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St. Paul teachers: Aligned Learning can help highly mobile students
While Aligned Learning (or Managed Instruction as it was originally called), caused a bit of an uproar when it was first introduced, the current implementation seems uncontroversial.
Aligned Learning has some similarities to the Focused Instruction program in Minneapolis Public Schools, but its implementation has been different. In St. Paul, the standards are more general, and the approach seems to be one of collaboration rather than district mandates to teachers. In St. Paul, for example, there's no mandate for specific numbers of professional development days devoted to the program or for uniform, computerized end-of-unit tests for students. The TC Daily Planet Focus on Teaching section has more information about both Managed Instruction and Aligned Learning.
Alec Timmerman, an 11th grade math teacher at Washington Tech, said he wasn’t actually aware of what Aligned Learning was when we emailed him about it. He looked it up on the district website and asked his curriculum coordinator about it. “Apparently it first came out as "managed" instruction," Timmerman said, "which had very 'idiot proofing/automation of instruction' connotations. Then they changed the name to aligned learning.”
Timmerman said he likes some of the changes the district has implemented, such as using the same textbooks district-wide and using the GANAG format for lesson planning. “I honestly like these things as a framework, and for consistency in a very mobile student population,” he said.
Because Timmerman taught at a school with 50 percent mobility, “making all eight high schools use the same text book was a breath of fresh air,” he said.
“Used as good guides for teachers, I think they are good for me,” Timmerman continued in an email. “Others might say they are constraining. It is all about the implementation and how the program is presented to teachers.”
Jan Mandell, a teacher on the Arts Literacy Team at the Multicultural Resource Center, declined to comment specifically about Aligned Learning but said that no matter what curriculum teachers use, they have to build relationships with students.
“No curriculum is going to work if you don’t understand who you are in terms of race. You have to build communities and build connections that can shift the dynamic inside of a class,” she said.
Mandell sees curriculum as just a tool. “Unless you really know where the kid is coming from, and answer why it relates to their life, it’s not going to work,” she said. “Education has to answer the question — why. The connection between the content and the kids' lives — that’s our job to figure out.”