ELA Preparedness

Overview of English
Language Arts Exams:
Changes Related to the Common
Core Learning Standards
What’s Ahead in This Discussion
• Big ideas of Common Core Learning Standards
for reading and writing
• Caveat about implications of Common Core
• Exploration of key shifts in what states expect
students to be able to do
• How attending to the key shifts affects this year’s
state exams in grades 3-5
• Getting ready for changing exams
Big Ideas of Common Core
Fewer, clearer, and higher
‘What’ – not ‘how’ – of instruction
End-of-year expectations, not a curricular program
Aligned with college and work expectations
Expectations are consistent for all – and not dependent on a
student’s state or zip code
• Include rigorous content and application of knowledge
through higher order skills
• Internationally benchmarked, so all students are prepared to
succeed in a global economy and society
Challenge of Defining Standards of
Excellence as ‘Common’
• Common Core worked backward by studying
skills exhibited by graduating college students
• What proficient college students do extrapolated
back to twelfth grade, tenth grade, eighth grade…
down to kindergarten
• Defining what is most significant by observing
skillful practitioners creates complications
• A short list of competencies tells us some of what
the skillful do, not how they learned their skills
Challenge of Defining Standards of
Excellence as ‘Common’, Continued
• If asked to define skills proficient artists
demonstrate in painting, we might suggest:
o Accuracy in rendering forms
o Modulating light, dark, and color
o Originality
• Specific examples affirm and disaffirm efforts to
characterize great painting
Modulating Light, Dark, and Color
Proficient Practitioners Do Many
Things Well
Challenge of Defining Standards of
Excellence as ‘Common’, Continued
• Important to remember that what skillful
practitioners do most often may not always be
what made them proficient
• When attention swings to a few specific features
of proficient practice, practitioners turn their
attention to those features
Appearance of the Vanishing Point
Veneziano, 1445
Fra Angelico, 1451
Fra Carnevale, 1451
Pierro della Francesca, 1460
Six Major Shifts of Common Core
Shift 1: PK-5, Balancing Informational & Literary Texts
Students access the world of science, social studies, the arts, and literature through
reading. At least 50% of what students read is informational.
Shift 2: 6-12, Knowledge in the Disciplines
Students learn information from reading, and content teachers emphasize literacy
Shift 3: Staircase of Complexity
Students closely and carefully read increasingly complex texts, with teacher support as
Shift 4: Text-Based Answers
Students argue from evidence when discussing and writing about text.
Shift 5: Writing from Sources
Students use evidence to inform or make arguments that respond to ideas, events, facts,
and arguments presented in what they read.
Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary
Students build vocabulary to access grade-level texts, focusing on pivotal and common
academic language (e.g., discourse, generation, theory, principled).
How New York State Captures the
Six Major Common Core Shifts
Grade Three
Grade Four
Grade Five
Total Days of Testing
Maximum Minutes per Day
Total Multiple-Choice Questions
Short Response Questions
Extended Response Questions
Reading Passages Per Extended Response
Listening Passages
Total Reading Passages
1.98 – 5.34
Words Per Reading Passage
Readability Level (Flesch-Kincaid)
Lexile Level
Sample Books at the High End
of the Exams’ Lexile Ranges
• Some fiction with an 820 Lexile (high-end of third
grade) level includes:
o Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Brave
o Jerry Spinnelli’s Maniac Magee
o E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End
• Some fiction with an 1010 Lexile (high-end of fifth
grade) level includes:
o Shel Silverstein’s Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot
o Willa Cather’s My Antonía
o Anonymous’s Go Ask Alice
Finding the Shifts in Some Tests
• Read a real fourth grade test passage and questions
from 2010 (“The Dragon Hunter”)
• Read a state sample fourth grade passage and
questions from 2013 (“What is Antarctica?”)
• With a partner, find what in the 2013 sample reflects
shifts in Common Core attention to:
o Informational text
o Text complexity
o Text-specific details and evidence
o Academic vocabulary
Text-Specific Evidence in Short and
Extended Response
• In open-ended (short and extended) response
questions, text-based evidence more important to score
than previous years
• Text-based evidence is to 2013 New York testing as
vanishing point perspective was to 1450 Italian painting
– a skill with heightened emphasis
• State’s scoring rubrics for extended-response essays,
worth up to four points total, have added text-based
evidence as a new category to be graded
• State’s scoring rubric for short-response essays, worth
up to two points total, make evidence the central feature
Fourth Grade Short-Answer Scoring
Response Features
2 Point The features of a 2-point response are
• Valid inferences and/or claims from the text where required by the prompt
• Evidence of analysis of the text where required by the prompt
• Relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, and/or other information from the
text to develop response according to the requirements of
the prompt
• Sufficient number of facts, definitions, concrete details, and/or other
information from the text as required by the prompt
• Complete sentences where errors do not impact readability
1 Point The features of a 1-point response are
• A mostly literal recounting of events or details from the text as required by the
• Some relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, and/or other information
from the text to develop response according to the requirements of the prompt
• Incomplete sentences or bullets
How You Can Help Your Child
• Relax (we’ll come back to reasons you can)
• Read lots overall – reading stamina and reading
level are key to tackling harder passages
• Mix in informational reading
• Prompt your child to say more about reading,
and cite examples from text
• Find ways to make evidence habitual (e.g., “If
you want that sleepover, make a persuasive
argument that you’re responsible enough to host
so many kids”)
Reasons to Relax:
Broad Implications
• The whole state expects scores to drop
• Middle schools don’t have automatic,
minimum qualifying exam scores
• Middle schools will accept as many
students in the future as they have in the
• Families still control attendance and
punctuality, key to middle school
Reasons to Relax:
Broad Implications, Continued
• Low scores not only factor in discussions of
retention or summer school
• School accountability measures adjust to
decreasing scores

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