Alignment to College and Career Ready Standards: Overall Summary

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially met expectations for alignment to the CCSS. The instructional materials partially meet the expectations for Gateway 1 as they feature engaging texts, tasks and questions grounded in evidence, and opportunities for rich reading and literacy growth but inconsistently support speaking and listening. Writing support meets the requirements of the standards, although grammar and conventions lessons and practice are not always connected to the materials at hand in multiple contexts, and culminating tasks are of value but sometimes disconnected to the rich questions and reading that precede them. The instructional materials partially meet the expectations of Gateway 2 as they feature engaging and relevant texts and text sets organized around topics or themes to support students’ growing knowledge deeply but partially support students’ academic vocabulary development and growing integrated skills in literacy. Students are inconsistently asked to integrate their literacy skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) into full culminating tasks, and support for students to learn and practice vocabulary to build knowledge as they read texts is minimal. The overall year-long plans and structures for writing and for research instruction are partially present, with inconsistent supports, and there is no year-long plan for independent reading.

See Rating Scale
Understanding Gateways

Alignment

|

Partially Meets Expectations

Gateway 1:

Text Quality

0
17
32
36
30
32-36
Meets Expectations
18-31
Partially Meets Expectations
0-17
Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway 2:

Building Knowledge

0
15
28
32
16
28-32
Meets Expectations
16-27
Partially Meets Expectations
0-15
Does Not Meet Expectations

Usability

|

Not Rated

Not Rated

Gateway 3:

Usability

0
23
30
34
0
30-34
Meets Expectations
24-29
Partially Meets Expectations
0-23
Does Not Meet Expectations

Gateway One

Text Quality & Complexity and Alignment to Standards Components

Partially Meets Expectations

+
-
Gateway One Details

The Grade 6 materials partially meet the expectations for text quality and complexity and alignment to the standards. The texts used over the course of the year are engaging, rigorous, and organized to support students' growing literacy skills. Tasks and questions in writing are grounded in evidence, and instructional materials provide many opportunities for rich reading and literacy growth. The materials inconsistently support speaking and listening opportunities with limited implementation, support, and accountability, and students do not have consistent opportunities to model the use of academic vocabulary learned in their texts. Writing support meets the requirements of the standards, although grammar and conventions lessons and practice are not always connected to the materials at-hand in multiple contexts. Culminating tasks are of value, but sometimes disconnected from the rich questions and reading that preceded them.

Criterion 1a - 1f

Texts are worthy of students' time and attention: texts are of quality and are rigorous, meeting the text complexity criteria for each grade. Materials support students' advancing toward independent reading.
19/20
+
-
Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 include texts that are of high quality and engaging to students. The text sets reflect the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards, offering a range and volume of reading from which students can learn. These texts have the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative and qualitative analysis and relationship to their associated student task. The materials include guidance about the inclusion of and rationale for texts and their placement. Although most texts fall within the appropriate range for text complexity for Grade 6, the range of complexity is inconsistent, considering the work over a whole school year's worth of instruction. There are limited and inconsistent supports to ensure all students will be able to comprehend the materials at grade level.

Indicator 1a

Anchor texts are of publishable quality and worthy of especially careful reading and consider a range of student interests.
4/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 meet the expectations for anchor texts being of publishable quality and worthy of careful reading. The collections include well-known, published, and diverse authors such as Maya Angelou, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Ray Bradbury, Sandra Cisneros, and Langston Hughes.

The anchor texts and supplementary texts consider a range of topics that would be relevant and of interest to Grade 6 students. The collections include exploring fear, examining animal intelligence, looking at dealing with disasters, making one’s own voice heard, analyzing decisions that matter, and learning how stories are crafted to create an engaging story.

The collections include many types of writing types including the following: short stories, poems, myths, graphic stories, speeches, informational texts, memoirs, and media such as newscasts, and online sources. Anchor texts are included for each collection and close reading pieces are also identified.

Some representative examples of texts that demonstrate high quality include the following:

  • Collection 1: "Facing Fear" engages students by incorporating an anchor text with the main character of middle school age.
    • "The Ravine,” a short story by Graham Salisbury, includes rich figurative language throughout the text (e.g., page 10, “…little rivulets of water that bled from the side of the cliff.")
    • "Fears and Phobias," is an informational article about experiencing fear at different degrees and explains how fear works.
  • Collection 2: Animal Intelligence includes texts exploring various perspectives on the intelligence of animals.
    • "The Mixer" by P.G. Wodehouse, is an engaging story told from a dog's point of view.
    • from "How Smart Are Animals," the lens of animal intelligence from a scientific point of view.
  • Collection 3: “Dealing with Disaster” primarily includes texts about natural disasters. The exploration of natural phenomenon are relevant and interest students in Grade 6. Students will read about an adolescent character who experiences a hurricane in the short story “The Banana Tree.” Students explore news stories about disasters on a daily basis utilizing national and social media.
  • Collection 4: “Making Your Voice Heard,” involves anchor texts about people expressing themselves and their ideas.
    • "Wild Animals aren't Pets" and "Let People Own Wild Animals" are paired texts. Students read opinion pieces on the merits of owning exotic animals and then form their own opinion on this matter.
  • Collection 5: “Decisions That Matter,” has material that encourages students’ self-advocacy.
    • "It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership" from Colin Powell: Military Leader introduces two different genres on the same subjects to reveal different aspects.
    • “Paul Revere's Ride,” both a written poem and an audio version, uses the power of poetry to immortalize a person and an event decades after its occurrence.
  • Collection 6, “What Tales Tell” has material that provides a variety of stories that help students understand the relationship between tales and culture.
    • Students explore the gods and goddesses of Greek myths in “Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad” and “The Apple of Discord.” Students learn why these myths have endured through time.
    • “Yeh-Sheh: A Cinderella Story” allows students to consider the role culture plays in the telling of a classic story.
    • The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain, is presented in three forms: an excerpt from the novel, a drama, and a graphic retelling. Students examine how different formats affect the reading of a story.

Indicator 1b

Materials reflect the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards at each grade level.
4/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed meet the criteria for reflecting the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards for Grade 6. The six collections at this grade level contain a strong balance between literature and non-fictional texts and include many different genres within these text types. There are 29 literary and 27 informational texts distributed throughout the six collections. Literature selections include short stories, poems, myths and fables, a graphic story, and a drama. Non-fiction texts are also widely varied. They include informational texts, magazine articles, online sources (blog /website), a commentary, editorials, memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. Some of the non-fiction texts require students to compare different genres of the same topic. In Collection Five students read a memoir by Colin Powell and then a biography about his life.

The following are examples of the variety of texts found in two collections within the instructional materials:

Collection 2, “Animal Intelligence,” contains nine texts: four informational texts and three literary texts are located in The Collections Student Edition; three informational texts and one literary text are located in the Close Reader.

  • Literary Texts:
    • “The Mixer” a short story by P.G. Wodehouse
    • “The Pod” a short story by Maureen Crane Wartski
    • “Animal Wisdom” a poem by Nancy Wood
    • “The Last Wolf” a poem by Mary TallMountain
  • Informational Texts:
    • “Tribute to the Dog” a speech by George Graham Vest
    • How Smart are Animals? a science writing by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
    • “Can Animals Feel and Think?” an informational text by DeShawn Jones
    • Animal Snoops: The Wondrous World of Wildlife Spies an informational text by Peter Christie
    • “Bats!” a science writing by Mary Kay Carson

Collection 4, “Making Your Voice Heard,” contains eight texts: two informational texts and four literary texts are located in The Collections Student Edition; one informational text and one literary text are located in the Close Reader.

  • Literary Texts:
    • “My Wonder Horse” a short story by Sabine R. UliBarri
    • “Eleven” a short story by Sandra Cisneros
    • “What do Fish Have to Do with Anything?” a short story by Avi
    • “A Voice” a poem by Pat Mora
    • “Words Like Freedom” a poem by Langston Hughes
  • Informational Texts:
    • “Wild Animals Aren’t Pets” an editorial by USA TODAY
    • “Let People Own Exotic Animals” a commentary by Zuzana Kokal
    • “Views on Zoos” an informational audio text

Indicator 1c

Texts have the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and relationship to their associated student task.
4/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 meet the expectations of texts having the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and relationship to their associated student task. Texts have the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative and qualitative analysis and relationship to their associated student task. The collections at the beginning of the year contain more texts below the indicated quantitative band, but by the middle of the year, there are fewer texts below the band and more in the specified range. While some texts that are unquantifiable or fall outside of the grade band, often they are balanced by more rigorous tasks or sophisticated focuses. The information below shows the quantitative measure for different collections.

An example of a text that is below the grade band in readability is the short story “The Banana Tree” from Collection 3. While a Lexile of 820 falls below the grade 6-8 span, the qualitative analysis indicates moderate complexity in “Levels of Meaning,” “Language Conventionality,” and “Knowledge Demands.” Therefore, a lower readability is matched to a higher qualitative complexity. The task for this reading requires students to apply figurative language they explored in this text to the narrative they will write for the performance task for this activity. The complexity of the task also seems appropriately matched for the readability of this text.

The Lexile Levels for this grade are as follows:

  • Collection 1 measure of 680 to 1420
  • Collection 2 measure of 770 to 1170
  • Collection 3 measure of 820 and 1340
  • Collection 4 measure of 430 to 1180
  • Collection 5 measure of 780 to 1350
  • Collection 6 measure of 920 to 1220

Some examples that represent how the materials meet the expectations of the indicator that texts have the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, and relationship to their associated student task include the following:

  • “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves: Destruction in 12 Countries,” the anchor text from Collection 3 is at the high end of the span with a quantitative analysis at 1140L. The qualitative analysis indicates that Purpose and Language are fairly complex with a ranking of three out of four for those elements. The task requires students to analyze cause and effect and define technical language. The other anchor text regarding the sinking of the Titanic appears to be appropriate for both readability and qualitative features.
  • Collection 6 texts include traditional stories themed around the value of culture: Greek mythology, poetry, and an excerpt from the Iliad. High rigor is apparent as students work through archaic language and structures. The balance between text complexity and students tasks are well defined and demonstrated. For instance, when asking students to compare three texts—the three versions of Prince and the Pauper—the Lexile levels of the text are lower allowing students to focus on the higher complexity of the task.

Indicator 1d

Materials support students' increasing literacy skills over the course of the school year. (Series of texts should be at a variety of complexity levels appropriate for the grade band.)
4/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 meet the criteria for 1d. Instructional materials meet the expectation of supporting students’ increasing literacy skills over the course of the school year. Each collection builds in rigor over the course of the school year, providing students opportunities to learn and demonstrate literacy skills at grade level by the end of the school year. Series of texts have a variety of complexity levels and are accompanied by tasks that provide opportunity to practice increasingly rigorous skills. Although there are a few times the quantitative measure extends into the 2-3 grade band, and expands into the 9-10 grade band, the qualitative features keep the texts appropriate for students in Grade 6. "Using the Collection Your Way" found on the first page of the “Plan” section in each collection encourages teachers to structure each collection in various ways.

Collection 1: 680 - 1420

  • Anchor Text, “The Ravine” Lexile: 680
  • Anchor Text, “Fears and Phobias” Lexile: 1080

Collection 2: 770 - 1170

  • Anchor Text, “The Mixer” Lexile: 770
  • Anchor Text, How Smart are Animals? Lexile: 1130

Collection 3: 820 - 1450

  • Anchor Text, “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves: Destruction in 12 Countries” Lexile: 1140
  • Anchor Text, A Night to Remember Lexile: 1070

Collection 4: 430 - 1180

  • Anchor Text, “Wild Animals Aren’t Pets” Lexile: 1170 and “Let People Own Wild Animals” Lexile: 1180

Collection 5: 780 - 1350

  • Anchor Text, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership Lexile: 1010 and Colin Powell: Military Leader Lexile: 1220
  • Anchor Text, “Paul Revere’s Ride”

Collection 6: 920 - 1220

  • Anchor Text, Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad Lexile: 1220
  • Anchor Text, The Prince and the Pauper

Many of the anchor texts fall in the upper end of the Lexile band for Grade 6 students. The readability level of the texts significantly increases beginning with Collection 3. The anchor text in Collection 3, “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves,” is at the high end with a Lexile of 1140, and two other texts, a book review at 1340L and a newspaper article at 1450L, are also significantly outside the grade span. Only one text in this collection falls within the grade span: “A Night to Remember” at 1070L. Collection 4 has texts only above and below the grade span. For example, “Wild Animals Aren’t Pets” has a Lexile of 1170 and “Let People Own Exotic Animals” has a Lexile of 1180, which are both above the grade span. The other two texts are significantly below the grade level at 610L and 430L. Collection 5 only includes one evaluated text in the grade span, “It Worked for Me in Life and Leadership” with a Lexile of 1010. The majority of texts are high on the band or above with Lexile levels of 1220, 1350, 1340, and 1170.

Tasks within the collections also follow a range of complexity and demand. For example, Collection 3 requires students to complete the following assignments:

  • Analyze the cause and effect structure of the text
  • Analyze how the author synthesized information
  • Determine the meaning of technical language
  • Explain point of view in a poem
  • Determine meaning from figurative language and imagery
  • Analyze an author’s style

Collection 6 is representative of a series of texts most appropriate for this grade level. This collection includes traditional stories themed around the value of culture. Lower quantitative complexity is matched with high qualitative complexity through the texts’ inclusion of archaic language and structures. The balance between text complexity and student tasks is apparent. For instance, when asking students to compare three texts—the three versions of Prince and the Pauper—the Lexile levels of the text are lower, allowing students to focus on the higher complexity of the task and critical thinking skills.

Indicator 1e

Anchor texts and series of texts connected to them are accompanied by a text complexity analysis and rationale for purpose and placement in the grade level.
2/2
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 meet the criterion for anchor texts and texts connected to them being accompanied by a text complexity analysis and rationale for purpose and placement in the grade level. The beginning of each text selection in the Teacher’s manual includes the following features:

  • Why This Text?
  • Text Complexity Rubric.

The Why This Text? feature includes a brief rationale for the placement of the piece as well as a Key Learning Objective. The rationale does not explain the placement in the grade level or within the collection, but it does provide some explanation for the text’s inclusion. For example, in Collection 4, “Wild Animals Aren’t Pets” and “Let People Own Exotic Animals” state that students will encounter online arguments that have an opposing viewpoint. This provides an example with which students can practice comparing and contrasting two arguments on the same topic.

The Text Complexity Rubric is a graphic that provides an analysis of the qualitative, quantitative, and reader/task considerations for the complexity of each text. The quantitative provides the lexile level of each selection while the qualitative analysis identifies all four elements that contribute to qualitative complexity: Levels of Meaning/Purpose, Structure, Language Conventionality and Clarity, and Knowledge Demands. The scale moves across the four points from an element of less complexity to an area of more complexity. Reader/Task Considerations indicate that these are teacher determined and vary by student and text. It also indicates that the user look at the Text X-Ray feature for suggested reader and task considerations. To the left of the Text Complexity Rubric is a list of the core standards covered including, reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language.

The Text X-Ray feature referenced in the Reader/Task Considerations follows the text analysis. This provides additional support for all texts except texts identified as close readers. The Text X-Ray suggests possible supports a teacher could provide within the four areas of qualitative text complexity as well as Reader/Task considerations. For example, the arguments from Collection 4 asks the instructor to focus in on comparing and contrasting the arguments’ structures. The instructions ask the teacher to remind students that arguments on the same topic can try to convince readers using these different appeals: logic and emotion. Two sentences from the texts are provided, and students are asked to identify the sentence as appealing to logic or emotion. This might be a helpful support that students can use to find other similar appeals within these texts.

Indicator 1f

Anchor text(s), including support materials, provide opportunities for students to engage in a range and volume of reading to achieve grade level reading.
1/2
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The materials for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for anchor text(s), including providing support materials and opportunities for students to engage in a range and volume of reading to achieve grade level reading. Over the year, students are provided with a wide variety of texts. The Instructional Overview found at the beginning of each collection clearly identifies the diversity of texts students will be reading within each collection. Below is an example showing the range and volume that can be found from three different collections at this grade level:

  • Collection 1: short stories, poems, on-line articles and exhibits, informational texts, and magazine article
  • Collection 4: short stories, editorial, commentary, and poetry
  • Collection 5: short stories, autobiography, biography, memoir, essay poetry, news article, and TV newscast

While students read a variety of texts, it is unclear how students are supported towards independence. Instructions within the Teacher’s Edition do not explain how the entirety of a text is to be read: silently, by the teacher, or aloud as a whole class. Therefore, this decision is left up to the teacher with little guidance from the program. Students may never read the texts within the collections independently. Guidance found in the Close Reader suggest ideas for developing students’ independence through tasks like rereading lines, circling aspects of the text, or underlining specific events. However, the guidance does not show how students might assume more of this responsibility by asking students to set their own purpose for reading or annotating. This would help students develop their own independent monitoring.

There are limited and inconsistent opportunities for oral reading in the materials. Some examples of oral reading opportunities include:

  • Collection 1: After “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me Yet,” by Maya Angelou, the students are asked to complete the Performance Task: “Different people can read the same poem aloud in very different ways. Prepare an oral reading of all or a part of ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me Yet.’” This is an example of oral practice with the text. Students are directed to practice speaking independently in front of a mirror or recording and listening to it.
  • Collection 2: In the Extend and Reteach section of the Teacher Edition, one task students may practice and apply with either the text “Animal Wisdom” or “The Last Wolf” asks students to read the poem aloud a few times, taking turns reading each stanza. It directs teachers to guide students to express the meaning of the poem, using the line breaks and other elements of form to guide them.
  • Collection 5: “The First Day of School,” on page 271 in the Teacher Edition has directions under “Scaffolding for ELL Students: Fluent Reading“ that include: "Listening to fluently read text and being able to read text fluently themselves will help all students comprehend and enjoy the text. Use one of the following approaches to developing fluency that is compatible with your classroom and your students’ needs and abilities.”

Additional oral reading statements are limited to just a few occurrences throughout the Teacher Edition for multiple texts. These include:

  • Pair proficient and less proficient readers for paired oral reading.
  • Choral read with small groups of students.

Each collection contains a feature identified as Independent Reading that precedes the Performance Tasks at the end of each collection. This feature suggests digital resources students can use to find out more about the theme or topic of the collection; however, little support is provided.

  • Collection 1 suggests student read “The Raven” by Poe, or Psalm 23 from the King James Version of the Bible, but then asks the teacher to read the text aloud to students and then ask them questions about the reading.
  • There is also a section titled Creating an Independent Reading Program. The instructions suggest ways for teachers to help students increase independent reading; however, no system is provided to ensure that students are utilizing the techniques suggested here. A teacher may choose to skip this activity as it appears like an add-on or optional activity.

Criterion 1g - 1n

Materials provide opportunities for rich and rigorous evidence-based discussions and writing about texts to build strong literacy skills.
11/16
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-
Criterion Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 include consistent connections between texts and tasks. Most written questions, tasks, and assignments are text-specific and require students to engage with the text directly and to draw on textual evidence to support both what is explicit as well as valid inferences from the texts. This includes writing instruction, which engages students in writing multiple genres and modes over the course of the school year. Process writing practice and opportunities are embedded in each part of the school year. Although the tasks and questions connect to the texts, the larger culminating tasks inconsistently connect to the preceding question sequences and the texts being studied. On-demand writing opportunities are inconsistently supported over the course of the whole school year. Speaking and listening activities, while mostly evidence-focused, do not offer comprehensive support for accountability and using academic vocabulary in context. Language instruction for grammar and conventions is present and organized, but infrequently embedded in the contexts of the texts being read or writing being produced.

Indicator 1g

Most questions, tasks, and assignments are text-dependent, requiring students to engage with the text directly (drawing on textual evidence to support both what is explicit as well as valid inferences from the text).
2/2
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The materials reviewed for Grade 6 meet the criterion for most questions, tasks, and assignments are text-dependent/specific, requiring students to engage with the text directly (drawing on textual evidence to support both what is explicit as well as valid inferences from the text). The Teacher’s Edition includes text-dependent questions in the margin for the teacher to use with students. Literature selections ask students text-dependent questions about story elements: plot, character, setting, and conflict motivations. In addition, questions ask students to make inferences, analyze language, and determine the theme of the selection. Informational texts include text-dependent questions regarding text structure, text features, and support for authors’ claims. Students are also asked to determine facts and opinions, author’s purpose and author’s tone. Texts within the Close Reader include text-dependent questions in the student version and conclude with a short response writing activity that asks students to write a short response in reaction to the reading using textual evidence.

Examples representing the use of text-dependent questions and activities include but are not limited to the following:

  • In Collection 1, Fine?:
    • Review lines 279-286 then describe how the flashbacks add to Bailey's worries.
    • Review lines 293-296 and identify examples of sensory details that describe Bailey's dinner.
  • In Collection 3, My Wonder Horse:Ask students to reread lines 19-34 and identify the external conflict that the narrator tells about.
  • In Collection 4, Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves:
    • Have students reread lines 13-18, identify a cause, and summarize its effects.

A feature called Analyzing the Text at the end of the reading asks a series of questions in which students are instructed to “Support your responses with evidence from the text.” Below are some examples of the types of questions that appear in this feature:

  • In Collection 2, Tribute to the Dog:
    • Five progressive levels of questions ask students to identify, infer, summarize, analyze, and evaluate.
  • In Collection 4, Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves:
    • Five progressive levels of questions ask students to summarize, synthesize, analyze, cause/effect, interpret.

Indicator 1h

Sets of high-quality sequences of text-dependent questions and tasks build to a culminating task that integrates skills (may be writing, speaking, or a combination).
1/2
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria of providing sets of high-quality sequences of text-dependent questions and tasks that build to a culminating task which integrates skills (may be writing, speaking, or a combination). Each collection concludes with culminating tasks called performance tasks. Most of these tasks require students to incorporate reading, writing, and speaking skills to complete the assignment and provide a diverse means of delivery. These performance tasks are centered on the topic that students have been reading about in each collection and require students to use knowledge or information they gained through interacting with these texts. While some collections provide some coherent sequencing of activities, other collections lack logical sequencing and do not fully support student performance on successful completion of these tasks.

Throughout Grade 6, the students will complete the following performance tasks:

  • Write a literary response
  • Write an informative presentation
  • Write a literary analysis
  • Create an informative presentation
  • Create a multimedia presentation
  • Write a narrative nonfiction account
  • Present an argument
  • Write a personal narrative
  • Write an argument
  • Participate in a panel discussion
  • Write and produce a play

Below is an example of how the tasks prior to the culminating activity assist in preparing the student to complete this activity:

Collection 1

  • Performance Task A asks students to write and present a response to literature in which they review the texts they read and share their response to one of them. Performance tasks at the end of some readings help prepare students to do this. For example, after reading “The Ravine,” students are asked to write a two or three paragraph essay comparing and contrasting character traits of the two main characters. The task after “Fine?” involves students in writing a one or two-page narrative which describes the situation from Bailey’s mother’s point of view. After reading Fears and Phobias, students write a summary of the main points of the article in their own words.

Below are some examples of culminating tasks that lack coherence or support:

Collection 1

  • Performance Task B asks students to write an informative essay about a fear using texts from Collection 1 and their own research. However, activities that precede this task have not led up to supporting students to research and write an informative essay. Below are sample tasks students complete during the collection:
    • Write two to three paragraphs comparing and contrasting character traits.
    • Write a narrative.
    • Prepare an oral reading of a poem.
    • Write a summary.
    • Write a letter.

Collection 2

  • Performance Task A asks students to write a literary analysis of the dog as the main character from the text “The Mixer.” While questions that accompanied this text did ask students to consider the main character’s viewpoint, other activities did not support the writing of a literary analysis in which students need to provide a thesis, clearly organize ideas and concepts, present examples and quotes, and provide a conclusion that leaves an insight or memorable impression. Tasks leading up to this activity include:
    • Writing informative essays
    • Participating in a panel discussion
    • Presenting an informative presentation

Indicator 1i

Materials provide frequent opportunities and protocols for evidencebased discussions that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax. (May be small group and all-class.)
1/2
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the criterion that materials provide frequent opportunities and protocols for evidence-based discussions that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax. The materials provide opportunities for evidence-based discussions with partners and small groups.

After each reading within the collection, the student version and Teacher’s Edition include two collaborative discussion prompts. Both prompts require textual evidence to support opinion; however, minimal teacher support is provided. Teachers are not instructed how to strategically group students nor how to identify struggling students. Each collaborative discussion opportunity concludes with the teacher asking students to share their conversation with the whole class. No answer key or preferred responses are included.

The Close Reader and Analyzing the Text questions include frequent opportunities for evidence based discussion through the use of text-dependent questions. While possible student responses are provided with these prompts, there are no supports as to how teachers use these questions to facilitate student discussions. Therefore, it is possible that teachers might not utilize these as conversation prompts. Additionally, there are no teacher guidelines on how to monitor these questions to ensure students’ understanding.

Discussion opportunities are structured around academic vocabulary. Academic vocabulary is identified at the beginning of each collection in the Plan section. The Plan feature identifies opportunities for students to use the targeted vocabulary in Collaborative Discussion activities following each reading selection as well as Analyzing the Text Questions within the selections. The Think-Pair-Share strategy is regularly involved in the Analyzing the Text Questions. While these provide opportunities to practice the language, implementation of the strategy is not explicitly supported with guidance for misunderstandings nor with accountability. Below are two examples of this activity:

  • Think-Pair-Share: Have students turn to a partner to discuss the questions below. Guide students to include the academic vocabulary words distinct and illustrate. Ask volunteers to share their response with the class.
    • Which distinct behaviors show animals' intelligence and which do not?
    • What examples does the author use to illustrate these distinctions? (page 106)
  • Think-Pair-Share: Have students review the questions below and then discuss with a partner. Encourage pairs to include the academic vocabulary words achieve and principle in their discussions. Ask volunteers to share their response with the class.
    • What did Powell hope to achieve during his military career?
    • What principles did he try to follow as a military leader? (page 255)

Following are examples that represent how the program partially meets the expectation of this indicator over the year's worth of materials:

Collection 1

  • In the Collaborative Discussion feature, students are asked to discuss the content of a video in small groups. Then they work together to create a diagram that shows how brain pathways are activated in response to fear. Students can use this diagram to discuss the new ideas and information they learned from the video (page 60). No criteria are given as to how students should create the diagram nor is there any requirement to use and apply academic language to complete and discuss this task.
  • "With a partner, students explain glossophobia using evidence from the text." No protocols for speaking and listening are provided, nor are there supports around understanding the importance of this particular word in or out of context of the text itself.

While the Grade 6 materials provided opportunities for evidence-based discussions and use of academic vocabulary, the materials lack instructional support for implementation protocols, assessment protocols, and ways to identify students struggling with speaking and listening skills.

Indicator 1j

Materials support students' listening and speaking about what they are reading and researching (including presentation opportunities) with relevant follow-up questions and supports.
1/2
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria for materials supporting students’ listening and speaking about what they are reading and researching (including presentation opportunities) with relevant follow-up questions and supports. The instructional materials provide opportunities for students to practice speaking and listening around the topics and texts they are reading and researching within the collections. However, there is a lack of teacher guidance to effectively support implementation of these skills.

Some speaking and listening components within assignments provided in the student and teacher edition include the following representative examples. In some cases, instruction on classroom implementation is either minimal or absent, and in others, there is a minimal connection to the texts being studied. The following examples are representative of speaking and listening assignments that demonstrate minimal or no instructional supports.

  • The performance task example below exhibits the minimal support given for a speaking and listening task following the reading of the text “Tribute to the Dog:”
  • Speaking Activity: Discussion: In a small-group panel discussion, tell why you agree or disagree with the speech “Tribute to the Dog,” providing your own claim with support for your opinion.
    • Prepare for the discussion by reviewing the speech and listing evidence from the text to support your opinion.
    • When it’s your turn to speak, present your claims and support in a logical way. Be sure to make eye contact with members of the panel, speak at an appropriate volume, and pronounce words clearly.
    • Appoint a group leader to begin the discussion.
    • Make sure each person on the panel has a chance to speak.

Teacher directions ask the teacher to have students prepare for the discussion by composing a claim that clearly states their position, list examples and evidence from the text that supports their claim and orders their points in a logical way (page 96).

Within the above example, little explicit guidance is given to the content of “create a claim supported by evidence” as well as instructions that help students respond to differing opinions, or connect or build upon similarly presented ideas.

  • In Collection 1, Performance Tasks A and B have students present a response to literature and write an informative essay that can be orally presented to the class or recorded as a news report. In Performance Task A, students are directed to show enthusiasm through their voice, grab attention by using the pitch of voice for emphasis, speak slowly pausing at important points, and look the audience in the eye or use facial expressions. If students are struggling with this, the teacher is directed to let students view a recording of a model presentation before presenting; however, no model presentation is offered and no other guidance is given to help students discern proper use of pitch, pausing, or facial expressions. Performance Task B provides no guidance on how students present their informative essay or record it as a news report.
  • In Collection 3, Performance Task A asks students to create a multimedia presentation with a partner on how to prepare for a natural disaster using information from the texts in this collection or other research. When instructed to practice preparing to deliver the presentation, students are reminded to use their voice effectively - using pitch and tone, speak loudly, avoid slang, maintain eye contact and use gestures and facial expressions. However, no models or examples of what effective use of these techniques looks like are provided.
  • In Collection 3, Performance Task B asks students to write a nonfiction narrative. Students may choose to present this to the class through an author’s reading, using appropriate expression or through dramatization. Again, no specific instruction or support is given to students or teachers.

Indicator 1k

Materials include a mix of on-demand and process writing (e.g. multiple drafts, revisions over time) and short, focused projects, incorporating digital resources where appropriate.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the expectations for indicator 1k. Materials do include a mix of short and longer writing tasks and projects within the Student Edition. After many of the reading selections in a collection, students are presented with writing tasks. At the end of each collection are culminating performance tasks, and many of these require writing.

After reading texts within collections the following types of writing are assigned; however, there is very little guidance and no rubrics:

  • Informative essays
  • Narratives
  • Summary
  • Letter
  • Poetry
  • Research
  • Argument
  • Essay
  • Analyses
  • Commentary

Performance Tasks at the end of each Collection require the writing types below; these tasks contain two to three pages of guidance and provide rubrics:

  • Informative essay
  • Literary analysis
  • Narrative non-fiction
  • Personal narrative
  • Argument
  • Write and produce a play

Despite having a wide mix of short and longer writing tasks and projects, the Collections do not include any on-demand writing tasks.

Writings tasks provide limited support to ensure student success. Below is an example of a summary writing task from Collection 1:

  • The textbook asks the students to write a summary that is one-third the length of the original text. Students need to include main ideas, use a topic sentence, define fear and phobia and explain how they are different (using evidence), then conclude, explaining why the article was useful or important. However, no instruction is given for the assignment regarding how to condense a full-length text, identify the main idea, use evidence when writing a summary, nor does it provide a graphic organizer that helps organize information. The “Extend and Reteach” after the assignment includes a teaching lesson on steps to create a summary, but this may or may not be used by the teacher after the lesson.

The Performance Task from Collection 6 asks students to write and produce a play. The Performance Task is engaging, but none of the writing tasks from Collection 1 or the other collections have provided practice and support for this task. Also, the students have only read one drama from this collection to prepare.

Evidence of support for digital resources is also limited. For example, the performance task from Collection 1 asks students to create a podcast. The directions ask to “Create an audio recording for a podcast movie review of the video ‘Wired for Fear’.” There are no digital resources to assist with creating this podcast.

A consumable Performance Assessment booklet breaks down the writing process for three writing tasks: Argumentative Essay, Informative Essay, and Literary Analysis. There is a full unit of instruction including support for close reading, extraction of information, pacing, and revision. Student understanding is scaffolded through the use of rubrics, graphic organizers, and speaking and listening activities during which students discuss specific components of the writing task at hand. Materials include practice and instruction for pacing and self-revision. At the end of this booklet, there is an on-demand writing assignment. However, the readings in the Performance Assessment booklet are not connected to the readings and topics of the Collections. Instead, the readings are stand alone texts with writing assignments. Teachers are not advised in the Teacher’s Edition how or when to use these readings and writing projects. In addition, it is unclear if these consumables would be provided each year; therefore, it is possible that students would have no exposure to on-demand writing assignments.

Indicator 1l

Materials provide opportunities for students to address different text types of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 meet the criteria for indicator 1l. Materials provide multiple opportunities across the school year for students to write in different genres that reflect the distribution required by the standards. The students write arguments, informative texts, and narratives. Writing opportunities occur within collections in which students write shorter process pieces following texts within the collection and in many of the Performance Tasks at the end of each collection.

Examples of different writing opportunities in the materials include:

Shorter process writing found at the end of texts within Collections:

  • Informational report
  • Narratives
  • Summary
  • Letter
  • Poetry
  • Research
  • Argument
  • Essay
  • Analyses
  • Commentary

Extended writing projects in performance tasks at the end of each Collection:

  • Write an informative essay
  • Literary analysis
  • Narrative non-fiction
  • Personal narrative
  • Argument
  • Write and produce a play

Indicator 1m

Materials include frequent opportunities for evidence-based writing to support careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 meet the criterion that materials include frequent opportunities for evidence-based writing to support careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information. Materials provide students with sufficient opportunities to learn, practice, and apply writing using evidence. Students are asked to analyze texts, create claims, and include clear information about their writing topics. Materials provide opportunities to build and reinforce students’ writing abilities over the course of the school year.

Directions included with writing tasks require students to use evidence from texts read within the collection as well as texts researched outside of the collections. Application of these skills is required and evident within shorter writing assignments in the collections as well as in the Performance Tasks at the end of each collection.

Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • Collection 2: after reading the short story “The Mixer,” students write an informative essay that explains the Shy Man’s motivation for not speaking. They are required to describe the man’s character and give concrete examples from the story that illustrate why the man does not speak.
  • Collection 5: students write an argument using the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” and other readings from this collection to write an argument in which they give their views on how people’s decisions, no matter how big or small, can have consequences. The students are required to develop a claim supported by logical reasons and relevant evidence to support their position as well as presenting and refuting opposing claims.
  • Collection 6: students write an analysis after reading an excerpt from The Iliad, “Black Ships Before Troy.” Students must choose an event from this reading and analyze how an event unfolds and how characters respond or change, using evidence from the text.

The writing tasks at this grade level demonstrate building expectations for students’ writing over the course of the year. Below are examples of the writing tasks students could experience over the course of the year:

  • Collection 1: Write an informative essay, narrative, summary, letter, and another informative essay.
  • Collection 2: Write three informative essays and a literary analysis.
  • Collection 3: Write a poem, narrative, research, multimedia presentation, and a nonfiction narrative.
  • Collection 4: Write an informative essay, an argument, a poem, and an argumentative speech.
  • Collection 5: Write an essay, an analysis, personal narrative, and an argument.
  • Collection 6: Write an analysis, narrative, and a play.

Indicator 1n

Materials include explicit instruction of the grammar and conventions standards for grade level as applied in increasingly sophisticated contexts, with opportunities for application both in and out of context.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the criterion that materials include explicit instruction of the grammar and conventions standards for grade level as applied in increasingly sophisticated contexts, with opportunities for application both in and out of context. Materials include some explicit directions targeted at the instruction of grammar and convention standards; however, instruction around these topics is brief. The grade level does not clearly appear to build in complexity as it progresses through the year.

Conventions and grammar are taught after the readings in a feature called Language Conventions. The text is referenced and samples from the text that were read are included. However, the opportunity for practice oftentimes seems brief. These activities are not frequent enough to fully meet the criteria of the indicator. Below are examples that illustrate the brevity of practice:

  • In “Fears and Phobias,” Collection 1, students are asked to choose the correct pronoun in five sentences to practice subjective and objective pronouns.
  • In Performance Task A of Collection 1, students are asked to consider the use of adverbs in their written performance task of writing a response to literature, but no direct exercise is involved.
  • In “The Mixer,” Collection 2, students are asked to complete five questions, fill in the blank, and use intensive pronouns after a brief instructional piece.
  • In Performance Task B of Collection 5, students are asked in a brief section to consider using compound or complex sentences to link evidence to claims; however, earlier in this collection different types of sentences were described for the following purpose:
    • “Writers pay attention to sentence patterns because the right combination of short and long sentences creates rhythm.” (page 280)

Grammar and conventions are not addressed during the reading and at the point of contact. No text dependent questions appear to help students recognize grammatical structures within the context. Within the feature of Language Conventions, there are brief opportunities for students to learn and practice grammatical and spelling conventions. Due to the short, random appearance of these activities, it may be unlikely that students will retain any information after the completion of four or five practice sentences. The grammar/spelling activities do appear in context with the literature they follow.

In addition, instruction within language conventions is also abstract and minimal. In Collection 3 student are introduced to the idea of style and tone in writing and are provided with an example of consistent style and tone. Students are then asked to revise a passage to create greater consistency in style and tone. No analysis is provided to consider or identify what makes the sample inconsistent. A possible response is provided, but this could be very subjective and offers little teacher support if students are unsure how to do this task.

A steady progression of complexity seems unclear. Below are the targeted conventions and grammar within the collections that indicate this:

  • Collection 1: recognize variations from Standard English, commas and dashes, subjective and objective pronouns, possessive pronouns
  • Collection 2: intensive pronouns, relative pronouns (who and whom), pronoun number, capitalization
  • Collection 3: shifts in pronoun person, capitalization, consistency in style and tone
  • Collection 4: improving expression, spell words correctly, punctuating dialogue
  • Collection 5: correct vague pronouns, varying sentence patterns
  • Collection 6: spell words correctly, parentheses

Spelling is not presented until Collection 4 and is emphasized towards the end of the year, not throughout the year. In Collection 5, in the Language Conventions feature, students learn about correcting vague pronouns. The instruction defines pronouns and considers the relationship between pronouns and antecedents. Collections 1 and 2 have a strong focus on pronouns.

Minimal instruction is provided for all of the above language conventions. There is some application during the instruction, but the convention is not mentioned in the numerous writing tasks throughout the collection.

Gateway Two

Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks

Partially Meets Expectations

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Gateway Two Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the expectations of Gateway 2: Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks. Texts and text sets are organized around topics or themes to support students’ growing knowledge deeply. Topics and themes are relevant and engaging to students, and writing and speaking tasks are connected to the themes shared. The materials partially support students’ academic vocabulary development and growing integrated skills in literacy. There are some questions and tasks that grow students’ knowledge of literary terms, but the practice in this area focuses mostly on surface elements of the text and text features, rather than diving deeply into the text. Students may miss opportunities to develop and extend their knowledge of the topics or themes without more guidance and support from the teacher. Students have some opportunities to think critically and analyze concepts across multiple texts, but these opportunities are inconsistent and not explicitly engaged over the whole school year. Additionally, students are inconsistently asked to integrate their literacy skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) into full culminating tasks. Frequently, culminating tasks focus on only one skill or do not require students to incorporate the text itself to complete the task. Other tasks have connections that are weak and/or missing instructional supports for the teacher to attend to misunderstandings. Academic vocabulary structures are in place, but support for students to learn and practice this vocabulary to build knowledge as they read texts is minimal. Much academic vocabulary practice is disconnected from the texts and text sets, although in some instances there are opportunities for students to focus in on author’s choices of words and structures. The overall year-long plans and structures for writing and for research instruction are partially present, with inconsistent supports. The writing instruction does have key components, however, it does not support students’ increasing skills over the year. Research skills are not taught in a progression of focused projects over the course of the school year. Overall, the materials partially build knowledge through integration of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language activities as they learn about topics and themes. To wholly ensure students’ growing literacy skills, the teacher will need to provide supplementary support and more focused attention on building strong academic vocabulary. There is no year-long independent reading plan.

Criterion 2a - 2h

16/32

Indicator 2a

Texts are organized around a topic/topics (or, for grades 6-8, topics and/or themes) to build students' ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 meet the criterion that texts are organized around a topic/topics (or, for grades 6-8, topics and/or themes) to build students’ ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently. Anchor texts are organized around appropriate topic(s) and/or themes to build students’ ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently at grade level.

Collection 1: Facing Fear

  • The readings in this collection explore fears and phobias. There are several informational pieces in this collection with a balance of literary reading on this topic. The relationship between the texts and the topic are clearly evident and help students build knowledge about this topic. The following texts are included in this collection:
    • “The Ravine” - anchor text
    • “The Jumping Tree” - excerpt
    • “Fine?”
    • “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”
    • “Fears and Phobias” - anchor text
    • “Face Your Fear: Choking Under Pressure is Every Athlete’s Worst Nightmare”
    • "Stuff That Scares Your Pants Off”
    • “Face Your Fear and Scare the Phobia Out of Your Brain”

Collection 2: Animal Intelligence

  • The readings in this collection are organized around the topic of “Animal Intelligence.” The following texts are included in this collection:
    • "The Mixer" - anchor text
    • “The Pod”
    • “Tribute to the Dog”
    • “Animal Wisdom”
    • “How Smart are Animals?” - excerpt, anchor text
    • “Can Animals Feel and Think?”
    • "Animal Snopes: The Wondrous World of Wildlife Spies" - excerpt
    • “Bats!”

Collection 3: Dealing with Disaster

  • The readings in this collection examine differing disasters. Natural disasters are explored in texts about tsunamis and hurricanes. Students also read about personal disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic. The following texts are included in this collection:
    • “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves, Destruction in 12 Countries - anchor text
    • “Moby Duck”
    • “After the Hurricane”
    • “Watcher: After Katrina, 2005”
    • “The Banana Tree”
    • “There Will Come Soft Rains”
    • A Night to Remember” - excerpt, anchor text
    • “On the Titanic, Defined by What They Wore”

Collection 4: Making Your Voice Heard

  • The texts in this collection focus on the power of an individual’s voice. Students explore argument by reading a text set that includes editorials and commentaries. These texts help demonstrate how argumentative techniques support a person’s ability to voice his or her opinion. The following texts are included in this collection:
    • "My Wonder Horse"
    • “Wild Animals Aren’t Pets" - anchor text
    • "Let People Own Exotic Animals" - anchor text
    • "Views on Zoos”
    • "Eleven”
    • “What do Fish Have to do with Anything?”
    • “A Voice”
    • “Words Like Freedom”

Collection 5: Decisions that Matter

  • Readings in this collection explore different decisions that had substantial consequences for individuals, as well as significant historical events. Students read fictional pieces that explore the theme. The following texts are included in this collection:
    • It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership - excerpt, anchor text
    • Colin Powell: Military Leader - excerpt, anchor text
    • Every Day is a New Day - excerpt
    • "The First Day of School"
    • "The Road Not Taken"
    • “Paul Revere’s Ride”
    • “The Light - Ah! The Light”
    • “On Doomed Flight, Passengers Vowed to Perish Fighting”

Collection 6: What Tales Tell

  • Selections from this collection examine differing stories of retellings and different formats of familiar stories. Students examine how stories reveal the values of cultures or how story elements change depending upon the delivery type of the story format. The following texts are included in this collection:
    • Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad - excerpt, anchor text
    • “Medusa’s Head”
    • “Medusa”
    • “The Apple of Discord I”
    • “Yen-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China”
    • The Prince and the Pauper - excerpt, anchor
    • The Prince and the Pauper - drama
    • The Prince and the Pauper - graphic story
    • “The Role of Myths in Ancient Greece”

Indicator 2b

Materials contain sets of coherently sequenced questions and tasks that require students to analyze the language, key ideas, details, craft, and structure of individual texts.
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

Materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the criteria that materials contain sets of coherently sequenced questions and tasks that require students to analyze the language, key ideas, details, craft, and structure of individual texts. Materials contain sets of questions and tasks, and they require students to analyze the language, key ideas, details, craft, and structure of individual texts in a coherent sequence related to the standards. However, instructional materials and identified elements stay consistent and do not grow in rigor from early in the year to being more embedded in student work at the end of the year. There are limited rubrics and scoring guides for students to work with the specifics of text components as they grow their understanding of topic and theme.

The following are examples of questions and tasks that help students analyze key ideas and details:

  • Collection 1: “The Ravine”: Ask students to reread lines 38-53 and tell what they learn about Vinny’s feelings in these paragraphs.
  • Collection 2: “How Smart are Animals”: Have students reread lines 49-58, decide what the central idea is, and then summarize it, including details from the text.
  • Collection 4: “My Wonder Horse”: Have students reread lines 144-161 and describe how the narrator’s response to leading the Wonder Horse through the town causes a surprising shift in the story.
  • Collection 4: “Wild Animals aren’t Pets”: Reread lines 42-48 and tell the author’s opinion of how states regulate exotic animals.

The following are examples of questions and tasks that assist students in analyzing craft and structure of the texts they are reading. The aforementioned samples provide examples of questions working to build students’ abilities. The following three samples provide examples of questions working to build students' abilities:

  • Collection 1: “The Ravine”: Reread lines 26-29; point out the variations from standard English, and then restate the boys’ dialogue in standard English. Ask them how this use of dialect helps them better understanding the characters.
  • Collection 4: “My Wonder Horse”: Ask students to reread lines 95-100 and identify examples of figurative language. Have students explain what images and ideas each figure of speech illustrates. Then, ask them to tell what story elements each example elaborates on for the reader.
  • Collection 4: “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves”: Have students reread lines 13-18, identify a cause, and summarize its effects.

Below are examples of questions and tasks that help students analyze language within the texts they are reading:

  • Collection 2: In the feature, “Analyze the Meanings of Words and Phrases”: Have students identify emotional appeals the speaker uses in “Tribute to the Dog” that touch on strong feelings people have for their pets.
  • Collection 4: “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves”: Have students review lines 32-33, give the meaning of the term epicenter, and tell how they know this.

The feature “Critical Vocabulary” found in the Teacher Edition margins includes questions for students to consider the usage of certain words used within the text. The following is an example of the feature:

  • Collection 4, p. 212, lethargy: The author uses the word lethargy to describe the feeling that the narrator experiences in the late afternoon. Ask students to point out words in the surrounding text that are related to lethargy. Then, ask them to tell why lethargy is a good choice to explain how one might feel in the late afternoon.

Smaller performance tasks following each reading within collections also provide opportunities to integrate knowledge and ideas from the texts they are reading. Below is an example of tasks from Grade 6, Collection 2:

  • Informative essay: a one-page essay about a character from the story, “The Mixer”
  • Discussion Activity: a small panel discussion to agree or disagree with ideas presented in the speech, “Tribute to the Dog”
  • Informative essay: a one-page essay to compare and contrast two authors’ attitudes about how each writer feels about wildlife
  • Informative essay: a one-page essay to explain the author’s purpose for writing How Smart Are Animals?

Indicator 2c

Materials contain a coherently sequenced set of text-dependent questions and tasks that require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas across both individual and multiple texts.
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

Materials reviewed for Grade 6 partially meet the expectations that materials contain a coherently sequenced set of text-dependent questions and tasks that require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas across both individual and multiple texts. The materials include some sets of text-dependent questions and tasks that require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas across both individual and multiple texts. However, most sets of text-dependent questions, both within the reading and the “Analyzing the Text” section at the end of each reading, are text-specific. Typically, the end of collection Performance Tasks is stronger with regards to requiring students to integrate knowledge and ideas acquired by the texts they have read. However, not all of the activities students have participated in throughout the collection may support students’ effort to apply the knowledge they may have gained through their reading. Additionally, instructional directions for teachers to support students' success is lacking. Furthermore, the materials do not supply supports for students to self-assess their own knowledge as they work through the collections.

Opportunities for students to practice building integration of knowledge and ideas appear in Performance Tasks following each reading. Some of these work to support students making sense of the information they have been reading. The following is an example that reflects an integration of knowledge and ideas:

  • After reading an excerpt from the text Colin Powell: Military Leader in Collection 5, the performance task asks students to present a speech that explains how Colin’s advice to “always do your best” helped shape Powell’s life and career. Include information from the texts that indicate how experiences, people, and events influenced Powell (p. 268).

Not all tasks require students to integrate such knowledge. The following is an example in which students could create without using information learned by reading texts within the collection:

  • After reading the short story “The Banana Tree” from Collection 3, the performance tasks asks students to write a narrative of a bad storm they have experienced. They need to write a summary of the event, fill in sensory details, and use specific nouns, verbs, and adjectives to create a clear picture. They are asked to use personification and review their writing to add or clarify details.

The instructional materials may not align the activities that students participate in during the collection to support developing knowledge about the topic or theme being studied. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Collection 3, Performance Task B requires students to create an informational report that demonstrates their understanding of how animals exhibit intelligence, using resources from this collection. Within the collection’s activities students have had the opportunity to write three informative essays and present an informative essay. This gives students practice with the skill of writing an informative essay but does not support their developing understanding of how animals exhibit intelligence.
    • After reading the short story “The Mixer,” students write an informative essay about the Shy Man’s motivation for not speaking.
    • After reading the poems “Last Wolf” and “Animal Wisdom,” students write an essay that compares and contrasts how each author feels about wildlife and the imagery they used. This task does ask how the authors present the idea of animal intelligence, but this is not the main focus of this writing.
    • After reading “How Smart are Animals?” students are asked to write an informative essay to explain the author’s purpose for writing this text.
  • Collection 5, Performance Task A requires students to write a personal narrative about an important event in their life. However, students do not use information learned from the texts in this collection to write this narrative. This writing could be isolated from these texts and be completed by the students.

The program lacks the consistent support that allows students to build developing knowledge. Also, it lacks support for students and teachers. There are no student models, rubrics, or checklists included within the smaller performance tasks after each reading. This would make it difficult for both teachers and students to recognize growth or evidence of insufficient or incorrect knowledge. While the culminating performance tasks at the end of each collection do provide rubrics for student scoring, they may require students to apply skills that have not been addressed within the collection, as with the following example:

  • Collection 2, Performance Task B asks students to give an informative presentation about how animals exhibit intelligence. This requires the use of a thesis statement, but this skill is not explicitly taught here nor in any of the activities in this collection. This task also requires students to end with a conclusion that restates the thesis; however, this is not explicitly taught.

Indicator 2d

The questions and tasks support students' ability to complete culminating tasks in which they demonstrate their knowledge of a topic (or, for grades 6-8, a theme) through integrated skills (e.g. combination of reading, writing, speaking, listening).
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the expectations that the questions and tasks support students’ ability to complete culminating tasks in which they demonstrate their knowledge of a topic (or, for grades 6-8, a theme) through integrated skills (e.g. combination of reading, writing, speaking, listening). Materials contain some questions and tasks that support students’ ability to complete culminating tasks in which they demonstrate their knowledge of a topic through integrated skills (e.g., combination of reading, writing, speaking, listening). Culminating tasks include a range of reading, writing, speaking and listening opportunities. Students complete two Performance Tasks at the end of each collection. The Performance Tasks require students to further analyze the selections that have been read in the collection and to synthesize ideas. Students then present their findings in a variety of products, most often as a written piece. However, there is minimal or no support within the student or teacher materials for students to successfully complete the Performance Task. There is limited support for teachers to discern if students are prepared to address these tasks. The writing process is not modeled or directly taught in relationship to the performance tasks, and direct connections from the text-dependent questions to the culminating tasks are not always clear.

Examples representative of the program supporting students in demonstrating knowledge through an integrated culminating task include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • In Collection 3, Performance Tasks A and B demonstrate evidence of skills building up to these final tasks. Students view the documentary Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved for the task of analyzing the purpose of a documentary. This helps to build to Performance Task A, where students are required to create a multimedia presentation. In Collection 3 students also read, “Mammoth Shakes and Monster Waves: Destruction in 12 Countries,” a narrative nonfiction piece. Tasks and questions are provided that require students to examine the cause and effect structure of this text, as well as analyze narrative nonfiction elements. This supports students completing Performance Task B: writing a narrative nonfiction piece.
  • In Collection 4, the Performance Task requires students to present an argument in a speech. Activities and tasks are included in this collection that would provide support for students' successful completion of this task. On page 244, students consider an author’s use of tone as a way of expressing ideas. When students read “Views on Zoos,” they compare and contrast differing arguments and write a short argument for or against zoos, by creating a claim and using supporting textual evidence.

Examples representative of the need for more support in this area include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • In Collection 2, Performance Task B asks students to create an informational report on the intelligence of animals, using resources from this collection. Within this collection, students write three informative essays and present an informative essay. This provides students practice with the skill of writing an informative essay but does not support greater understanding of this topic. Other tasks do not support students’ developing knowledge about this topic. After reading “The Mixer,” students write an informative essay about the Shy Man’s motivation for not speaking. The task for the poems “Animal Wisdom” and “The Last Wolf” asks students to write to compare and contrast how each author feels about wildlife. After reading “How Smart are Animals?” students write to explain the author’s purpose for writing this text. These tasks do not demonstrate support for students’ increasing knowledge about the identified topic of this collection: Animal Intelligence.
  • In Collection 6, Performance Task A requires students to participate in a collaborative discussion. Some practice is provided, as seen in Black Ships Before Troy. However, little evidence within this collection is evident for building the skills necessary to complete the Performance Task B, which requires students to write and produce a play. No preparation in playwriting skills or plotting a play is provided. While students read and deliver a dramatic reading of a portion of The Prince and the Pauper, this will not provide the support necessary for students to successfully complete the performance task.

Teacher supports for tracking student progress are not provided in the Teacher’s Edition. While the questions are pertinent, cogent, and rigorous, the teacher would need to develop a system of data collection to effectively and authentically track student performance and understanding.

Indicator 2e

Materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts.
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the criterion that materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts. There are academic vocabulary lessons and assignments present, but the materials do not include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts.

Each collection introduces five “Academic Vocabulary” terms at the very beginning of each collection. Instructions ask the students to “Study the words and their definitions in the chart below. You will use these words as you discuss and write about the texts in this collection.” While each collection targets academic vocabulary, the plan for building students’ use of academic terms is general; specific words for each collection appear to lack intentionality. The program provides general reminders to “do” activities with the five identified words or “use” these terms during the pre-prepared sections, such as Applying Academic Vocabulary and end of collection Performance tasks.

An example of the generality and lack of intentionality is provided as follows:

  • Collection 5, Performance Task B targeted terms are “achieve,” “individual,” “instance,” “outcome,” and “principle.” The Performance Task requires students to write an argument in which they provide their views regarding how people’s decisions matter and can have consequences. In the margin of the assignment is a reminder for students to be sure to use these words as they plan and create their argument. However, there is no specificity about the way students should use these words, nor is there any way to ensure that students are applying these words. The Performance Task Rubric does not evaluate for the use of these academic vocabulary terms (pp 307-310).

In addition to each collection’s five targeted words, the series highlights five “Critical Vocabulary” for each text selection. In the student edition, critical vocabulary words are “glossed” (an explanation is provided), and a longer definition and prompt for discussion are provided in the Teacher Edition. Below is a sample of the glossed definition and the extended definition and prompt for the short story “My Wonder Horse” from Collection 4, targeting the critical vocabulary word “indomitable”:

  • Glossed: “Something or someone that is indomitable is unable to be tamed or defeated.”
  • Teacher Definition and Prompt: “The narrator uses the word indomitable to describe the white horse’s spirit. Ask students to tell why they think the narrator says he was ‘rejoicing’ to learn about the white horse’s indomitable spirit.” (p. 218)

This prompt seems fairly supportive; however, this term is paired with more “critical” words that are challenging. Also included are the following words: “lethargy,” “vigil,” “mandate,” “recoil,” and “indignity.”

Critical Vocabulary is reviewed at the end of each text in a featured section by the same name. Students are directed to use their understanding of the vocabulary words to answer each question. An example of how students will demonstrate their understanding of “indomitable” is provided in the following example:

  • If the opposing team is indomitable, is your team likely to win or lose?

The aforementioned words are difficult and would need to be repeated within more contexts to ensure that students would acquire these words. One exposure with one opportunity to apply meaning is a cursory treatment of challenging academic vocabulary.

Close readings include Critical Vocabulary and a place for students to write the meaning; however, it is nebulous how they are to determine the meaning. An example from an autobiography excerpt, Every Day is a New Day from Collection 4 is included:

  • The teacher notes ask students to share their definition of “sovereignty.” Volunteers are asked to use the noun in a sentence after reading how it is used in this text: "The young students who occupied Alcatraz Island claimed that federal surplus lands such as Alcatraz should be returned to tribal peoples on legal and moral ground, and that treaties, land rights, and tribal sovereignty should be respected and honored."
  • It is unclear how students will do this if they do not know the word “sovereignty.” The context is complex and dense and the word “sovereignty” is abstract.

While the materials ask teachers to encourage students to practice vocabulary, support that allows a teacher to evaluate and monitor students’ acquisition of the words is missing. Therefore, the program does not clearly demonstrate students’ growth.

Indicator 2f

Materials support students' increasing writing skills over the course of the school year, building students' writing ability to demonstrate proficiency at grade level at the end of the school year.
2/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The materials for Grade 6 partially meet the expectations that materials support students’ increasing writing skills over the course of the school year, building students’ writing ability to demonstrate proficiency at grade level at the end of the school year. Materials do include writing instruction aligned to the grade-level standards and sufficient writing assignments span the whole year. Students complete a wide variety of writing over time and they write often. However, there is not a clear progression of skills over time. It is unclear how one assignment leads or connects to the next and how the skills build. Furthermore, materials do not provide a strategic plan to support the development of students’ skills over the entire year. Teacher materials do not provide protocols, implementation plans, and student mastery tracking to support instruction, differentiation, or student self-monitoring. The following examples illustrate the difficulty in discerning whether the writing requirements change:

  • After reading the short story “The Mixer” from Collection 2, students are asked to write a one-page informative essay. The directions ask the student to make notes, describe the main character using evidence, provide concrete examples, use appropriate transitions, and provide a concluding statement.
  • After reading the short story “The First Day of School” in Collection 5, students are asked to write a one-page informative essay. The directions ask the student to include an explanation of the character’s feelings, support the included ideas with explanations, cite examples from the text, and provide a concluding sentence.

The 6th Grade Performance Assessment booklet does provide a breakdown of the writing process for three writing tasks: Argumentative Essay, Informative Essay, and Literary Analysis. The booklet does provide a full unit of instruction including support for close reading, extraction of information, and the full experience of the writing process for each mode of writing; however, no guidance is given on how to utilize this resource, nor is it clear that this booklet comes with the textbook. Assurance that this would be provided and available for teachers year after year would need to be confirmed.

The materials for Grade 6 do include opportunities for students to write in all modes required by the CCSS writing standards for the grade (argumentative, narrative, and informative). Below are examples of Performance Task writing assignments included at this grade level:

  • Collection 1: Informative essay
  • Collection 2: Literary analysis
  • Collection 3: Narrative nonfiction
  • Collection 5: Personal narrative/argument
  • Collection 6: Write and produce a play

The materials also require students to complete shorter writing tasks using evidence from multiple sources within the collection, as well as research students gather from outside sources. These shorter writing tasks have minimal support. Models, graphic organizers, and rubrics are not included. Teachers would need to create their own system for including these elements. The following is an example of a writing task the demonstrates the insufficiency of support:

  • After reading "Animal Snoops: The Wondrous World of Wildlife Spies" in Collection 2, students are asked to write media slides for the performance task of this text. Instructions for teachers are to direct students to research a specific animal mentioned in the text. They are to use print and digital sources, although no resources are provided nor any guidance on the research process, safety, effectiveness, etc. Students are asked to “synthesize information from the text with research to present a slide show presentation about the animal.” There is no guidance for either the teacher or student regarding the audience or purpose. Furthermore, there is no rubric or graphic organizer provided to support students’ success with this activity.

Indicator 2g

Materials include a progression of focused research projects to encourage students to develop knowledge in a given area by confronting and analyzing different aspects of a topic using multiple texts and source materials.
2/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 partially meet the criterion that materials include a progression of focused research projects to encourage students to develop knowledge in a given area, by confronting and analyzing different aspects of a topic using multiple texts and source materials. While students are asked consistently to analyze and respond to different texts and topics using multiple texts and research materials they utilize, the materials do not include a clear progression of focused research projects and the skills used within those projects. The following is an example that demonstrates a lack of progression of skills within research activities:

  • Both the Performance Task from Collection 4 and the Performance Task B from Collection 5 ask students to consider the counterargument in both assignments. The clear progression of this skill is not present. While students are regularly asked to “Do Research,” there is simply not enough evidence that the skills are progressing in sophistication.

The research portion of the instruction within the six collections is extremely limited and often offers no guidance for teachers or students in protocols, implementation practices, Internet safety, or effective online researching techniques. The following are examples of research tasks that would not provide the teacher nor the student with enough support to guarantee successful attainment of required research skills:

  • After reading “A Night to Remember” from Collection 3, students are asked to write research. The teacher directions ask the students to work independently using a wide variety of research sources and different types of accounts and then organize their research into notes and sources. The only instruction regarding Internet use reminds students to search for current events that could augment their writing.
  • In Collection 3, Performance Task B asks students to create a multimedia presentation in which students review at least two print and digital sources to find out what can be done to prepare for a tsunami or other natural disaster. Students are directed to use credible sources and keywords to find books in the library. In addition, students are instructed to use an Internet search engine to find other sources. However, no support around evaluating credible sources, using keywords, or effective use of an Internet search engine are provided.

Indicator 2h

Materials provide a design, including accountability, for how students will regularly engage in a volume of independent reading either in or outside of class.
0/4
+
-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials for Grade 6 do not meet the expectations that materials provide a design, including accountability, for how students will regularly engage in a volume of independent reading either in or outside of class. There is no evidence of independent reading or explicit instruction of independent reading in this curriculum. Materials do not provide a structured plan for how students will be involved in a volume of independent reading either in or outside of class. There are sections titled "independent reading," but these are specific to lessons and not a broader, integrated plan.

Gateway Three

Usability

Not Rated

Criterion 3a - 3e

null
0/8

Indicator 3a

Materials are well-designed and take into account effective lesson structure and pacing.
0/2

Indicator 3b

The teacher and student can reasonably complete the content within a regular school year, and the pacing allows for maximum student understanding.
0/2

Indicator 3c

The student resources include ample review and practice resources, clear directions, and explanation, and correct labeling of reference aids (e.g., visuals, maps, etc.).
0/2

Indicator 3d

Materials include publisher-produced alignment documentation of the standards addressed by specific questions, tasks, and assessment items.
0/2

Indicator 3e

The visual design (whether in print or digital) is not distracting or chaotic, but supports students in engaging thoughtfully with the subject.
0/0

Criterion 3f - 3j

Materials support teacher learning and understanding of the Standards.
0/8

Indicator 3f

Materials contain a teacher's edition with ample and useful annotations and suggestions on how to present the content in the student edition and in the ancillary materials. Where applicable, materials include teacher guidance for the use of embedded technology to support and enhance student learning.
0/2

Indicator 3g

Materials contain a teacher's edition that contains full, adult-level explanations and examples of the more advanced literacy concepts so that teachers can improve their own knowledge of the subject, as necessary.
0/2

Indicator 3h

Materials contain a teacher's edition that explains the role of the specific ELA/literacy standards in the context of the overall curriculum.
0/2

Indicator 3i

Materials contain explanations of the instructional approaches of the program and identification of the research-based strategies.
0/2

Indicator 3j

Materials contain strategies for informing all stakeholders, including students, parents, or caregivers about the ELA/literacy program and suggestions for how they can help support student progress and achievement.
0/0

Criterion 3k - 3n

Materials offer teachers resources and tools to collect ongoing data about student progress on the Standards.
0/8

Indicator 3k

Materials regularly and systematically offer assessment opportunities that genuinely measure student progress.
0/2

Indicator 3l

The purpose/use of each assessment is clear:
0/0

Indicator 3l.i

Assessments clearly denote which standards are being emphasized.
0/2

Indicator 3l.ii

Assessments provide sufficient guidance to teachers for interpreting student performance and suggestions for follow-up.
0/2

Indicator 3m

Materials should include routines and guidance that point out opportunities to monitor student progress.
0/2

Indicator 3n

Materials indicate how students are accountable for independent reading based on student choice and interest to build stamina, confidence, and motivation.
0/0

Criterion 3o - 3v

Materials provide teachers with strategies for meeting the needs of a range of learners so that they demonstrate independent ability with grade-level standards.
0/10

Indicator 3o

Materials provide teachers with strategies for meeting the needs of a range of learners so the content is accessible to all learners and supports them in meeting or exceeding the grade-level standards.
0/2

Indicator 3p

Materials regularly provide all students, including those who read, write, speak, or listen below grade level, or in a language other than English, with extensive opportunities to work with grade level text and meet or exceed grade-level standards.
0/4

Indicator 3q

Materials regularly include extensions and/or more advanced opportunities for students who read, write, speak, or listen above grade level.
0/2

Indicator 3r

Materials provide opportunities for teachers to use a variety of grouping strategies.
0/2

Indicator 3s

0/

Indicator 3s3v

0/

Indicator 3t

0/

Indicator 3u

0/

Indicator 3u.i

0/

Indicator 3u.ii

0/

Indicator 3v

0/

Criterion 3s - 3v

Materials support effective use of technology to enhance student learning. Digital materials are accessible and available in multiple platforms.
0/0

Indicator 3s

Digital materials (either included as supplementary to a textbook or as part of a digital curriculum) are web-based, compatible with multiple Internet browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.), "platform neutral" (i.e., are compatible with multiple operating systems such as Windows and Apple and are not proprietary to any single platform), follow universal programming style, and allow the use of tablets and mobile devices.
0/0

Indicator 3t

Materials support effective use of technology to enhance student learning, drawing attention to evidence and texts as appropriate.
0/0

Indicator 3u

Materials can be easily customized for individual learners.
0/0

Indicator 3u.i

Digital materials include opportunities for teachers to personalize learning for all students, using adaptive or other technological innovations.
0/0

Indicator 3u.ii

Materials can be easily customized for local use.
0/0

Indicator 3v

Materials include or reference technology that provides opportunities for teachers and/or students to collaborate with each other (e.g. websites, discussion groups, webinars, etc.).
0/0

Additional Publication Details

Report Published Date: Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 UTC 2017

Report Edition: 2017

Title ISBN Edition Publisher Year
Collections Close Reader Teacher's Guide 978-0-5440-8757-6 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015
Collections Close Reader Student Edition 978-0-5440-8760-6 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015
Collections Performance Assessment Student Edition 978-0-5441-4764-5 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015
Collections Performance Assessment Teacher's Guide 978-0-5441-4786-7 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015
HMH Collections Student Edition 2017 978-0-5445-6949-2 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2017
HMH Collections Teacher's Edition 2017 978-0-5445-6956-0 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2017

About Publishers Responses

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Once a review is complete, publishers have the opportunity to post a 1,500-word response to the educator report and a 1,500-word document that includes any background information or research on the instructional materials.

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All team members look at every grade and indicator, ensuring that the entire team considers the program in full. The team lead and calibrator also meet in cross-team PLCs to ensure that the tool is being applied consistently among review teams. Final reports are the result of multiple educators analyzing every page, calibrating all findings, and reaching a unified conclusion.

ELA 3-8 Rubric and Evidence Guides

The ELA review rubrics identify the criteria and indicators for high quality instructional materials. The rubrics support a sequential review process that reflect the importance of alignment to the standards then consider other high-quality attributes of curriculum as recommended by educators.

For ELA, our rubrics evaluate materials based on:

  • Text Quality and Complexity, and Alignment to Standards with Tasks Grounded in Evidence

  • Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks

  • Instructional Supports and Usability

The ELA Evidence Guides complement the rubrics by elaborating details for each indicator including the purpose of the indicator, information on how to collect evidence, guiding questions and discussion prompts, and scoring criteria.

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