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Instructional Framework

A Framework for Effective Instruction

City Schools' instructional framework and rubric provides a structure that helps teachers design and deliver effective instruction. It also identifies the things that go into excellent teaching, so that teachers, school administrators, and district staff can recognize it and talk about it using a common language.

The framework revolves around a three-part cycle: Plan, teach, and reflect and adjust.

Within these three broad areas, many things need to happen. For example, to plan effective instruction, teachers need to know and understand

  • Each student's unique needs
  • The content to be taught
  • The teaching techniques and strategies that are most effective in connecting that student and that content
Updating the Framework and RubricUpdated framework graphic

The instructional framework was created in 2012 and was tested in collaboration with teachers, school leaders, and union representatives. It guides the district’s curricula aligned to state standards. This original framework and rubric will be in use through the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Since then, the district has gathered additional feedback from all stakeholders and updated the framework and rubric to reflect educator moves that support student learning and engagement in rigorous tasks. This updated framework and rubric will be used as of the 2020-21 school year. 

Review some of the key shifts below or by downloading this flyer

Download the full updated Instructional Framework Rubric. 

Key Instructional Shifts: Practices and Pedagogical Approaches

Facilitation of student learning

Teachers facilitate learning by helping students make meaning of the learning content and come to their own conclusions. While the content should always be clear and accurate, students can construct meaning and engage in learning through a range of teacher facilitation techniques, such as presentation, inquiry-based learning, discovery learning, or social constructivism. The method of facilitation should be determined by the needs of the students and the content.

Examples of shifts in this area include:

In the original rubric, an indicator focused on questioning technique had a descriptor that said “Teacher encourages and expects students to provide correct and/or appropriate responses.”

The updated rubric's descriptor now reads: “When needed, teacher supports students in exploring a variety of appropriate responses and pathways for arriving at appropriate responses.”

Grade-level or above standards-based instruction

Effective teaching keeps students’ future learning in mind and is grounded in grade-level standards for all students. When students are below grade-level, teachers help them reach their grade level by sharing grade-level content while working on needed skills. When students are on or above grade level, teachers use standards from higher grades to continue student learning and growth.

Examples of shifts in this area include:

In the original rubric, a descriptor read "Teacher provides access to grade-level material for all students by scaffolding and/or differentiating tasks.”

We received feedback that this could be interpreted to mean that teachers had to provide scaffolds immediately for students, without first allowing students to engage in productive struggle.

The updated rubric's descriptor now reads “Teacher appropriately provides scaffolds or differentiates in a manner that supports each student’s access to grade-level or beyond learning.” It also includes footnotes that explains that scaffolding is appropriate in response to information about how students are doing.

Connection to City Schools priorities

As the standards, curriculum, and Blueprint for our district have evolved, the updates in the rubric connect to other guiding concepts in our district and the broader national context. Connections to our curriculum, equity and cultural relevance considerations, and social-emotional learning language are embedded throughout.

Since the original rubric was developed before City Schools' Blueprint for Success, the updated rubric now includes language such as the following:

  • “With teacher supports, students connect their learning to essential questions, life experiences, or their own identities” 
  • “Teacher incorporates student voice and choice into lesson, while maintaining access to grade-level or beyond learning” 
  • “Students demonstrate ability to reflect on or adapt their interactions with other students based on their own growing or developing social-emotional competencies”
  • “Teacher’s arrangement of space and materials facilitates student movement, interactions, and learning, and includes celebration of student experiences and current work.”
  • “Students demonstrate effective coping strategies or use supports teacher has put in place for coping.” 

Positive impact on students

The progressions across levels of performance are clearer and grounded in observable evidence of teacher moves and their impact on students. Positive impact on students can be seen through student responses, work products, questions, and discussions.

To reflect this, the updated rubric includes more statements that focus on evidence from student actions and impact on students, such as:

  • “Student artifacts indicate application of learning, mastery, or progress towards objective or learning goal.” 
  • “With teacher supports, students make connections across and within disciplines to support content learning.” 
  • “Students handle breaks in structure by maintaining their academic focus.”
  • “Students demonstrate their new or higher-level thinking individually or in groups.”

Key Structural Shifts: Structure and Design of the Rubric

Streamlined focus

When looking across all domains within the rubric, there is a tighter focus on classroom instruction – in preparation, delivery, reflection and adjustment. By focusing on effective teaching, educators and instructional leaders can better leverage the rubric for conversations and feedback centered on fewer, targeted educator practices that effectively support student learning.

To streamline the focus, the updated rubric has fewer indicators and descriptors. In addition, though still important, elements of Prepare/Plan and Reflect and Adjust that are not focused on delivery of instruction have been removed.

Embedded rationale

Effective teaching is purposeful. Each indicator in the rubric opens with a description for the purpose or intent behind the educator moves. The descriptors also have clearer connections to why these behaviors are important to teaching and learning. 

In the updated rubric, each indicator now opens with a purpose statement or overview that talks about what teachers do and why. In addition, some descriptors were modified to include language about what the impact or purpose of the teacher action is.

Acknowledging broader contexts

The updated rubric reflects meaningful, shared language that applies to teaching across the content and contexts within which our students learn. To help better articulate how educator and student behaviors may be observed, the rubric includes strategies broadened beyond one methodology, an increase in the number and detail of footnotes, and a new addendum with content-specific considerations.

Examples of shifts in this area include:

In the original rubric, one of the indicators read “Check for understanding and provide specific, academic feedback. In the updated rubric, the indicator now reads “Monitor progress and provide feedback.”

Another descriptor in the original rubric read “Teacher conducts a variety of checks for understanding.” In the updated rubric, the descriptor now reads “Teacher conducts formative assessments” with a footnote that lists examples of formative assessments.

Reading and Resources

These resources provide some of the research and district context related to the Instructional Framework Rubric’s focus on effective teaching. While not an exhaustive literature review, we hope this provides an entry point for reading. 

Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners (2019). ADA: Equity. Baltimore, MD: Author. Available:

Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners (2019). GCO: Employee Evaluations. Baltimore, MD: Author. Available:

Baltimore City Public Schools (2017). Building a Generation: City Schools’ Blueprint for Success. Baltimore, MD: Author. Available:

Chin, M., Hill, H.C. (2018, October). Connections between teachers’ knowledge of students, instruction, and achievement outcomes. American Educational Research Journal, 55(5), 1076-1112. 

Durlak, J.A., Dymnicki, A.B., Schellinger, K.B., Taylor, R.D., & Weissberg, R.P. (2011, February). The Impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432. 

Kane, T.J., Kerr, K.A., & Pianta, R.C. (Ed). (2014). Designing teacher evaluation systems: New guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2014, Spring). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: a.k.a. the remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74-84.

Resnick, L.B., & Schantz, F. (2015). Re-thinking intelligence: Schools that build the mind. European Journal of Education, 50(3), 340-349.