Alignment: Overall Summary

Common Core Code X partially meets the expectations of alignment to the standards. The materials include quality texts that encompass the balance of text types required by the standards and also support students' knowledge building, though some texts may require additional consideration due to level of complexity. The majority of questions, tasks, and activities in which students engage are text-focused, attending to the depth of close reading and analysis called for in the standards. There is a cohesive writing plan across the year that engages students in a variety of tasks and writing types that meet the expectations of the standards. However, opportunities for consistent and coherent vocabulary building, research, and culminating tasks that demonstrate knowledge and skills learned in the units, are inconsistent or absent from the materials.

See Rating Scale
Understanding Gateways

Alignment

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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
24
28-32
Meets Expectations
16-27
Partially Meets Expectations
0-15
Does Not Meet Expectations

Usability

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Not Rated

Not Rated

Gateway 3:

Usability

0
23
30
34
N/A
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

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Gateway One Details

The Grade 8 materials include high-quality texts that reflect the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards, though some texts are significantly above grade level either in readability or subject matter/content and supports throughout are not sufficient to move students toward grade-level proficiency. Questions and tasks build toward demonstration of students’ mastery of content and skills. Students are presented with many opportunities to engage in text-based discussions, however protocols and teacher guidance for those discussions are limited. There are many opportunities for students to engage in evidence-based writing that meets the expectations of the standards. Students are provided with explicit instruction of grammar and conventions and are expected to apply those skills in their writing.

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.
15/20
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Criterion Rating Details

The Grade 8 materials include high-quality texts that reflect the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards and enable to students to engage in a range and volume of reading. While some texts are at the appropriate level of complexity for this grade, some texts are significantly above grade level either in readability or subject matter/content and supports throughout are not sufficient to move students toward grade-level proficiency.

Indicator 1a

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for anchor texts being of publishable quality and worthy of especially careful reading and consider a range of student interests.

Topics are relevant to students’ lives and experiences; texts are worthy of students’ time and attention to support the thematic focus of the units, exposing students to a variety of text types/genres. The texts include excerpts from novels, nonfiction works, poetry, magazine, journal articles, memoirs, essays, and biographies. They are rich in vocabulary and structure and align well with content areas such as science and social studies appropriate to Grade 8. Examples of anchor texts that meet the criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, students read Essays That Make a Difference by Christina Mendoza, James Gregory, and Hugh Gallagher. These are essays that students actually wrote in order to get accepted to college. They are engaging in that they tell true stories and are written by students. They contain vibrant language and illustrations, they are age appropriate for student entering high school in the next year, and are texts that students can identify with.
  • In Unit 2, students read “The Story of Keesh” by Jack London. This relatively complicated text contains vivid language and is an engaging story. The short story contains interesting topics that are exciting and suspenseful.
  • In Unit 3, students read the short story, “Zebra” by Chaim Potok. The reader encounters sophisticated dialogue and students can experience alongside the character a change in perspective. There are multiple themes such as friendship between opposites, and new hobbies can help people with tragedy, and connecting with people from other generations and backgrounds.
  • In Unit 6, students read a book review, “Babes in Arms” by The New York Times reporter William Boyd. This thought-provoking book review of Ishamel Beah’s memoir, A Long Way Gone, is engaging and presents students with the first person narrative of serving as a child soldier.

Indicator 1b

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials reflecting the distribution of text types and genres required by the standards at each grade level.

The texts include a variety of informational and literary texts so students are exposed to different modes of writing. A sample of text types include short stories, poems, articles, autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, interviews, graphic novels, and novel excerpts.

The following are examples of literature found within the core instructional materials:

  • Unit 2: “The Story of Keesh,” a short story by Jack London
  • Unit 2: from The Lost Island of Tamarind, an excerpt from the fantasy novel by Nadia Aguilar
  • Unit 5: “Zero Hour,” a short story by Ray Bradbury
  • Unit 5: from The War of the Worlds, an excerpt from the novel by H.G. Well

The following are examples of informational text found within the instructional materials:

  • Unit 1: from My Beloved World, an excerpt from the memoir by Sonia Sotomayor
  • Unit 2: “What Could Be Better Than a Touchdown?” an article from The New Yorker by Kelefa Sanneh
  • Unit 3: from Letters to a Young Artist, an excerpt from the self-help book by Anna Deavere Smith
  • Unit 4: “La Vida Robot,” an article by Joshua Davis
  • Unit 4: “Building the Future Spacesuit,” an article by Dava Newman
  • Unit 6: “Babes in Arms,” a book review by William Boyd
  • Unit 6: from First They Killed My Father, an excerpt from the memoir by Loung Ung
  • Unit 7: from The Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration, an excerpt from the nonfiction book by Stephanie Fitzgerald
  • Unit 7: from “Minnijean Brown Trickey Looks Back,” an interview conducted by Veronica Majerol

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.
2/4
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-
Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria that texts have the appropriate level of complexity for the grade according to quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Texts that are moderate in complexity are accompanied by tasks that increase the level of rigor by demanding higher order thinking skills and analyses from students. However, there are several examples of texts that are significantly above the text complexity level appropriate for the grade level both in Lexile and content complexity. Also, some texts might be readable, but the content and/or subject matter is well above the grade level. Some texts include highly sophisticated domain-specific language as well as sophisticated rhetorical techniques.

Texts consistently fit the topical or thematic focus, but are inconsistent in grade level rigor. 

Examples of texts that are above the appropriate qualitative level (1010L) include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 4, students read “La Vida Robot” by Joshua Davis with a 970L. This magazine article is listed as Moderate 2. Students must understand some domain-specific and academic vocabulary and the demands of reading a scholarly article, thus the knowledge demands are high. Students need prior knowledge of the topics addressed in the piece, such as robotics, engineering, science.
  • In Unit 4, students read from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacman with a 1110L. This biography excerpt is listed as Complex 1. The reader must understand some domain-specific and academic vocabulary, thus the knowledge demands are high. Students need prior knowledge of the topics addressed in the piece, such as math, computer programming, high-level math and science concepts, engineering, science.
  • In Unit 5, students read from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells with a 1140L. This text is firmly in the 11th grade band with a complexity of Complex 2. While this text links to the graphic novel excerpt in the previous reading, it is written in British English, set in England, and begins in a difficult manner to follow.  The teacher is not given any direction on how to set up the story for the students, and instructions state to have the teacher read the excerpt aloud. This method will not be enough support for the text.
  • In Unit 6, students read from “Babes in Arms” by William Boys for The New York Times Book Review with a 1260L. This text is above the 11-12 grade band. Although it has a Moderate 2 text complexity, the structure of the language and sentence fluency make it difficult to read and comprehend even in the second to last unit of the course. This might be appropriate as a stretch text for students who are looking for extended reading, but it is an anchor text in the unit and therefore not appropriate.
  • In Unit 7, students read from Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by Stephanie Fitzgerald with a 950L. The text complexity is listed as Complex 1 and is in the middle of the lexile band.

Examples of texts that are below the appropriate quantitative level (below Lexile 860L) include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 2, students read from Life of Pi by Yann Martel with a 760L. While this is quantitatively low, the themes and associated tasks are complex.  The reader must recognize multiple themes and sophisticated language. The structure of the text moves between a linear plot and philosophical discussion.
  • In Unit 3, students read from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith with a 780L. These letters are listed as Moderate 2. The letters’ connection to the Performance Task is tenuous: one letter briefly mentions the importance of “empathy,” but  it is not enough for students to build an essay around.  
  • In Unit 7, students read from The Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration by Stephanie Fitzgerald with a 830L. This excerpt has a text complexity at Moderate 2. The text requires students to follow a mostly linear sequence of events, recognize some foreshadowing, understand the author’s perspective, characterize Elizabeth, and make sense of descriptive language. Because this text is placed at the end of the year, it does not seem appropriate for this grade level.

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.)
2/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria for materials support students’ literacy skills (understanding and comprehension) over the course of the school year through increasingly complex text to develop independence of grade level skills (Series of texts should be at a variety of complexity levels).

The instructional materials for Grade 8 offer texts and text progressions that have a variety of Lexile levels and text complexities throughout each unit and across the year.  However, there is no explanation for the placement of these texts and no progression of complexity of texts or skills through the school year. The course does not have a coherent structure or a clear plan for how the texts are leveled to build toward independence over the course of the year. Furthermore, tasks, lessons, and routines are repeated and organized in the same pattern for each unit, as is the planning and pacing of each unit. Also, there are several texts that are not at grade level by Lexile or content; each text and its accompanying tasks and lessons are significantly scaffolded with little-to-no gradual release, thus limiting opportunities for students to develop independence of grade level skills. Students are completing the same types of activities and routines as in Grade 6 and 7; there is no change in routines and expectations for students to develop independence over the course of the year.

Examples of how materials offer various complex texts, but do not increase in complexity include, but are not limited to:

  • In the beginning of the year, the students read texts in Unit 1 that range from 960L with a Moderate 2 rating and in Unit 2 texts that range in the 820L with a Moderate 2 rating.
  • In the middle of the year, the students read texts in Unit 3 that range from 780L with a Moderate 2 rating, and in Unit 4 texts that range in 1360L with a Moderate 2 rating.
  • By the end of the year, the students read texts in Unit 7 that include texts with an 830L with Moderate 2 rating, 950L with Complex 1 rating, 920L with Moderate 1 rating, and end with an 860L Moderate 1 rating.

Examples of teacher instruction that do not release responsibility toward independence include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1 for the First Reading of the anchor texts, the Teacher Edition instructs to use Routine 4: “Reading to read the entire text aloud or ask students to read in pairs or independently. Review Words to Know in context.” After Routine 4, the teacher is instructed to use Routine 5: “Summarize to synthesize key ideas in the reading.” For the Second Reading, students read chunks of the text “to dig deeper into the language and ideas.” For the Third Reading students are directed to “reread the text” and complete the Identifying Evidence Chart. Each anchor text includes guidelines and scripts for teachers to use while students engage in their close readings, as well as which Routines the students should use during each Reading. This pattern for First, Second and Third Reads continues throughout the materials and does not change.
  • In Unit 7 for the First Reading of the anchor text, the Teacher Edition instructions say to use Routine 4: “Reading to read the entire text aloud or ask students to read in pairs or independently. Review Words to Know in context.” After Routine 4, the teacher is instructed to use Routine 5: “Summarize to synthesize key ideas in the reading.” The First, Second, and Third Reading instructions to the teacher never change throughout the course.

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.
1/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria that 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.

All texts are accompanied by a qualitative text analysis and quantitative Lexile level (except poetry); however, there is no rationale or purpose for why individual texts were chosen and placed in the particular grade level. Text complexity rubrics are found in the Teacher Edition for the three anchor texts in each unit. Rubrics are scored in four categories: Purpose, Structure, Language Conventionality and Clarity, and Knowledge Demands. A five-point scale with one indicating easiest and five indicating most complex is used to rate each category along with a narrative close reading focus. This close reading focus provides the teacher with the purpose of the text.  Based on the total points in each category, texts are rated as Moderate 1, Moderate 2, or Complex 1.

Examples of how the materials meet the expectations are as follows:

All texts in the program have qualitative and quantitative text analysis like the following example:

In Unit 7, students read “Minnijean Brown Trickey Looks Back” with a quantitative measure of 860L. The overall rating according to the Code X qualitative rubric is Moderate 1. The qualitative descriptions are as follows:

  • Purpose: “The reader must identify two purposes of the text (e.g. explicitly, to tell the experience of an African American girl living in the segregated South in the 1950’s and her participating in the integration of Central High School; implicitly to encourage young people to stand up for what they believe in). The reader must distinguish external and internal conflicts (e.g., the internal conflict between the Little Rock Nine and the white Central High students and others who wanted the school to remain segregated; Trickey’s internal conflict of comfortably living in a safe community while still being denied her rights).”
  • Structure: “The reader follows a clearly defined structure (i.e., question and answer interview). The reader must identify and interpret flashbacks (e.g., Everybody says they remember the Brown v. Board decision). The reader encounters problem/solution text structure but without support of signal words (e.g., the solutions for the denial of access for African Americans is integration; the solution for changing the problem of something that is not good in society is self determination).”
  • Language Conventionality and Clarity: “The reader encounters mostly familiar language that is clear and conversational.”
  • Knowledge Demands: “The reader is presented with experiences that are far from familiar (e.g., integrating an all-white school in the face of hostility). The reader must draw upon background knowledge to achieve full understanding (e.g., knowledge of the Brown v. Board decision, segregation, and the Little Rock Nine).”

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria criteria that anchor and supporting texts provide opportunities for students to engage in a range and volume of reading to achieve grade level reading proficiency.

Throughout the materials, students engage in a range and volume of texts to achieve grade level reading. The materials facilitate reading using the range of texts to help students build knowledge, vocabulary, and proficiency with reading selections of varying lengths and genres. The texts range in complexity and Lexile from at grade level to above grade level that allow students to read at both their independent level as well as stretching to texts above grade level with support. Texts provided also span from classic literature and cannon material to contemporary material written and published in the last ten years. Each unit contains 2 Unit texts and one or more additional (optional) texts for further study of theme or topic. Each reading is designed to be taught under a typical 45-50 minute class period, but does offer some guidance for a 90 minute block. The unit texts are to be used daily via multiple close readings, discussions, and writings about the literature. There is a Literature Circle option to complement the units. These Literature Circle texts are “Leveled” books that students choose. To help students select books for Literature Circles, teachers are encouraged to take into consideration each student’s On Demand Writing responses, conferences, and Lexile measures. Students are to have 4-8 monthly Literature Circle meetings during each unit or before or after each unit. Additionally, teachers can provide “Accountable Independent Reading Books” that are also leveled. With these, students use Daily Reading Logs and H.O.T. resources and Reading Counts Quizzes. Lastly, the Code X materials offer grade level novel studies that are to be completed after Units 3 and 7.

Examples of anchor and supporting texts that provide opportunities to achieve grade level proficiency include, but are not limited to:

  • Across the units, text types may include personal essays, news articles, short stories, excerpts from novels, memoirs, graphic short story, letters, poems, interview excerpt, biography excerpt, and book review. In the independent reading section at the end of each unit there are additional titles provided in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, novels, films, TV, websites, and magazines. There is a strong emphasis on nonfiction.
  • In Unit 1, students read a personal essay, “Essays that Make a Difference,” with a Quantitative Lexile of 960 and an overall Text Complexity of Moderate 2. The second text is a news article, “The Year of the MOOC,” with a Quantitative Lexile of 1160 and an overall Text Complexity of Moderate 2. The third text is an excerpt from a magazine article, “A Homeless Girl’s Dream,” with a Quantitative Lexile of 1030 and overall Text Complexity of Moderate 2. The teacher is instructed to use a Reading Routine to read the entire text aloud or ask students to read in pairs or independently. In the second reading, the teacher is to model close reading, and close reading questions are embedded in the margins of the text.
  • In Unit 4, students read a magazine article, “La Vida Robot,” with a Quantitative Lexile of 970 and an overall Text Complexity of Moderate 2. The second text is a biography excerpt from Steve Jobs with a Quantitative Lexile of 1110 and an overall Text Complexity of Complex 1. The third text is a science article, “Building the Future Spacesuit,” with a Quantitative Lexile of 1360 and an overall Text Complexity of Moderate 2. First and second readings follow the same pattern as Unit 1.
  • In Unit 7, students read an excerpt from The Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration with a Quantitative Lexile of  830 and an overall Text Complexity of Moderate 2. The second text is an excerpt from Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock with a Quantitative Lexile of 950 and an overall Text Complexity of Complex 1. The third text is a memoir excerpt from Warriors Don’t Cry with a Quantitative Lexile of 920 and an overall Text Complexity of  Moderate 1. The fourth text is an interview excerpt from “Minnijean Brown Trickey Looks Back” with a Quantitative Lexile of 860 and an overall Text Complexity of Moderate 1.
  • In each grade, students read two full-length novels to build reading volume and stamina. For 8th grade, these novels are Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff and Endangered by Wliot Schrefer. The novel topics are different from the unit texts, which allows students to practice close reading skills with new content.

Criterion 1g - 1n

Materials provide opportunities for rich and rigorous evidence-based discussions and writing about texts to build strong literacy skills.
15/16
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Criterion Rating Details

The materials include high-quality, text-dependent or text-specific questions and tasks that build toward a culminating task that allows students to demonstrate their mastery of content and skills gained in the unit. While opportunities are present for students to engage in text-based discussions, the protocols that support those discussions are limited and provide little support for the teacher to effectively implement these content-based discussions.

There are many opportunities for students to engage in evidence-based writing about texts they have been reading through both on-demand and process writing that meets the expectations of the standards. Students are provided with explicit instruction of grammar and conventions and are expected to apply those skills in their writing.

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet, the criteria that 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 student materials contain close reading questions in the margins of each anchor text. These close reading questions are text-specific, directing students to key areas of the text, often naming paragraphs. Questions are identified by skill, such as key ideas and details, academic vocabulary, writing, and text structure. After the reading selection, students complete a scaffolded exercise called “Identify Evidence,” during which they must provide text evidence and an explanation that supports a question connected to the text. Students fill out a chart with the headings, evidence, source, page, and explanation. In most of the charts, there is some modeling in the evidence category, and then students have to find additional evidence on their own. The next exercise is called “Key Ideas and Details.” Here, students are presented with additional open-ended, text-dependent questions. Finally, there is a section of “Craft and Structure” questions.Teacher materials provide support for planning and implementation by providing exemplar answers as well as scripted instruction for the teacher to use.

Examples of the text-dependent questions include, but are not limited to:

In Unit 2 students read the short story “The Story of Keesh” by Jack London and answer text-dependent questions. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • While reading, students answer text-dependent questions and tasks found in the margins: “What details reveal Keesh as strong, brave and mature at the council? Explain how he displays these character traits. What is Keesh’s complaint about the meat that is apportioned to him and his mother? What is the “mystery of Keesh” in paragraph 24? What function does this paragraph serve in the story’s narrative?”
  • In the “Identify Evidence” section, students are presented with this task: “Reread ‘The Story of Keesh’ highlighting examples and events that London uses to describe life in an extreme Arctic environment and show how it shapes the villagers’ way of life.” Students fill in a chart with evidence and explanations.
  • Additional text-dependent questions are found in the “Key Ideas and Details" and “Craft and Structure” sections, including: “List three key individuals that London introduces in this story. Explain why each individual is important to the central idea. Make a list, in sequential order, of events that develop the conflict. How does the conflict between Keesh and the village leaders begin?”

In Unit 3, students read several selections of fiction text that are accompanied by text-dependant questions. At this level, fewer questions are either explicit or inferential; the majority of the questions for each selection of text combine explicit and inference into one question. The questions are typically two-part; in a few cases, a single question will begin as explicit, but then lead directly into the next question that requires students to use that explicit understanding as the basis for their inference.

Examples of questions that focus on explicit understanding are:

  • In the letter, from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith, question 3 focuses on Key Ideas and Details by asking, “Explain the difference between sympathy and empathy, as described here.”
  • In the short story, “Zebra” by Chaim Potok, a Literary Analysis question asks, “What is the mood in paragraphs 6-9 as Zebra runs through his neighborhood? Identify descriptive details and sensory language the author uses to create this mood.”

Examples of questions where students are asked to expand from explicit understanding to infer understanding include, but are not limited to:

  • In the section for the poem, “I Want to Write” by Margaret Walker, the first question asks students to look at a piece of text structure and answer, “What is the purpose of the text below the photograph?” The follow-up question asks, “Why does the poet want to write? Who are her people?”
  • In the letter, from Letters to a Young Artist, the first part of question 3 focuses on Key Ideas and Details by asking, “Explain the difference between sympathy and empathy, as described here.” Then the question expands to inference when it asks, “Why is empathy ‘more useful and more important’?  Why does it require more rigor?”
  • In “Zebra,” question 5 asks students, “Describe the conflict in this story.” The question expands from explicit to inference when it asks students to take the example of conflict and explain how it is an example of situational irony.

In Unit 7 students read an excerpt from Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick and answer text-dependent questions. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • While reading, students answer text-dependent questions and tasks found in the margins: “Look at the photograph on page 349. What details in paragraph 3 present a different image of Hazel from how she appears in that photograph? Explain what photograph the author is referring to in the first sentence of paragraph 5. How is it the opposite of the photograph Jacoway and Counts want to display? Identify the use of figurative language in paragraph 13. What does the author convey about Elizabeth through this use of figurative language?”
  • The task associated with the “Identify Evidence” chart asks student to reread the excerpt and highlight the techniques the author uses to present the interaction between the two women. “How does he introduce, describe, and elaborate on individuals, events and ideas.” Students complete the chart with evidence and explanations.
  • Additional text dependent questions in the “Key Ideas and Details” and “Craft and Structure” sections including: “Use evidence you collected to summarize the key idea of this excerpt from Margolick’s book. Compare and contrast Fitzgerald’s and Margolick’s perspectives on the events surrounding the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.”

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).
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for having sets of high-quality sequences of text-dependent/specific questions and tasks build to a culminating task that integrates skills (may be writing, speaking, or a combination).

In addition to this, the speaking and listening task at the end of every unit is practice for the culminating writing task linked to the texts in the units. Students may present speeches or debates in the Collaborate and Present section of each unit, and they perform some research tasks (after reading Text 3 and 4). Throughout each unit, speaking and writing tasks include questions that focus on key ideas and details and craft and structure in texts. These questions require short, on-demand written responses. Performance Tasks are presented in a variety of modes (argumentative, informative, literary analysis, fictional narrative/short story). The culminating tasks and activities often ask students to compare/contrast texts that have been presented as sets or series or to synthesize the meaning, themes, or central ideas of the text sets. Overall, the culminating activities and the tasks and activities that lead to them allow students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know using both writing and speaking skills.

Examples of sequenced questions and tasks that build to a culminating task include, but are not limited to:

In Unit 1, the Writing Performance Task states: “Analyze which college applicant would be the best candidate to take open online courses.  Discuss what traits of this applicant make him or her well-suited for the online learning environment Pappano describes in her article.” The anchor texts are an essay, “Essays That Made a Difference” by Mendoza, Gregory, and Gallagher, a news article, “The Year of the MOOC,” by Laura Pappano, and a magazine excerpt from “A Homeless Girl’s Dream” by Jeannine Amber. The Collaborate and Present task is to “Work with a group to discuss whether you would prefer to take MOOCs or attend classes in person at a traditional brick-and-mortar college or university. Questions from the news article, “The Year of the MOOC,” that support these tasks include:

  • What evidence does Pappano provide in paragraphs 2 and 3 that suggests MOOCs are becoming popular?
  • According to the information Pappano provides in paragraph 11, what feature is a key part of MOOC videos?  What type of students would this feature benefit?
  • Based on the information in paragraph 24, what type of teachers does Udacity hire?
  • The Identify Evidence task asks students to explain “examples the writer uses to describe what students experience when they are enrolled in a MOOC.”
  • The Craft and Structure portion of the exercise has students answer the following questions: “How is ‘The Flavor of the MOOC’ on page 27 an appropriate subheading for its section? How is ‘Working Out the Kinks’ on page 32 an appropriate subheading for its section?”

In Unit 4, the Writing Performance Task asks students to determine the author’s perspective on the “factors necessary for building a strong team. Then write an essay analyzing his perspective, and to compare and/or contrast it” with the other author’s perspective. The anchor texts are the magazine article, “La Vida Robot,” by Joshua Davis from Wired and a biography excerpt from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Tasks that support the Performance Task include:

  • In the Identify Evidence section of “La Vida Robot,” students record examples of students working together or individual student qualities that make them a good team member and explain how the evidence introduces, illustrates, or elaborates on individuals, events, and ideas.
  • In the Read the Model section, students read the informative essay, “Analysis of a Team: More Than the Sum of Its Parts,” by Ryan Delgado. Students are given a graphic organizer to identify the thesis, two body paragraphs, and conclusion section.
  • While writing the Performance Task, students are provided step-by-step instructions to lead them through the writing process for the compare and contrast essay.

In Unit 5, the Writing Performance Task asks students:How do these authors portray life on Earth during an alien invasion? Compare and contrast the characters and events in each text and how the authors develop them”. The anchor texts are excerpts from Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury and The War of the Worlds  by H.G. Wells. The Collaborate and Present task asks students to: “Work in groups, search the Internet for recordings of Orson Wells’ The War of the Worlds or the episode of Suspense Radio with ‘Zero Hour.’ Listen to the recording, taking notes on the auditory effects used by the production. Then, prepare a presentation comparing the radio broadcasts to the text.” Questions and tasks while reading include:

  • What details do we learn about the setting in “Zero Hour” in this introduction to the story?
  • What message does this story convey about parents and children?
  • What do we learn about Invasion from this conversation? What does this information imply?
  • Discuss an image from the story that helped build suspense.
  • What imagery does Wells include to describe the scene as the narrator emerges from the water? What do these details tell you about the experience of being in the middle of an alien invasion?
  • Make a list of character traits that describe the Martians. Cite text evidence to support each trait you choose.

In Unit 6, the Writing Performance Task asks students to analyze in detail how childhood wartime experience had an impact on Beah’s or Ung’s life. They are to consider how the author introduces, illustrates, and elaborates upon the events. The anchor texts are excerpts from a book review, “Babes in Arms,” by William Boyd and a memoir, First, They Killed My Father, by Luong Ung. In the Collaborate and Present activity prior to the Performance Task, students plan and deliver a speech about one of the authors’ activism. They are to use multiple sources to explore how the writer’s work as an activist was inspired by his or her childhood experiences.  As they read the anchor texts, they collect evidence. Questions and tasks while reading include:

  • What details does Boyd include in paragraph 4 to help the reader understand why Beah was susceptible to being recruited as a boy soldier into the Sierra Leone Army?
  • In the Identify Evidence exercise, students are to highlight the text, finding evidence for why Beah’s memoir is a great benefit, shedding light on the experiences of child soldiers. They are to explain the evidence that they find.
  • Compare and contrast the reality of the situation at the work camp to the ideal the chief claims exists under the Khmer Rouge when he states that “we are all equal and do not have to cower to anyone” in paragraph 16.
  • Summarize what the author’s life is like in the village. What can you infer about how her new life is different from her old life?

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria for materials providing frequent opportunities and protocols for evidence-based discussions (small groups, peer-to-peer, whole class) that encourage the modeling and use of academic vocabulary and syntax.

These protocols include Think (Write)-Pair-Share, Idea Wave, Academic Vocabulary, and Socratic Seminar. Protocols are outlined in the Teacher Edition and include purpose, a description of the routine, and implementation support. However, the protocols and strategies that are offered for teachers are limited and their suggested use is vague. In the implementation support section, sentence frames are provided for the teacher to help guide students in their discussions, yet there is minimal guidance and support for students struggling with these skills..

Each unit begins with engaging students through a discussion introducing the unit, often using the Idea Wave routine. Throughout the units there are opportunities for large and small group discussions around academic vocabulary and text analysis. Checklists and graphic organizers are provided for students to use in preparation for discussions and oral presentations. Some guidance is provided in the Teacher Edition for modeling and explaining evidence and modeling text-based responses. While the daily structure expects students to participate in small or pair discussion every day, the directions in the Teacher Edition could be hard to follow. There is little differentiation between which lessons are intended for whole group or small group discussion. Overall, structures are in place to encourage teachers to use collaboration, small group, and pair discussions to support growing academic vocabulary and student use of civil discussion; however, the implementation could be difficult for a teacher without additional training.

Examples of speaking and listening opportunities and protocols that meet the expectations include, but are not limited to:

In Unit 1, students have multiple opportunities while reading various texts. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • In the introduction, a teacher-led discussion using the Think (Write)-Pair-Share routine. Students are asked “Should Students who are applying to college be judged equally on their grades and extracurricular activities? Explain.” This activity is at the beginning of each unit.
  • Before reading  a collection of essays from College Essays That Make a Difference, students use the Academic Vocabulary routine to learn the meaning of academic vocabulary. As part of this routine, students pronounce the word, rate their understanding, explain the meaning, discuss at least two meaningful examples of the word, work in pairs to apply the word using a sentence starter provided by the teacher, and review the words the following day. This activity is used before each text read in every unit.
  • In the Identify Evidence section the teacher is instructed to “Model Identifying and Explaining Evidence.” A script is provided for the teacher to think out loud to help students explain evidence
  • After reading the news article, “The Year of the MOOC,” the Teacher Edition suggests students participate in an Idea Wave to share responses after identifying one detail that is important to Pappano’s central idea.
  • In the Key Ideas and Details section, students use Think(Write) Pair Share routine to select important details to complete a chart explaining the central theme of the text.

In Unit 5, students have similar activities as Unit 1 while reading texts. One additional example is included:

  • After reading the short story, “The Invasion From Outer Space” by Steven Millhauser from The New Yorker, the Teacher Edition suggests students participate in a Socratic Seminar focusing on the themes of the reading.

In Unit 6, students participate in multiple speaking and listening opportunities while reading an excerpt from “Babes in Arms,” a review of the book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • While reading, students use Think (Write)-Pair-Share routine to find context clues to determine the meaning of the word “anarchy”.
  • In the “Explore Key Ideas and Details” section, students use the Idea Wave routine to share responses about an event or person that is important to the central idea of the book review.

Examples of evidence that do not meet the expectations for opportunities and protocols include, but are not limited to:

In the Instructional Routines section at the back of the Teacher Edition, the routines themselves are not well explained and may be hard to follow. Examples include:

  • In Think (Write)-Pair-Share, the purpose is clearly indicated along with background on why it should be used, but the protocol itself is not explained in a way that a person who had never used it before could effectively implement the protocol. There are stems, frames, and suggestions made throughout, but there is no clear indication of the steps of the protocol.
  • For Idea Wave, teachers are told to “choose a student to share, then continue around the class in a wave-like fashion with each student in turn providing a quick oral response.” Later in the directions the teacher is told to “allow for a few comments from students who were not part of the wave.”  It is unclear how to choose students, what the wave-like fashion looks like, or how students are chosen to report out.
  • For Socratic Seminar, teachers are told that a “leader” should ask an “open-ended question or present a focused task,” but they are only given a generalized example of how to do this. There is an example of what the Socratic Seminar could look like in action but it does not show how to incorporate the steps from the Instructional Routines directions into that example. The routine does not explain how to incorporate the steps into an actual seminar. The examples given for each step show the teacher modeling specific language but do not provide support in how to get students to utilize that language as they build skill through various seminars.

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

Speaking and listening instruction is applied frequently over the course of the school year. Students have multiple opportunities over the school year to demonstrate what they are reading and researching through varied speaking and listening opportunities in tasks labeled Close Reads, Identify Evidence, Key Idea and Details, Craft and Structure, Collaborate and Present tasks, Writing tasks, and Extended Reading instruction. Students are provided opportunities to work with partners, small groups, and large groups; to practice sharing information they have summarized and synthesized; and to present research they have conducted individually and/or in groups. Each unit includes a speaking and listening task in which students either research and present a project, present a speech, or hold a class debate. Discussions tied to reading selections require students to marshal evidence from the texts and sources. Teacher guidance includes routines and sentence frames to guide students in increasing skills over the year. All of the speaking and listening opportunities throughout the text require students to go back into the text or to utilize their understanding from the text to build upon it through outside research in order to participate in the small-group, pair, and whole-group speaking activities.

Examples of speaking and listening activities that are connected to what students are reading and/or researching include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, after reading the article “The Year of the MOOC” by Laura Pappano from The New York Times, students work in groups to plan and deliver a presentation as to whether they would prefer attending class in person or taking MOOC’s. Students are provided a chart and questions to guide how they will analyze the content with reasons and evidence that justify their position. The Teacher Edition suggests using Think (Write)-Pair-Share to have students share their position and provides sentence frames: “I would prefer to attend ___ because ___”.
  • In Unit 2, after reading an excerpt from the novel, Life of Pi by Yann Martell, students plan and deliver a presentation. In the assignment, students work with a group to analyze the extent to which the film version of Life of Pi stays faithful to or departs from the text in portraying the character’s relationship to his environment. Students are given questions to consider as they compare and contrast the text and the film. Students use a presentation checklist to self-evaluate their presentation skills. Teacher guidance includes sentence frames to facilitate partner work using the Think (Write) Pair Share routine.
  • In Unit 3, students plan and deliver a multimedia presentation. In the assignment, students work with a group to discuss the role mentors play in the letters from Letters to a Young Artist and in “Zebra.” Students are given questions to consider as they analyze the two texts. Students use a presentation checklist to self-evaluate their presentation skills. Teacher guidance includes sentence frames to facilitate partner work using the Think (Write)-Pair-Share routine.
  • In Unit 4, students work with a partner to plan and deliver a presentation. They are to research a product developed by Steve Jobs that failed. Students answer why the product failed and are given a chart to record the product, questions they develop, and answers to the questions. Students use the information in the chart as talking points for their presentation.
  • In Unit 7, after reading an excerpt from Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick, students work with a partner to gather evidence supporting an “assigned stance on the issue of which photograph should be displayed the most prominently at the visitor center. Then debate a team who has been assigned the opposing stance.” Students are given questions to consider as they complete a chart with evidence, claim and counterclaim. Students use a presentation checklist to self-evaluate their presentation skills. Teacher guidance includes sentence frames to facilitate partner work using the Think (Write) Pair Share routine.

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials including a mix of on-demand and process writing (e.g. multiple drafts, revisions over time) and short, focused projects, incorporating digital resources where appropriate.

The materials include a mix of on-demand and process writing and short, focused projects which are aligned to grade level standards. A range of writing activities and tasks are provided with writing instruction, including shorter, on-demand writing routines to help students build stamina and increase rigor that lead to extended writing tasks. There are a variety of short, on-demand writing responses within texts and text sets. Occasionally the on-demand writing occurs as a Wrap-Up question and is used to synthesize key content-area ideas. The Wrap-Up responses connect to one or more selections in the text sets. The written responses throughout the units vary in mode and do occasionally offer opportunities for revision and peer feedback.The materials also include a specific Writing Process Routine protocol that is used in each unit’s writing Performance Task and includes purpose, description of the routine, and implementation support. The student materials include models, prewriting graphic organizers, peer review rubrics to revise and edit, and steps to publish. Digital resources are used in both the publishing step of the extended writing and in some of the writing tasks.

Examples of process writing tasks and instruction include, but are not limited to:The Performance Task section in each unit starts with Analyze the Model where students are provided a model of the writing task and a process to analyze how the model fulfills the assignment. After this step, they are walked through a multi-stepped process to write the task:

Step 1 - Generate Ideas: students are provided with a graphic organizer that fits the needs of the task and supports providing information to write about for the task.

Step 2 -- Organize Ideas: students are provided with a graphic organizer to help them organize the ideas specific to the task they are writing.

Step 3 -- Draft and they are provided with processes to look at Language Study and Conventions Study.

Step 4 -- Revise and Edit: students are provided with a checklist for both themself and a partner to read their writing and to provide feedback.

Step 5 -- Publish

  • In Unit 2, the writing Performance Task is literary analysis: “Write an objective summary of life in the extreme environments portrayed in these two texts. Analyze how the central idea of survival is conveyed through supporting ideas and developed over the course of the text.” Students "Generate Ideas" while reading and analyzing a model argument. They "Organize Ideas" using graphic organizers to gather evidence and organize their ideas. Students "Draft" completing a language study in which they choose details that best support, prove, or explain generalizations, and complete sentence frames to help them collect text evidence to support their broad statements. A rubric is provided to "Revise and Edit" their draft with a partner.
  • In Unit 3, the argument writing Performance Task asks students to answer this prompt: “Does a person need knowledge and empathy to create great art? Consider the arguments and evidence in at least one selection as you develop your claim.” Students "Generate Ideas"while reading and analyzing a model argument. They "Organize Ideas" using graphic organizers to gather evidence and organize their ideas. They "Draft" by completing a language study in which they select strong supporting evidence and complete sentence frames to help them make and defend their claim. A rubric is provided to "Revise and Edit" their draft with a partner.
  • In Unit 7, the writing Performance Task is a historical fiction narrative: “Many events related to the Little Rock Nine tested the strength of people to be brave, do the right thing, heal and forgive. Write a historical fiction narrative about one such event. Describe the event using narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description and reflection.” Students "Generate Ideas" reading and analyzing a model narrative.  They "Organize Ideas"using graphic organizers to compare story elements from The Little Rock Nine and Elizabeth and Hazel with their own narrative ideas; they continue this process using another graphic organizer to plot out their narrative.  They "Draft" by completing a language study in which they focus on narrating events with variety. A rubric is provided to "Revise and Edit" their draft with a partner.

Examples of on-demand writing tasks and instruction include, but are not limited to:

In the Instructional Routines section of the Teacher Edition, the On Demand Writing Routine provides a four-step frame to support student analysis of a prompt:

  1. “Analyze the prompt: Provide tasks and sentence frames to help students unpack the writing prompt.  As students to orally restate the prompt using the frames below.
  2. Identify Audience: Determine the audience for this assignment.
  3. Find Evidence: Select the evidence necessary to address the prompt.
  4. Write Response: Allow students approximately ten minutes to write their responses.”
  • In Unit 2, students read the short story “The Story of Keesh” by Jack London and an excerpt from Life of Pi by Yann Martel. They use the On Demand Writing routine to answer questions: “Describe the resolution of the story. Explain how Pi uses an analogy to clarity why he is ‘no longer afraid’ of the hyena.”
  • In Unit 3, students read an excerpt from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith and a short story, “Zebra” by Chaim Potok. They use the On Demand Writing Routine to answer questions: “Why do artists need mentors? Summarize what Smith says artists can learn from their mentors. How does Zebra feel about his art class? Cite details from the short story that reveal his feelings”
  • In Unit 7, students read excerpts from The Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration by Stephanie Fitzgerald and Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick. Students use the On Demand Writing Routine to answer questions: “Explain how the author supports her claim that the Little Rock Nine were ‘inspiring.’ Explain what the author means when he writes that some people thought Elizabeth’s and Hazel’s friendship was a ‘triumph of sentimentality, wishful thinking, and marketing over reality’.”

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 reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials providing opportunities for students to address different text types of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards.

Materials provide multiple opportunities across the school year for students to learn, practice, and apply different genres/modes of writing that reflect the distribution required by the standards. Students have the opportunity to write a narrative historical fiction, two informative essays, two Literary analyses and two argumentative essays. At the end of each unit, students complete a writing Performance Task that is tied to the texts that are studied in the respective units. The writing instruction includes skill introduction, practice, application, and refinement, thus supporting students’ literacy development in writing.

Examples of different types of writing include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, students write an argumentative essay, analyzing which college applicant would be the best candidate to take open online courses. They are to discuss what traits of this applicant make him or her well-suited for the online learning environment the author describes in her article.
  • In Unit 2, students write a literary analysis essay: “Write an objective summary of life in the extreme environments portrayed” in the anchor texts for the unit. They analyze “how the central idea of survival is conveyed through supporting ideas and developed over the course of the text.”
  • In Unit 4, students write an informative essay, comparing or contrasting the authors’ perspectives on the factors necessary for building a strong team.
  • In Unit 7, students write a historical fiction narrative about an event during which people had to be brave, do the right thing, heal, and forgive. They are to describe the event using narrative techniques such as dialogue, description, and reflection.

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 reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials including frequent opportunities for evidence-based writing to support careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information appropriate for the grade level.

Students are offered multiple opportunities across the school year to learn, practice, and apply evidence-based writing in connection with the texts they are reading. Students are asked to provide evidence for all short response and long form writing. Each text is accompanied by close reading questions and an exercise called Identify Evidence in which students complete a chart answering analysis questions about the text with evidence, source, page number, and explanation. In order to complete the summative Performance Tasks, students revisit one or more texts to find evidence. They complete various tasks that analyze the material and support a claim with evidence.  As students work through units, frames, sentence stems, and other supports are gradually removed, so students move toward independence at the end of the school year.

Examples of opportunities for evidence-based writing include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, before starting the Performance Task, students are given an exemplar argumentative essay and asked to identify the introduction, thesis statement, claim/counterclaim, and conclusion using a graphic organizer. Students then write an argumentative essay: “Which college applicant would be the best candidate to take open online courses.” Students are expected to refer to the text, focus on the traits mentioned in an article, and discuss what traits of this applicant make him or her well-suited for the online learning environment. Support is provided in graphic organizers to gather evidence and organize ideas.
  • In Unit 2, students read exemplar literary analysis and identify the thesis, main idea, evidence, and conclusion. To prepare for the Performance Task, students write an objective summary of life in extreme environments from the texts. They analyze the central idea and how it is conveyed throughout the texts including supporting ideas.
  • In Unit 3, while reading the short story, “Zebra,” students answer close reading questions: “Describe the conflict in this story. Explain how it is an example of situational irony.” Sentence frames are provided to guide students in answering this question with evidence from the text. In the Identify Evidence exercise, students record examples from the text that describe Zebra’s difficulties post-accident and how he discovers and is transformed by art. Only one piece of evidence is provided, and students must  provide six pieces of evidence and include explanations for how evidence supports the claim. In the Performance Task, students make an argument answering the prompt, “Does a person need knowledge and empathy to create great art?” Students must use arguments and evidence from one of the unit texts. Students are given graphic organizers to gather evidence and organize their ideas.
  • In Unit 6, students read an excerpt from First They Killed My Father and answer close reading questions: “Explain what you can infer from the use of ‘capitalists’ as an insult against the new arrivals in paragraph 4. What other details in the text support your inference?” Later, students fill in a chart with examples from the text that show what life was like in the rural village where Ung and her family were forced to live and work. Four pieces of evidence are provided, and students need to provide the explanation for these. The students must provide five more pieces of evidence along with the explanation. In the writing Performance Task, students analyze how childhood wartime experiences impacted Beah’s or Ung’s life. They must consider how the author introduces, illustrates, and elaborates on the events.
  • In Unit 7, students read from The Little Rock Nine by Stephanie Fitzgerald and answer a Writing close reading questions: “Compare and contrast Benjamin Fine and Grace Lorch with the other people in the crowd surrounding Elizabeth. Explain how the author supports her claim that the Little Rock Nine were ‘inspiring.’” There are no sentence frames to support students respond to close reading questions in this unit.

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.
2/2
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria for materials including 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.

The grammar instruction and support are presented in an increasingly sophisticated sequence consistent with the demands of the standards. While grammar and conventions are rarely addressed within the reading instruction, each of the seven units does contain one grammar and conventions lesson. The conventions lesson is taught prior to and is linked to the culminating Performance Task, and the Performance Task rubric often references the grammar lesson.  Throughout the year, previous grammar lessons are revisited in later grammar lessons. The Teacher Edition includes instructions to guide students through conventions lessons. These instructions often refer to additional resources that are only found in the online edition. Conventions lessons follow a See It, Try It, Apply It sequence and are taught both in and out of context. In the Revise and Edit step of the Performance Task, the student checklist refers to the conventions skill so that students’ attention is called to the application of the new skill. Conventions lessons build upon each other and require students to practice in isolation, in a model essay, and in their own essay.

Examples of conventions instruction include, but are not limited to:

  • In the Performance Task at the end of every unit, a Conventions Study connects to the mode of writing required in the essay. The convention skills are as follows:

Unit 1:  Understanding Verbals

Unit 2: Active and Passive Voice

Unit 3: Use Correct Verb Mood

Unit 4: Using Verbs for Specific Effects

Unit 5: Using Transitions

Unit 6: Precise Language and Domain-Specific Vocabulary

  • In Unit 1: Understanding Verbals, students learn that verbals are verbs that function as different parts of speech. In the See It section, they define gerunds, participles, and infinitives. In the Try It section, students are directed to identify a verbal in an example sentence and in the writing model provided for the culminating task. In the Apply It section, students look for nouns, adjectives, and adverbs in sentences in their rough drafts and rewrite each one to include a verbal.  As students revise their writing, students are to “explain the function of verbals.”
  • In Unit 3: Use Correct Verb Mood, students are given explicit instruction on how writers choose verb mood according to the purpose of the sentence. Students are given definitions and example sentences of each type of mood (indicative, imperative, and subjunctive). Students practice by identifying the mood of sample sentences. Students apply the lesson by writing sentences in each verb mood.
  • In Unit 6: Precise Language and Domain-Specific Vocabulary, students learn in the See It section that precise language conveys exact meaning and that domain specific vocabulary words relate to a specific subject, and using precise language and vocabulary makes writing clear.  In the Try It section, students circle precise language or domain-specific vocabulary in each example set, then write a sentence using the word they circled. In the Apply It section, students revise one of their own body paragraphs from their rough draft, using precise language and vocabulary to clearly convey their ideas about the topic.  As students revise their Performance Task, they use the revise and edit checklist to evaluate their use of “precise language and domain-specific vocabulary as appropriate”.
  • In Unit 7: Using Transition Words and Phrases, students are given explicit instruction on transitional words and phrases and how they create cohesion and clarify the relationship among events, settings, and individuals. Students practice by identifying the transition words and phrases from a model paragraph. Students apply the lesson by revising one of their narrative paragraphs using appropriate transition words or phrases to help the reader follow their narrative.

Gateway Two

Building Knowledge with Texts, Vocabulary, and Tasks

Partially Meets Expectations

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Gateway Two Details

The materials are organized around topics or themes that helps students to grow their knowledge and skills to read and comprehend complex text. Questions and tasks throughout guide students through analysis of texts, including all elements of texts and how knowledge and ideas are represented within and across texts. However, the culminating tasks for each may not require a demonstration of the skills and knowledge students have gained throughout the unit and can sometimes be completed in the absence of these skills.

Vocabulary instruction in the materials is provided in a limited context and is not applied across multiple texts or units.

The materials provide a comprehensive plan to grow students’ writing skills over the course of the year. Though there is a lack of instruction in and opportunities for, organized research opportunities.

A systematic plan for independent reading, including accountability structures are included in the materials.

Criterion 2a - 2h

Materials build knowledge through integrated reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.
24/32

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 reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria that texts are organized around topics and/or themes to build students’ ability to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently.

The topics are engaging, relatable, and grade-level appropriate. Students focus on a topic or theme through connected texts, allowing them to build knowledge and vocabulary to comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently. The texts build on one another and share enough common ideas that the more complicated texts are comprehensible for students based on scaffolded knowledge. Each unit includes an overview that explains the topic and introduces the accompanying texts. Additionally, the Student Edition includes a Unit Introduction that provides background knowledge on the texts students will be reading.


Examples of how units and texts are organized around the topics include, but are not limited to:

In Unit 1, the topic is Survivor. The Essential Question is “What inspires the will to survive in an extreme environment?” All three texts are based on the topic of survival in impossible situations.  Anchor texts include:

  • In “The Story of Keesh” by Jack London, a boy confronts his elders and proves he can be a hunter of polar bears. This is the least complex text.
  • In an excerpt from Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a boy is stranded at sea on a lifeboat with a tiger. This text has more complex style and structure.
  • In an excerpt from The Lost Island of Tamarind by Nadia Aguiar, three young children are separated from their parents by a storm.

In Unit 3, the topic is The Power of Art. The Essential Question is “How does art influence everyday life?” Students read texts in which writers discuss and describe the role art plays in the lives of developing young artists. Anchor texts include:

  • An excerpt from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith offers ideas and advice about how to get started and to continue growing as an artist.
  • The short story “Zebra” by Chaim Potok is about a young boy who discovers that drawing and sculpting are the keys to recovering from a devastating accident.

In Unit 5, the topic is Space Invaders. The essential question is “How does science fiction capture society’s fears?” Students read graphic novels about aliens, an excerpt from a classic novel, and a short story about an alien attack. Anchor texts include:

  • A graphic short story adapted from Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury in which aliens use children to help them invade earth.
  • An excerpt from War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells in which Martians land near London.
  • “The Invasion From Outer Space” by Steven Millhouser from the New Yorker explores what could happen when an alien attack takes an unexpected form.

In Unit 7, the topic is Do the Right Thing. The Essential Question is “What does a difficult situation reveal about character?” The stories focus on individuals who grew up on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrated the strength of character needed to change the world. Anchor texts include:

  • An excerpt from The Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration by Stephanie Fitzgerald that follows the story of Elizabeth Eckford, an African American student who is blocked from integrating an all-white school by an angry mob of white people.
  • An excerpt from Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick is the story of Elizabeth Eckford’s present-day meeting with a member of the angry mob that tormented her as a teenager years ago.
  • Extended Reading: An excerpt from the memoir Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals in which one of the nine African American students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas tells about the landmark event from her point of view.

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

Scoring: The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 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.

These questions and tasks are clearly labeled with the particular skill they are addressing. Students are given frequent opportunities to practice identifying and studying specific elements of texts, from analyzing words to looking at the structures of paragraphs and the larger text itself. Close reading questions and tasks found in the margins of each text ask students to analyze writing, text structure, words and phrases context, academic vocabulary, and literary devices. In the “Identifying Evidence” section, students analyze characters, events, and ideas with evidence and explanations from the text. Then additional questions and tasks focus on Key Ideas and Details and Craft and Structure. The questions and tasks for the texts in each unit build upon each other and lead the students through the steady increase of skill to understanding the larger topics.  All of the questions first teach and then utilize grade appropriate understanding of language, key ideas, details, craft, and structure of the texts. Students demonstrate understanding of text features, figurative language, rhetorical devices, and other literary techniques that they have learned in the 6th and 7th grade texts to analyze the texts in these units. Students are asked questions that build upon each other within the texts and across units.

Representative samples of questions and tasks that support this indicator are:

In Unit 1, students read a newspaper article, “The Year of the MOOC” by Laura Pappano, and answer questions such as:

  • Words and Phrases in Context: How is the meaning of medium in paragraph 11 different from the usual meaning of the word?
  • Writing: According to the information Pappano provides in paragraph 11, what feature is a key part of MOOC videos? What type of students would this feature benefit?
  • Text Structure: “What is a MOOC Anyway” is a subheading for this section of the article. What will the writer describe in this section? How do you know?
  • Academic Vocabulary: What is the disruption that Agarwal refers to in paragraph 4? What can you infer from Agarwal’s job title about the way he feels about the disruption? Explain.
  • Key Ideas and Details: What is the central idea of “The Year of the Mooc”? Review details from Pappano’s article to help summarize the key idea.
  • Craft and Structure: Pappano quotes several sources in the article. Identify two sources and their experience with the topic. Then explain their perspective using information from their quote, and any words and phrases that Pappano uses to describe them.


In Unit 3, the questions throughout the texts build upon each other and lead the student through systematically deeper reading of the text. In an excerpt from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith, students read a letter in which the author talks about the fundamentals of being an artist. In the beginning, students are asked questions about structure, key ideas and details, and how words and phrases are used in context:

  • How do the ballet and baking analogies in paragraph 3 help to clarify the ideas the author expresses in paragraph 4?
  • What does Smith believe is fundamental to being an artist?  A sentence frame is supplied: “According to the author, an artist must _____ and _____ the position of an artist.  The author explains that _____ and _____. She means that an artist must _____ and _____.”
  • What does “suspend” mean in paragraph 6? Identify clues that helped you determine how “suspend” is used in this paragraph.

All of these questions require the students to refer back to the text and find answers.

Later in Unit 3, students read a short story titled “Zebra” by Chaim Potok and are asked more difficult questions:

  • What is the mood in paragraphs 6-9 as Zebra runs through his neighborhood? Identify descriptive details and sensory language the author uses to create this mood.
  • Identify the “huge rushing shadow” that “crashed into” Zebra and the “darkness” he emerged from afterward. Why doesn’t the author identify these things directly?

These questions ask students to analyze the text throughout rather than building up to analysis more slowly as they did in earlier texts of this grade and earlier grade levels.

In Unit 6, the materials that students are asked to look at focus on the impact of war rather than the impact of art on children; however, they are asked to use similar skills and knowledge to apply to the texts. First, students read an excerpt from a book review from The New York Times Book Review. The questions increase in complexity as students apply their understanding to the new material. They are asked questions at the start of the unit in the book review “from Babes in Arms by William Boyd”:

  • Based on details on this page, identify the topic and perspective of the book that Boyd is reviewing.
  • Identify what Boyd claims in paragraph 6 that Beah recalls precisely and what he is vague about in his autobiography.  What is Boyd’s attitude toward Beah’s “autobiographical blur”?

In both of these questions, students are asked to find specific explicit details, but then apply those details in sophisticated analysis or inference responses that include both the text as a whole and the explicit details.

Later, in Unit 6 in the memoir excerpt from A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, students are asked questions that are similar but increase the difficulty such:

  • What is the meaning of “repatriated”? What does the use of quotation marks around the word in paragraph 1 signal about Beah’s use of the word and the group he fought for?
  • Questions 5 and 6 link together to help students dig deeply into the implications of what is revealed in the text
    • Question 5: Identify details in paragraphs 7-8 that show that Ishmael will have some independence in his uncle’s home.
    • Question 6: What does the conversation between the uncle and Ishmael in paragraphs 9-12 indicate about Ishmael’s new living situation?  How does this conversation help to develop the relationship between Ishmael and his uncle?

In both of these examples students are asked to use prior learning from earlier sections and earlier grade levels about figurative language and literary terms to identify the use in the text, and than analyze the author’s use of those features to affect the text.

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

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet  the criteria 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.

Questions, end of text activities, Collaborate and Present activities, and the Performance Task build upon the same knowledge and ideas across the unit.  Questions require students to cite evidence from the assigned text, make inferences, access prior knowledge, and synthesize ideas. Questions and tasks cover analysis, drawing conclusions, making inferences, evaluating, and identifying author’s purpose. Students are also given On Demand writing prompts and analysis/synthesizing charts that are connected to the texts.The Collaborate and Present activity and the Performance Task require students to refer to at least one text from the unit, but often multiple texts in the unit in order to complete the task. The Teacher Edition provides guidance to teachers in supporting students’ skills. There is a cohesiveness to the questions and tasks, yet it is more of a repetitive cohesiveness, as all units have the same structure. However, by the end of the year, there is no evidence that integrating knowledge and ideas is embedded into independent student work. While all of the work in the Performance Tasks and in the Collaborate and Present activities are directly related to one or both of the anchor texts of the units, students receive the same level of support through similar types of charts and graphic organizers across the year. The level of support and modeling provided by the teacher also stays the same throughout the units across the year.


Examples of how the units contain coherently sequenced questions, but do not require students to analyze ideas across multiple texts with growing independence include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 2, the Essential Question is, “What inspires the will to survive in an extreme environment?” Students read anchor texts that share the topic “Survivor.” Throughout the unit, students discover how authors develop characters who find the strength to survive. After reading the short story, “The Story of Keesh” by Jack London, students record important details from the text that describe the environment and the people who live there in the Identify Evidence exercise. Then, students read an excerpt from the novel, Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Questions that support students’ analysis of knowledge and ideas include, “Why is crawling on the tarpaulin as hard as climbing the side of a volcano for Pi? What is the boiling cauldron of orange lava he expected to find?” Students record important details from the text that show the extreme setting and the actions and skills Pi uses to survive in the Identify Evidence exercise. Students complete the Performance Task: “Write an objective summary of life in the extreme environments portrayed in the two texts”. They use a note taking chart to collect evidence from both anchor texts that “show how the idea of survival in an extreme environment is developed and supported.” Supports for students include a model, a graphic organizer to analyze the model, graphic organizers to gather evidence from both texts and then organize ideas, and a checklist for revising and editing their draft.
  • In Unit 3, the Essential Question is “How does art influence your everyday life?” Students read anchor texts that share the topic “The Power of Art.” After reading an excerpt from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere and the short story, “Zebra” by Chaim Potok, students answer, in writing, text-based questions during the close read. After reading, they answer questions based on key ideas and details and craft and structure. The tasks build on each other ending in a writing Performance Task in which they write an argumentative essay: “Does a person need knowledge and empathy to create great art? Consider the arguments and evidence in at least one selection as you develop your claim.” Supports for students in the writing performance task include a model, a graphic organizer to analyze the model, graphic organizers to gather evidence from both texts and then organize ideas, and a checklist for revising and editing their draft. This is the same level of support that is found in previous units.
  • In Unit 6, the Essential Question is “How do childhood experiences influence our lives?” Students reach anchor texts that share the topic, “Children of War.” While reading a book review from the New York Times Book Review, “Babes in Arms” by William Boyd, students answer Key Ideas and Details questions like, “Identify the rhetorical question the reviewer asks in paragraph 6. Discuss the point he is making by asking this question.” Teachers are directed to provide sentence starters for the students.  They are also given support to ensure that students understand why the question is rhetorical. After reading, in the Identify Evidence section, students are provided with a chart in which they are to collect evidence that supports the claim that the author makes. Teachers are told to model the first example; they are provided with language to use while doing this. Then, while reading an excerpt from the memoir, First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, students answer Key Ideas and Details questions such as, “Describe the Angkar’s value system based on details in paragraphs 7-9.  Whom does it approve of? Whom and what does the Angkar disapprove of? What is the Angkar’s plan for spreaking its value system throughout Camodia?” The teacher is directed to use the Think-Pair-Share routine with sentence starters.  After reading in the Identify Evidence section, students are asked to record in the chart evidence that “reveal[s] what life was like for Ung and Her fellow ‘new people’ under the rule of the Angkar.” The tasks build to the writing Performance Task: “Analyze in detail how childhood wartime experiences had an impact on Beah’s or Ung’s life.  Consider how the author introduces, illustrates, and elaborates upon the events.” Again, support for students include a model, a graphic organizer to analyze the model, graphic organizers to gather evidence from both texts and then organize ideas, and a checklist for revising and editing their draft. There is no release for students to independently demonstrate their knowledge of the topic with less support.
  • Overall, by the end of the year, there is no evidence that integrating knowledge and ideas is embedded into independent student work. For example, in Unit 6, students are provided with a compare and contrast chart that is nearly identical to the compare charts in Units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. They must list the source of the evidence, the page, and explain the evidence. The Teacher Edition directions state to walk students through understanding the chart, though they have completed similar charts throughout other units in the text and in Grade 6 and 7. To help students “Revisit Author’s Strategies,” teachers are given similar instruction in Unit 3 and in Unit 6:
    • In Unit 3: “Revisit the strategies the authors use to convey their thoughts and beliefs about art and artists. Draw upon the conversations you had during the Close Reading of the texts.”
    • In Unit 6: “Revisit the strategies the authors use to convey the impact of childhood wartime experiences, drawing upon the conversations you had during the Close Reading of the texts.”

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 reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria that the questions and tasks support students’ ability to complete culminating tasks in which they demonstrate their knowledge of a topic or theme through integrated skills (e.g. combination of reading, writing, speaking, listening). Each unit begins with an Essential Question that connects to the topic/theme, anchor texts, and culminating task. At the end of each unit, the culminating task, Writing Performance Task, is connected to a specific topic from the unit texts.

Many of the writing tasks, practice, and discussion questions support the students in working towards the skills required to complete the culminating task. However, some tasks do not require demonstration of the specific skills and knowledge practiced before, and can be completed without them. In these instances, the teacher may need to supplement to assure their inclusion in the schedule is supportive of the overall knowledge and unit objectives.

Examples of culminating tasks that demonstrate knowledge of a topic include, but are not limited to:

In Unit 1, the topic is College 101. Students read a personal essay, “Essays that Make a Difference” by Christina Mendoza, James Gregory, and Hugh Gallagher and a news article, “The Year of the MOOC” by Laura Pappano, to examine how teens set themselves apart to get into colleges and consider what will be necessary for success as higher education evolves to meet the future. The Essential Question is “What does it take to achieve success in today’s world of higher education?” The Performance Task asks: “Analyze which college applicant (Mendoza, Gregory, or Gallagher) would be the best candidate to take open online courses. Discuss what traits of this applicant make him or her well-suited for the online environment Pappano describes in her article.” Text-dependent questions in the close reading of the texts helps students learn about how writers convey their experience and support with evidence. The task completion is dependent on students demonstrating the content comprehension and knowledge built in the unit.

In Unit 4, the topic is Designing the Future. Students read a magazine article, “La Vida Robot” from Wired Magazine by Joshua Davis, and an excerpt from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The Essential Question is “What makes a good team worth more than the sum of its individual parts?” The Performance Task states: “Determine Davis’s perspective on the factors necessary for building a strong team. Then write an essay that analyzes his perspective, and either compares or contrasts it with Isaacson’s perspective.” This task specifically links to the reading and study preceding it throughout the unit. 


  • In other tasks, the culminating activities are not clearly articulated to demonstrate knowledge. Some examples representative of this include (but are not limited to):
  • In Unit 3, the topic is The Power of Art. Students read excerpts from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith and the short story, “Zebra” by Chaim Potok. The texts show the power of art as a means for connecting with other people creatively. The Essential Question is “How does art influence your everyday life?” The Performance Task is to consider the arguments and evidence in least of the selections to develop a claim that answers the question, “Does a person need knowledge and empathy to create great art?” Questions and tasks that support the students’ building of knowledge to support the culminating tasks include. This task can be completed without the text comprehension and knowledge.

  • In Unit 7, the topic is Do the Right Thing. Students read a excerpts from The Little Rock Nine by Stephanie Fitzgerald and Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick that share the stories of individuals who grew up on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrated the strength of character needed to change the world. The Essential Question is “What does a difficult situation reveal about character?” The Performance Task is to write a historical fiction narrative about an event in which the strength of people to be brave, do the right thing, heal, and forgive is tested.

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 reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet the criteria that materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary words in and across texts.

While vocabulary instruction is given appropriate time and importance within the overall materials and is emphasized as an important skill, it falls short in the isolation of the academic vocabulary words themselves and in the lack of assessment. Within each unit, there are multiple activities that provide vocabulary instruction: Academic Vocabulary Routine, Target Words (high-frequency, portable academic words highlighted before reading), a Word Study (strategy boxes in margins of text) and Words to Know (content-area words encountered while reading the text). The Words to Know are only listed and defined at the bottom of each page. Additionally; there are very few Academic Vocabulary questions within the texts. The Teacher Edition includes an Academic Vocabulary Routine that follows a six-step process: pronounce the word, rate student knowledge of the word, explain the word meaning, discuss at least two meaningful examples of the word that demonstrate the definition, coach students by having them work in pairs to apply the word in a meaningful context, and review the words the next day. The materials do not meet the expectation of instruction of vocabulary for a variety of reasons. The vocabulary is only taught within the text it is originally introduced; there are minimal references to, practice with, or assessments of new vocabulary within the unit in either the Collaborate and Present activity or the Performance Task. Also, the ways students engage with vocabulary is repetitive and lacks variety across all units. Materials do not include a consistent approach for students to regularly interact with word relationships and to build academic and figurative language in context.  Further, work with vocabulary appears before and in texts, but not across multiple texts.
Examples of how vocabulary instruction partially provides opportunities for students to interact with and build key academic vocabulary include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, teachers are instructed to use the Academic Vocabulary Routine to teach the meaning of admission, unique, empathize, product, attribute, and dynamic. There is a short Word Study lesson on context clues in which students use inferences to determine the meaning of words in context. While students close read “Essays that Make a Difference,” they answer two academic vocabulary questions:“In paragraph 2, Mendoza writes that her mother couldn’t empathize with her. What kind of person might have been able to empathize with Mendoza? In paragraph 1, Gallagher states that her is ‘a dynamic figure’. What details does he give to support his claim? How do these details create humor?” New terms are introduced and follow the same procedure for the second anchor text, “The Year of the Mooc.” There is no review of earlier terms, and students are not prompted to use their new terms in the Collaborate and Present task or the writing Performance Task at the end of the unit.
  • In Unit 3, teachers are instructed to use the Academic Vocabulary Routine to teach the meaning of chaotic, discipline, fundamental, rigor, empathy, and mentor. There is a short Word Study lesson on references in which students explore the word family for chaotic. While students close read an excerpt from Letters to a Young Artist, they answer only one academic vocabulary question: “How is the author herself serving as a mentor through these letters?” Additional Tier 3 terms are defined in the margin of the text, such as strict, learned, resonance, and enrich. New terms are introduced and follow the same procedure for the second anchor text, “Zebra.” A short Word Study lesson in which students explore context clues is included. There is no review of earlier terms, and students are not prompted to use their new terms in the Collaborate and Present task or the writing Performance Task at the end of the unit.
  • In Unit 6, teachers are again instructed to use the Academic Vocabulary Routine to teach the meaning of contemporary,  consciousness, distinguish, credence, unpremeditated, and unrelenting. There is a short Word Study lesson in which students use a dictionary to find pronunciation, part of speech, and an example sentence for contemporary. While students close read an excerpt from  Babes in Arms, they answer two academic vocabulary questions: “Discuss why the reviewer explains in paragraph 4 that ‘a 12-year-old is conscious only of immediate circumstances.’ Describe the ‘unpremeditated’ nature of the violence and death in Sierra Leone as presented by Boyd in the review. Discuss why this is perhaps what ‘fundamentally disturbs’ him about African conflicts.” New terms are introduced and follow the same procedure for the second anchor text, an excerpt from First They Killed My Father. Again, there is no review of earlier terms, and students are not prompted to use their new terms in the Collaborate and Present task or the writing Performance Task at the end of the unit.

Indicator 2f

Materials include a cohesive, year-long plan to 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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria 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.

There is a cohesive writing plan in the Implementation Guide that identifies the movement from daily On Demand and Summarizing writings to the culminating Performance Task. Students are provided with a consistent, basic framework for process writing and apply the framework to a variety of tasks. The writing tasks span the year and match with the expectations of writing in the CCSS.  Writing instruction supports student growth over the course of the year by introducing increasingly more difficult prompts for the Performance Task. Each Performance Task provides students with a model, process for analyzing the model, writing protocols for all of the steps of the writing process, and checklists and rubrics to monitor student growth over time. Throughout the year, both teacher and peers provide feedback to ensure writing skills are increasing. The Teacher Edition instructs the teacher to have the students discuss the rubrics with classmates, guide student self-evaluation, and conference with the students using the rubrics to provide feedback.

Examples of activities that support students’ increasing writing skills include, but are not limited to:

  • In Unit 1, after reading from “The Year of the MOOC” by Laura Pappano, students complete an On Demand Writing. Teachers are instructed to “Use Routine 6: On Demand Writing to have students record responses.” Students answer the question: “What is one advantage and one disadvantage of MOOCs described in paragraphs 15 and 16?”
  • In Unit 3, students write an argument essay in which they make a claim whether a person needs knowledge and empathy to create great art. Students are to consider the arguments and evidence in at least one of the reading selections from the unit. They follow the writing process steps in separate activities: Gather Evidence, Organize Ideas, Language Study, Convention Study, Revise and Edit, and Publish. After analyzing the model text, teachers are instructed: “Use Routine 9: Writing Process [defined above] to engage students with what they will be working on over the next several days.” The Teacher Edition has ample teacher guidance as students work through the writing process.
  • In Unit 5, students write an informative/literary analysis essay to compare and contrast how authors use descriptions of characters and events to develop the topic of life on Earth during an alien invasion. They follow the writing process steps in separate activities: Gather Evidence, Organize Ideas, Language Study, Convention Study, Revise and Edit, and Publish.
  • In Unit 7, after reading an excerpt from The Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration, students are asked to use evidence they collected “to summarize the key idea of this excerpt from Fitzgerald’s nonfiction book.”

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
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 partially meet  the criteria 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 materials support teachers in employing projects that develop students’ knowledge of a topic via provided resources, the materials do not offer a complete or thorough progression of focused, shared research and writing projects to encourage students to engage with source materials, synthesize knowledge and understanding of a topic using texts and other source materials, or to learn research habits. The end of unit tasks require students to only revisit the anchor texts to complete the task, though there are three instances in Collaborate and Present tasks in which students are asked to do research beyond the provided anchors, and there is ample practice at utilizing and gathering evidence from provided anchor texts to support work in the end of unit tasks.  However, the materials do not provide a year-long progression of research skills that align to CCSS. While the standards ask that eighth grade students “[g]ather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation,” there is no instruction for the students or teacher to work on these skills. When research is assigned, students are given some instruction and strategies to support their research via Collaborate and Present and Performance Tasks, but the materials do not organize research projects in a way that fosters independence in students’ research abilities. An optional Research Connection task is mentioned in the Teacher Edition at the end of each unit, after the extended anchor text. This task asks students to research a particular question, but offers no guidance on what the student should do with that information. Also, the materials offer limited opportunities for students to engage in both “short” and “long” projects across the course of a year since research tasks are often short and rarely, if ever, provide opportunities for students to negotiate multiple sources. Additionally, the materials offer minimal assessment materials for research-focused tasks through end of unit projects nor are they  provided throughout the year. Finally, teacher direction and support in instruction around research-based tasks are not mentioned in the implementation guide nor in the planning pages.

Examples of how units provide some opportunities for research include:

  • In Unit 1, there is a reference to a research activity after the core materials. The Research Connection after the extended text tells students to “Look at the admissions qualifications online for Harvard University. Then find the admissions statistics. Have students discuss what they might need to do in high school to be able to qualify for Harvard admission.” There is no guidance or instruction for how to do this research or what to do with the information.
  • In Unit 2, there are no research references or activities after the core materials. The Research Connection after the extended text tells students to “Research diaries and articles online about real teen sailors who have attempted to circumnavigate the globe such as Laura Dekker, Abby Sunderland, and Jessica Watson.” There is no guidance or instruction for how to do this research or what to do with the information.
  • In Unit 4, there is a research activity in the core materials that requires students to research beyond the anchor texts. In the Collaborate and Present task, students work with a partner using books and websites to research one of the products developed by Steve Jobs that failed. They generate a list of questions that would help them explore why the product failed. Then they answer their own questions and present findings to the class.  The directions for students include: “Choose a product to research. Then generate a list of questions that will guide you. Consider the following questions starters: “What were the characteristics of ___? Why did _____? What caused ____? and What did consumers____?” A graphic organizer is provided with the headings, “Failed product, questions, and answers.” There is minimal instruction for students to help them know how to do research and how to evaluate and cite sources.
  • In Unit 5, in the Collaborate and Present task, students use the anchor texts to work in groups to “search the Internet for recordings of Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds or the episode of Suspense Radio with 'Zero Hour.'” Then they create a presentation in which they compare the radio broadcasts to the written text. This is more of a “search” task rather than a research project.
  • In Unit 6, in the Collaborate and Present task, students work with a partner to research and write a speech about Beah’s or Ung’s activism, using multiple resources. They are to consider the following questions: “Which organization does the writer work for? What is the mission of the organization? What are the writer’s duties with the organization?” A chart is provided for students to capture evidence from their research. There is no further instruction on how to research and how to evaluate and cite sources.

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.
4/4
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Indicator Rating Details

The instructional materials reviewed for Grade 8 meet the criteria 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.

At the end of each of the seven units, the independent reading section includes a design and procedures for how students will regularly engage in a volume of independent reading either in or outside of class. This “Independent Reading” page includes a list of “Literature Circle Leveled Novels,” as well as Independent reading “Fiction, Nonfiction, and Novels,” and Films, TV, Websites, and Magazines that are thematically related to the unit. Students choose their books and meet with teachers and peers to ask questions, lead discussions, and deepen comprehension of texts. The Teacher Edition suggests that these are scheduled as daily homework, with weekly teacher-monitored assessment. The Teacher Edition includes an appendix section on Literature Circles with information on planning independent reading. This page includes information on text complexity.  Additional resources tied to the novels are found in the online Teacher Edition. Though the materials meet the expectation, the feasibility of implementation should be a consideration for adoption of the curriculum. While there are opportunities for teachers to provide students with independent reading and literature circle reading, there is no direct support for teachers to implement this reading in a 45-50 minute class period with the structure provided. In the 90 minute block - the time period suggested by the curriculum - there is time built in for teachers to implement the outside independent reading.


Examples of the structures and instructions provided to teachers for independent reading in all units include:

  • In the Literature Circle section of the Teacher Edition, teachers are provided instruction and guidelines for successful literature circles. The content of the questions and associated writing tasks differ by novel but the overall protocol is the same. The following guidelines are included in the Planning pages under specific headings: Teacher’s Role, Student’s Role, Planning, Scheduling, Supporting, Pacing, and Setting up the Classroom. Other guidance for teachers includes:
    • “Author File”- information about the author.
    • “Resources” - a box of the downloadable resources available for each novel.
    • Literature Circles in Action page which includes information under the headings: Literature Circle Steps, Forming Groups, and Implementation.
  • In each unit, specific Guidelines for each Literature Circle novel are provided under the following headings: Before Reading - Create Interest, Build Background Knowledge; During Reading - Preteach Academic Vocabulary; Talk About It - Identify Key Ideas, Support Discussion; Write About It (students are given prompts and use Routine 6: On Demand Writing); After Reading - Connect to the Essential Question (Questions are provided at the Personal, Textual, and Cultural level).
  • In the Teacher Edition, Assessment and Grading page, teachers receive information under the headings: What and How to Evaluate, Grading Literature Circles, Refining the Process, as well as an Evaluation Methods grid which lists the downloadable resources (Observation Checklist, Student Self-Evaluation, and Student Group Evaluation) and a Scoring Guide matrix. This section also includes daily reading logs, Higher Order Thinking Resources and Reading Counts! Quizzes.


Examples of the texts offered as literature circle or independent reading texts, student activities, and teacher guidance (all units offer similar activities and guidance) include, but are not limited to:


Unit 7:

Literature Circle Leveled Novels: Each novel has a 1-2 sentence description and Lexile level.

  • Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Fiction, Nonfiction, and Novels: Each text has a 1-2 sentence description and Lexile level.

  • Hush by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura E. Williams
  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
  • Trino’s Choice by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
  • No Easy Answers: Short Stories About Teens MAking Tough Decisions edited by Donald R. Gallo
  • Kids With Courage: True Stories About Young People Making a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis
  • Born Confused by Tanuja Hidier
  • Shiloh selected by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


Independent Reading student activities:

  • Teachers are prompted to encourage students to use the activities provided (all are downloadable Code-X resources): Build a Website Activity and Photo Gallery Activity.
  • Additional Resources for tracking and vocabulary: Reading Log Resource and Vocabulary Log Resource.


Teacher Edition instruction and strategies:

  • Teachers are provided Troubleshooting Strategies with scenarios, such as “When the student or group goes off track, you could bring it back to the text. Make sure students always cite specific evidence. When the student or group comes unprepared, you might institute a point system...that rewards preparation by allowing a student to read the missed chapters in class.”
  • Teacher Edition instructions to promote the Independent Reading strategy of journaling, include “Remind students that journaling is a way they can interact with and explore texts. Encourage students to make journal entries about big ideas or arguments presented” and other strategies.

Gateway Three

Usability

Not Rated

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Gateway Three Details
This material was not reviewed for Gateway Three because it did not meet expectations for Gateways One and Two

Criterion 3a - 3e

Materials are well designed and take into account effective lesson structure and pacing.

Indicator 3a

Materials are well-designed and take into account effective lesson structure and pacing.
N/A

Indicator 3b

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

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.).
N/A

Indicator 3d

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

Indicator 3e

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

Criterion 3f - 3j

Materials support teacher learning and understanding of the Standards.

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.
N/A

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.
N/A

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.
N/A

Indicator 3i

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

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.
N/A

Criterion 3k - 3n

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

Indicator 3k

Materials regularly and systematically offer assessment opportunities that genuinely measure student progress.
N/A

Indicator 3l

The purpose/use of each assessment is clear:
N/A

Indicator 3l.i

Assessments clearly denote which standards are being emphasized.
N/A

Indicator 3l.ii

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

Indicator 3m

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

Indicator 3n

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

Criterion 3o - 3r

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

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.
N/A

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.
N/A

Indicator 3q

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

Indicator 3r

Materials provide opportunities for teachers to use a variety of grouping strategies.
N/A

Criterion 3s - 3v

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

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.
N/A

Indicator 3t

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

Indicator 3u

Materials can be easily customized for individual learners.
N/A

Indicator 3u.i

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

Indicator 3u.ii

Materials can be easily customized for local use.
N/A

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.).
N/A
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Additional Publication Details

Report Published Date: 04/22/2019

Report Edition: 2014

Title ISBN Edition Publisher Year
Common Core Code X Student Edition Course III 978-0-5456-2353-7 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014
Common Core Code X Teacher's Edition Course III 978-0-5456-2357-5 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014
Common Core Code X Assessment Guide Course III 978-0-5456-2361-8 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014

About Publishers Responses

All publishers are invited to provide an orientation to the educator-led team that will be reviewing their materials. The review teams also can ask publishers clarifying questions about their programs throughout the review process.

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.

Educator-Led Review Teams

Each report found on EdReports.org represents hundreds of hours of work by educator reviewers. Working in teams of 4-5, reviewers use educator-developed review tools, evidence guides, and key documents to thoroughly examine their sets of materials.

After receiving over 25 hours of training on the EdReports.org review tool and process, teams meet weekly over the course of several months to share evidence, come to consensus on scoring, and write the evidence that ultimately is shared on the website.

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.

Rubric Design

The EdReports.org’s rubric supports a sequential review process through three gateways. These gateways reflect the importance of standards alignment to the fundamental design elements of the materials and considers other attributes of high-quality curriculum as recommended by educators.

Advancing Through Gateways

  • Materials must meet or partially meet expectations for the first set of indicators to move along the process. Gateways 1 and 2 focus on questions of alignment. Are the instructional materials aligned to the standards? Are all standards present and treated with appropriate depth and quality required to support student learning?
  • Gateway 3 focuses on the question of usability. Are the instructional materials user-friendly for students and educators? Materials must be well designed to facilitate student learning and enhance a teacher’s ability to differentiate and build knowledge within the classroom. In order to be reviewed and attain a rating for usability (Gateway 3), the instructional materials must first meet expectations for alignment (Gateways 1 and 2).

Key Terms Used throughout Review Rubric and Reports

  • Indicator Specific item that reviewers look for in materials.
  • Criterion Combination of all of the individual indicators for a single focus area.
  • Gateway Organizing feature of the evaluation rubric that combines criteria and prioritizes order for sequential review.
  • Alignment Rating Degree to which materials meet expectations for alignment, including that all standards are present and treated with the appropriate depth to support students in learning the skills and knowledge that they need to be ready for college and career.
  • Usability Degree to which materials are consistent with effective practices for use and design, teacher planning and learning, assessment, and differentiated instruction.

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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