ELA Implementation Support

Because the implementation of high-quality materials depends heavily on the content area, CalCurriculum provides content-specific resources to address any holes or barriers to the success of your implementation. Below are literacy solutions and resources to consider when evaluating your current ELA materials implementation.

CalCurriculum’s implementation process identifies three key areas of support in implementing strong ELA instructional materials:

Quality of Materials: The instructional materials that have been adopted and how well those materials match students’ and teachers’ needs.

Launch of Materials: The professional development that prepares teachers, principals and coaches to deliver the materials as well as the expectations and communications about the use of those materials.

Delivery of Materials: The on-going teaching and learning in classrooms and the necessary professional development and support needed from school leadership and coaches for teachers to practice high-quality instruction.

In considering what to prioritize first, we recommend investigating the quality of materials first, then moving to the launch of those materials, and then the delivery of materials. There are often relatively easy and economical ways to improve materials and the launch of those materials that can have a big impact on student outcomes. Supports provided during the delivery stage are critical to successful implementation but are typically more resource-intensive.


Emerging research shows how high-quality ELA instructional materials provide teachers, students, school leadership, and other stakeholders with a measurable structure for delivering a quality education. Instructional materials help identify the learning goals, outcomes, and core competencies that students must demonstrate in ELA before moving to the next grade level or course and provide teachers with support to reach all learners.

“Students need these four key resources in their daily school experiences:

  1. Consistent opportunities to work on grade-appropriate assignments.
  2. Strong instruction that lets students do most of the thinking in the lesson.
  3. A sense of deep engagement in what they’re learning.
  4. Teachers who hold high expectations for students and truly believe they can meet grade-level standards.

When students had access to more of these resources, their outcomes tended to improve.”1

Materials should also be engaging and relevant to the students in your classrooms. Ensuring this helps show students that we see and value all aspects of their background. Quality literature offers a vehicle for having conversations that are meaningful to students and honors the contributions they bring to the table. The experts at NYU-Steinhardt have developed a scorecard to use when you are vetting materials for cultural responsiveness.

Evaluating your instructional materials’ alignment to the California Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts (CA CCSS ELA) and instructional shifts is a low lift, high impact initial step towards improving your English language arts program. We encourage you to first look at the following tools and resources to understand your materials better. Based on your findings, we propose some solutions below.

  1. CalCurriculum and EdReports – free reviews of core instructional materials and resources
  2. Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET)
  3. Grade-level Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool – Quality Review (GIMET-QR)
  4. Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products (EquiP) rubrics and response forms

Clear, connected and coherent lessons that address the CA CCSS ELA standards and instructional shifts is a fundamental requirement of your instructional materials, so how can you ensure that the materials are high-quality and aligned to the full intent of those state standards? Many publishers claim alignment, but upon closer evaluation some materials lack the necessary tools to help teachers provide quality instruction that will improve student outcomes. Understanding the shifts called for by the CA CCSS ELA standards is paramount in order to implement materials well since most high-quality materials have the shifts as their foundation. The instructional shifts call for three key components:

  • regular practice with complex texts and academic vocabulary
  • reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts
  • reading, and building knowledge through nonfiction texts


  1. Prioritize units, lessons, and/or assessments that are aligned with state standards. Many programs have more material than can be taught in a school year. Examine the reading charts developed by UnboundEd to learn about the elements of aligned K–5 ELA instruction and materials. If you discover lessons or assessments that aren’t aligned, simply omit those and focus deeper/spend more time on those that are aligned.
  2. Strengthen overall approaches by implementing content more aligned with state standards.If you discover that you have materials that aren’t aligned or have gaps, eliminate the “off-standard” work and replace it with units/lessons that are vetted and better aligned. Utilizing open educational resources such as the ones listed below can be a cost efficient solution for this issue, as long as you evaluate the quality of the resource using a tool such as EdReports or the IMET.
    1. UnboundEd PK–12
    2. LearnZillion Guidebooks 3–12
    3. Bookworms K–5 Reading and Writing
    4. EL Education K–8 Language Arts
    5. Match Fishtank K–5
  3. Ensure students have access to appropriate, high-quality texts that align with critical skill development and reflect evidence-based approaches to reading and learning. Text complexity consists of three measures—quantitative, qualitative, and reader and task. Use analytical resources to evaluate the complexity of texts in your current program, as well as those you wish to use as substitutes. In addition, evidence-based discussions and writing tasks require students to present the information, analyses, inferences, and claims they formed through their careful reading of complex texts. Be mindful of the number of texts you substitute, however, as this process coupled with the process of developing text-specific and text-dependent questions, can be a large undertaking.
  4. Identify and implement materials that meet specific needs of the local educational agency. There are times when you discover that the investment of resources (time, money, effort) is not worth it to bring the current materials into proper alignment. If this is the case, you may want to consider procuring a new set of materials. There are many high-quality, well-aligned options out there, including those that are free and open.

Following an explicit, research-based scope and sequence to support students’ reading development is a proven method for ensuring all students have access to quality reading instruction. Phonological awareness and phonics skills and strategies help students distinguish individual sounds (phonemes) within words and learn the necessary sound-spelling relationships required for success with complex texts and spelling. Materials should include explicit instruction and student practice opportunities in all components of foundational skills (print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, word analysis, and fluency).


  1. Develop a common understanding of the research on reading development. Support educators in understanding each area of foundational skills development and how all of these components impact reading instruction in Grades K–5.
  2. Substitute leveled readers with decodables. Decodables, or controlled texts, work in conjunction with systematic and explicit phonics instruction, providing students with opportunities to practice the sounds and sound patterns they are learning through direct instruction.
  3. Incorporate tasks that build reading fluency. Fluency instruction and practice, including teacher modeling, should be an integral part of your ELA instructional block. Fluency links decoding and comprehension, developing students’ automaticity and word recognition so that students can focus on making meaning of texts rather than sounding out words.
  4. Procure a supplemental foundational skills program. If your program requires extensive enhancements in order to address the necessary foundational skills components, you may want to consider procuring a supplemental foundational skills program. Unlike comprehensive ELA programs, the only free or open high-quality foundational skills programs available for educator use is CKLA Skills.

Research indicates that background knowledge matters more than reading abilities for reading comprehension.2 Building knowledge is similar to putting a puzzle together. Each piece that we give students comes together to form the whole—students’ understanding of the world around them.

  • engaging in a range and volume of reading,
  • critically examining and analyzing texts and the academic vocabulary included,
  • building background knowledge, and
  • engaging in opportunities to demonstrate their learning.


  1. Organize your text selections. Reading complex texts is important and the organization of the selected texts matters tremendously. To build knowledge, texts, paired selections, and text sets should be organized cohesively and center on a topic(s). This will support students’ background knowledge and vocabulary development, as well as their reading independence.
  2. Include opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning. Evidence-based questions should be sequenced, building a focused line of inquiry that enables students to successfully complete a culminating task. Culminating tasks should integrate reading, writing, and/or speaking and listening skills as students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a topic(s) and can occur throughout a unit. Supplement Journeys (2014)Wonders (2017), and other applicable reading programs with lessons, activities, and tasks that build students’ vocabulary and background knowledge and support their reading fluency.

1 TNTP, The Opportunity Myth, Retrieved from: https://opportunitymyth.tntp.org/ (2018)

2 Donna R. Recht and Lauren Leslie, Effect of Prior Knowledge on Good and Poor Readers’ Memory of Text, Journal of Educational Psychology 80 (1988)


Planning how to introduce and implement adopted ELA instructional materials is as important as deciding which materials to adopt. After materials are chosen and purchased by a local education agency, the initial launch and implementation is where 90 percent of materials can fail. Part of a successful literacy materials launch includes setting expectations for implementation, providing a clear and cohesive professional learning plan, and establishing plans for assessing and grading. In essence, successful instructional materials implementation focuses on supporting the teacher within their own context as they learn and implement the instructional materials.

Setting and supporting clear expectations when ELA instructional materials are adopted provides the foundation for implementation. When the materials were adopted, what message was provided to principals, teachers, and parents regarding instructional materials implementation? What messages were sent regarding instructional time dedicated to the ELA instructional materials? Your monitoring plan will provide a strong foundation for introducing new ELA instructional materials or for re-evaluating the implementation of current materials knowing you will be checking on the progress often.


  1. Develop a comprehensive instructional materials implementation plan. Create a plan that communicates a timeline for the implementation of materials, expectations for stakeholders, opportunities for feedback, and support that will be provided. Instruction Partners provides a variety of communication tools in their Curriculum Support Guide.
  2. Assemble an implementation team. Invite school leaders, district leaders, and educators to come together to determine how to best integrate the ELA instructional materials within the instructional day and set expectations for instructional time. The right people on the team can help build ownership and intentionality.
  3. Communicate frequently. Employ a communication system to provide ongoing messages of support, ways to provide feedback, and tips for the implementation of the ELA materials.
  4. Create a plan to monitor the impact of your implementation.

“To truly achieve equitable outcomes for students, adopting a high-quality curriculum cannot be a stand- alone goal. The curriculum must be implemented in conjunction with ongoing, job-embedded learning for teachers to understand how to adapt their teaching to the demands of the new curriculum.”1 A coordinated professional learning plan developed prior to and during implementation of the ELA instructional materials is essential. The professional learning plan should include opportunities for teachers to learn the materials within their own context. It should also include opportunities for principals to understand the instructional materials and how best to support teachers with their implementation.


  1. Create or evaluate your professional learning plan that includes the instructional materials. In your professional learning plan, plan for explicit opportunities where teachers learn strategies for implementing the instructional materials, as they will potentially be employing new pedagogical practices. Establish how you will supplement the professional development provided by the instructional materials publishers. The one-day workshop offered by the publishers to train teachers will not be enough to support successful implementation. Site leaders will also need to understand the ELA materials.
  2. Plan for how school leadership will engage with the materials, including any on-site coaching on strategies to support teachers. Investing leaders early in the process of implementation will make all the difference as other processes and systems are put in place to support implementation. Initial training should be followed by continued collaboration with other leaders and teachers in an effort to create a solid foundational knowledge base to provide teachers what they need while implementing new materials.
  3. Utilize available instructional coaches in your plan. When instructional coaches support ELA lesson design and planning, they can get at the root of where a teacher most needs support. Coaching might include co-planning, digging into the materials together, or team teaching and providing feedback, especially in the initial phases of launching a new set of instructional materials.
  4. Adopt or develop an instructional rubric to guide conversations about teaching and learning. An instructional rubric provides a common language for teachers and leaders to observe, define, and discuss teaching and learning. With a strong instructional rubric in place, teachers, coaches and site leaders can work together to grow professional practice focused on increased student learning.

Launching new curriculum materials is a good time to reassess assessment and grading policies and ensure strong communication about both with leaders, teachers, students, and parents.


  1. Establish concrete grading policies before teachers begin to implement. Often grading challenges come down to a simple lack of understanding or miscommunication. It is critical that as you launch your new materials, teachers understand the role and purpose of grading, as well as any expectations for what components of the new materials should and should not be included in grade. See Instruction Partners Resources on Grading for some additional tools.
  2. Analyze and adjust your current assessments to maximize instructional time valuable instructional data for teachers. Districts focused on continuous improvement regularly take stock of assessments to ensure instructional time is maximized while also providing teachers with valuable instructional data. A curriculum change is a good pause point to analyze current assessments, as the new program likely includes curriculum-embedded assessments that may replace existing assessments. tAchieve has developed an inventory for districts to use as they are considering their overall assessment strategy.
  3. Make any changes to pacing to include common assessments. Many publishers include pacing recommendations in the teacher materials, but occasionally exclude assessment days. Take the time to investigate the flexibility of pacing to make allowances for the assessments, both those embedded within the curriculum and any other external assessments, that will be implemented.

1 National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (2020). High-Quality Curriculum: Connecting What to Teach with How to Teach It. Santa Monica, CA: National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.


Instructional delivery is the practice of teaching: translating state standards-based ELA curriculum into student learning. “Among elements such as a well-articulated curriculum and a safe and orderly environment, the one factor that surfaced as the single most influential component of an effective school is the individual teachers within that school.”1 Strong ELA instructional implementation requires three key elements: an intentional learning environment; sound ELA instructional design and planning; and a coherent structure for how you will monitor the progress of your implementation and gather feedback to inform continuous learning.

The learning environment includes both the way in which school leaders establish culture and climate across the school and how educators create a supportive classroom environment for ELA learning. Having a shared definition of what a quality learning environment looks like, establishing strategies for students historically underserved by public education, and creating a positive narrative around ELA learning grounded in a growth mindset are all critical to a successful ELA learning environment.


  1. Take time to develop your vision and mission statements. Vision and mission statements set a common purpose for your school’s growth and describe what high-quality teaching and learning looks like in your school. Align your school’s vision and mission with those of your district and/or state. Set learning targets, such as SMART goals, and incorporate them into your schoolwide plan.
  2. Establish a positive, productive, and inclusive learning environment. Classroom environment is one of the most important factors that affects student learning. Bucholz and Sheffler describe a positive learning environment as one where students feel a sense of belonging, trust others, and feel encouraged to tackle challenges, take risks, and ask questions.2 Although the look of literacy rich environments will differ in K-5 and 6-12quality characteristics such as those developed by TeachThought will be a common thread.
  3. Develop a growth mindset. According to Dweck’s Theory of Motivation, those with a fixed mindset believe that their success and ability is based on talent and skills, while those with a growth mindset believe that their success and ability develop through time and effort spent on learning.3 Because these mindsets largely impact how we view success and failure, it is important for educators to develop a growth mindset and to model that mindset for their students.

The way in which a lesson is designed, and how a teacher interprets and then delivers that lesson, can also impact alignment to the state standards and concepts. How well educators understand the materials translates to how well they can implement it. This design and implementation in turn impacts students’ mastery of ELA concepts and state standards.


  1. Make time for instruction. Examine your instructional program and make sure you can reasonably cover the content within the available time. Consider adjusting the number of minutes allotted for daily instruction. When developing year-long plans, be sure to build in time for re-engagement and re-assessment; benchmark, diagnostic, and interim assessments; and other school or district events that may result in a loss of instructional time.
  2. Ensure on-going professional learning for teachers and leaders grounded in high-quality materials. It takes time to get familiar with instructional materials and the content knowledge they demand, including learning new pedagogical approaches. Teachers need support focused on the teaching and learning of specific content as well as time to collaborate with peers.
  3. Make time for grade level meetings or PLCs. This provides regular time for teachers to plan and collaborate on the new instructional materials implementation with their grade level colleagues. Meetings or PLCs should include reviewing classroom embedded literacy data and student work to reflect and refine ELA instructional practices. To engage in focused problem-solving around the use of high-quality ELA materials, collaborative teams need regular time to meet every week for 60–90 minutes, and school leaders need to protect that time from competing demands.
  4. Build educator capacity on educating English Language Learners (ELLs). One third of the nation’s English Language Learners are in California. Understanding the English Language Arts (ELA) / English Language Development (ELD) Framework and California English Language Development Standards allows educators to build an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to literacy and language instruction. Embrace the strengths these students offer as you create standards-aligned lessons that enable them to develop language competence, build content knowledge, and master grade-level content. Include the six key principles for English Language Learners (ELLs) when planning and delivering instruction.

Implementing instructional materials, especially those that are new, requires thoughtful consideration and intentional planning for monitoring the impact of your work and to provide opportunities for continual feedback by looking at how things are going and adjusting course.


  1. Develop a feedback cycle. Including the observation tool created in the launch plan, consider utilizing feedback strategies and guides from the works of Grant Wiggins and Paul Bambrick-Santoyo to monitor and support the expectations that have been agreed upon and set.
  2. Build in regular opportunities to step back, assess how things are progressing and correct course if necessary. Think about what stakeholders you would like to hear from about the progress of your program implementation. What would you want to learn about the staff and student investment in the materials as well as any feedback from parents? Instruction Partners has developed a set of goals for implementation with a variety of data collection tools.
  3. Embed implementation monitoring in your cycles of improvement conversations. Ongoing monitoring of student progress is essential to understanding the impact of your implementation and an adaptive process. Looking at student work and student outcomes data in your cycles of improvement can be a great way to also make adjustments to your implementation, whether it’s additional professional learning for teachers, an adjustment to the pacing or optional publisher ancillary products for the materials.

1 Marzano, R. J. (2010). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

2 Jessica L. Bucholz, Ed.D. & Julie L. Sheffler, Creating a Warm and Inclusive Classroom Environment: Planning for All Children to Feel Welcome , Retrieved from: Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education 2 (4) (2009)

3 Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Ballantine Books: New York City, NY (2007)

4 John Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Routledge: England, UK (2012)

Refining ELA Materials Implementation

Instructional materials implementation is the complex process of translating standards into student learning. Implementation doesn’t stop at the selection of high quality instructional materials, but includes the communications and expectations for how they will be used and the support and professional learning that are wrapped around them.

Refining Implementation: A Guide to Implementing Instructional Materials in the Field provides specific, actionable tools to support your implementation. We know that each district has unique needs and our guidance focuses on developing high quality implementation supports based on district goals, needs, and priorities. By using our guide, you will:

  • Develop a collaborative, data driven plan
  • Learn about the main areas of implementation support
  • Align your work with continuous improvement strategies

In alignment with the Statewide System of Support and the California School Dashboard, our guide can be a Tier 1 strategy to ensure the materials you’ve adopted are accessible to teachers and students. Interested in more support? Email us at info@calcurriculum.org to request a workshop and check back in the spring for upcoming open workshops in northern and southern California.

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