, that is the reason they are ill-prepared for the workforce.

Through the coordination of district-wide vertical alignment in the school system, all stakeholders who are responsible for America’s schools can play a significant role in improving the quality of learning of students at each grade level. However, the coordination of all parties involved in the vertical alignment plan has to be seamless through the leadership team of key district and school officials. With their support and expertise, the high, middle and elementary teachers would have to buy into the plan and establish a collaborative relationship with their feeder partners. For example, the elementary teachers would need to bridge relations with kindergarten constituents (students, parent and teachers) for improved learning.

Just as the auto mechanic provides a wheel alignment when our automobile begins to drift to the left or right and adjusts the wheels according to manufacturer’s specifications, the district executes vertical alignment in the schools to ensure that the lessons taught, learned and assessed are in accordance with state mandates. When students learn the main idea at the elementary level, this knowledge should be transferrable to each grade level and subject area. As this is done, there should be a conglomerate of evidence that students are being prepared for the real-world. There should be sufficient evidence that state standards and assessments are aligned with the district’s curriculum for better educational outcome and academic success.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of two books, “Education Questions to be Answered” and “Current Issues and Answers in Education.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is the national superintendent of education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Comment