5 Steps to Ensure Your Lessons Are Aligned to State Standards

In Monday’s post, I stated the need for educators to engage regularly in meaningful data collection. Two beliefs and practices must be true before we dive into data: 1) Students MUST independently practice the content. 2) The daily content MUST be aligned to grade-level standards and rigor (today’s post!)

For the purposes of this post, I am going to use 4th grade Eureka Math implemented in Louisiana as the example; however, the steps can be applied to all content. If I was told, “On Monday, you will teaching the Module 3, Lesson 10 in Grade 4 math,” here are the 5 steps I would take to ensure my lesson was aligned to 4th grade standards, rigor, and format (i.e., prepares students for the Louisiana state assessment (LEAP)).

1. Find the standard(s) to which the lesson aligns.

Eureka Math makes this fairly simple. If you click on the specific lesson in the curriculum map then scroll to the bottom of the page, the aligned standard is linked there. 

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2. Understand and break down the standard.

Don’t go at this alone — there are many helpful resources out there! The Common Core Companions exist for both math and ELA and are INCREDIBLE. They are worth every penny.

I use a Google Sheet to do this. Here is my current working draft: Gr4.Math.StandardsBreakdown.Louisiana_LEAP 2025 (2018-2019)

I’ve highlighted 4.NBT.B.5, as that is the standard to which this lesson in this example aligns. It is important to note that Module 3, Lesson 10 is one out of 18 lessons that lead students to master this standard. As I break down the standard into what students will need to KNOW and DO to demonstrate mastery, I must also determine where this lesson, in particular, builds toward their skill in doing so. I should not expect them to have mastered this entire standard by the end of my lesson on Monday, yet they should be one step closer toward demonstrating mastery and be able to do so by the end of that 18th lesson.

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3. Find and complete any and all related state assessment items.

Most states have practice tests available. If yours does not, then use the PARCC Practice Tests, the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests, or log onto Edcite and search for the standard number in the question bank! (For 4.NBT.B.5), there are 198 questions in the question bank.

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Louisiana offers a variety of practice assessments, including a diagnostic assessment, interim assessments, and practice state assessments. I save them all (4.Math_LEAP.Resources) so that I can organize the questions by standard: Question Types by Standard. In this folder you will see a specific Google Doc for 4.NBT.B.5 and in that Google Doc you will see the numerous ways this standard is assessed (four-digit by one-digit multiplication, two-digit by two-digit multiplication, naked number problems, word problems, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, area model, student written explanation, multiplication problems written horizontally, etc.).

As I complete the problems, I note all of these question types and strategies that students must be able to know and do and I add to my standards breakdown Google Sheet throughout the process.

4. Complete the End and Mid (if applicable) Module Assessments

Though not every question on the module assessments will align with the day’s lesson, the module assessments give you the overall knowledge and skills that students must demonstrate in a few days or weeks. This helps ensure you teach the material consistently throughout the module and that you don’t lower the level of rigor in a lesson by altering the content or question stems.

It is important to note that you should complete the assessment as the exemplar student (not just as an answer key) — use the strategies that you would expect your top student to use. This helps you teach all of your students the top strategies.

My example from the Grade 4, End-of-Module 3 Assessment:

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BONUS: Eureka Math materials are currently on paper, yet many students are taking the state assessments on computers. In order for students to grow in technology proficiency and be ready to take the state assessment on computers, they need practice doing so on a regular basis in the classroom. Edcite content creators have digitized all mid- and end-of-module assessments (Grade 4 here). Thank you Edcite Content Team!! If teachers assign the released items on Edcite, both teachers and students get the results back instantly with teachers receiving a report broken down by state standard.

5. Complete the Lesson-Specific Exit Ticket & adjust TYPE if necessary.

Again, complete the daily exit ticket as the exemplar student (not just as an answer key) — use the strategies that you would expect your top student to use. As you complete the exit ticket, also look for ways that this daily assessment is aligned or misaligned to the state assessment items you completed in Step 3.

For example, Eureka Math exit tickets are almost entirely open-ended response questions (and currently in a paper format). The Louisiana released questions for 4.NBT.B.5 are a combination of multiple choice and open-ended. I also know (based on my students’ scores from the first interim) that my students most often miss questions that are multi-select. So, for this lesson I would digitize the exit ticket on Edcite with two of the questions being fill-in-the-blank and one question being multi-select.

Common Teacher Error → AVOID CHANGING THE CONTENT OF THE QUESTION!! Many teachers will think they are helping students by tweaking the content in the question. More often than not, this changes the alignment and rigor of the question itself and does not prepare students for the end-of-year assessment. If you are going to change anything about the question to strengthen alignment, only change the question TYPE (i.e., multiple choice, multi-select, technology enhanced, constructed response, etc.).

Now, with all this knowledge and practice in your brain, you are ready to teach students at the level of rigor of the standard! Make it happen — and please reach out if you would like a thought-partner on a lesson. I love geeking out about this! Message me on Twitter or Instagram @thompsmn.

meghan thompsonGuest blog author Meghan Thompson joined Teach For America in 2008 and began her career in education as a 9th-12th Special Education Teacher in Charlotte, NC. In 2010, she was a member of the founding team at Henderson Collegiate (a school that has ranked in the top 3.5% of all NC public schools for the past 4 years). In 2014, she was a member of the founding team at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge and throughout her time at DPBR served as a middle school ELA teacher, middle school math teacher and the Middle School Campus Director.

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