How often have you heard the words: “I’m sick of teaching to the test?” Back in our teaching days, we said it ALL.THE.TIME. But what if you lived in a world where the state summative end-of-year test actually reflected the kind of content that you saw in high-quality classroom materials? Would you still be “teaching to the test,” or would you actually just be “teaching grade-level content”?
You will be happy to know that there is an organization out there that has set a bar for quality summative assessments that reflect the dream world described above. The CCSSO Criteria for Procuring and Evaluating High-Quality Assessments outline the expectations for standards-aligned summative assessments (the big, bad state test). Section B is all about the texts that are on these assessments. A close look at section B reveals that the first two criteria focus on texts: the passages must be high-quality and appropriately complex for the grade. Furthermore, text complexity must be determined by using a combination of quantitative and qualitative evaluation. Does this practice sound familiar? If so, it’s because that is also best practice for texts used in classroom settings.
Several summative assessment programs have taken these criteria to heart. While we would never claim that every text on every state test is perfect, check out the examples below:
- This excerpt from Bambi (pp. 4-5), Mississippi
- This excerpt from “Emergency on the Mountain” (pp. 4-5) Louisiana
- “The Peacock” (pp. 5-6) PARCC
Texts like these reflect a change in state summative assessments. Thanks to guidelines like the CCSSO Criteria, it is becoming more and more clear that, regardless of changes to state standards, high-quality, grade-level complex texts are here to stay on state summative assessments.
Let’s step away from the test for a minute, though, and talk about the materials that you have in your classroom. EdReports, much like the CCSSO Criteria, emphasizes the quality and complexity of texts in its evaluation rubric for instructional materials. Gateway 1, Criterion 1, reads, “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.”
High-quality instructional materials that provide students with great grade-level texts to read and analyze exist. One only needs to look at the Compare Materials page (K-2) (3-8) (HS) of EdReports to see the names of many programs that have been rated as green for Criterion 1.
It is clear that we are moving in the right direction in regard to connecting the dots in our educational systems. But you know we don’t all live in a world where there is always beautiful connection between classroom and summative assessment texts. This mismatch between the parts of our educational system can cause huge problems for teachers and students. So what is a teacher to do? Well, we here at Student Achievement Partnters love a good solutions table, so take a look at the one below, and let us know what you think:
|You’ve got high-quality, appropriately complex texts in your instructional materials, but the texts on your summative assessment don’t meet those expectations.||Advocate for high-quality assessment in your state by:
|You’ve got high-quality, appropriately complex texts on your state summative assessment, but the texts in your instructional materials don’t meet those expectations.||Ask your district to adopt new materials that include high-quality, appropriately complex texts. The following tools and resources can support the adoption process:
Check out this webinar about the importance of high-quality instructional materials, presented by the Nebraska Materials Matter collaborative.
If you are using Wonders 2017 or Journeys 2014, use the Materials Adaptation Project Materials to elevate the best texts and materials included in the program.
|You’ve got high-quality, appropriately complex texts in your instructional materials, AND high-quality instructional materials, but you are finding that your students still struggle with accessing grade-level appropriate texts.||If you teach K-2, make sure you are using a strong foundational skills program to ensure that students have the skills to access complex text in the upper grades. The following tools can provide information about teaching foundational skills in your classroom:
Ask a college or coach to observe a close reading lesson using the Instructional Practice Guide (IPG) to see if your instruction is lining up with the expectations of the Shifts and standards. Use the questions in the IPG’s Beyond the Lesson Guides to reflect upon your practice.
Dig into the Instructional Practice Toolkit to learn more about implementing the Shifts in your classroom.