We would like to begin by thanking Texas Resource Review for the positive and thorough review of our materials. We wanted to take this opportunity to address a few places where our materials either appeared to fall short or did not fit the usual mold.
Our aim in Advanced Language & Literature is to prepare ALL 10th grade students for success in the two Advanced Placement® English courses. Our rationale was that if students could be successful in these college-level English classes, this would far exceed the expectations identified in the TEKS, and would leave them well prepared for college and career. One result is that when the TRR reviews our materials, the focus is on quality as related to the TEKS; therefore, there will inevitably be differences not because this book does not provide grade-level support but because our focus was on preparation for AP®, college, and career.
In addition to this difference in focus, we also believe it’s important to mention that our materials are different from other offerings because they are not a packaged curriculum that imposes one year-long pathway on teachers and students. Rather, we have provided a flexible resource and tools to help teachers and districts make instructional choices that are most relevant for their students. The result of this decision in supporting local choice is that this analysis by Texas Resource Review includes comments such as: the materials fail to provide “increasingly sophisticated contexts” for a particular skill, or “include a rationale for purpose and placement,” or may not “support students’ literacy skills over the course of the school year through increasingly complex texts.” This review frequently judged the materials not based on quality, but on whether they mandated a strict scope and sequence. We believe that it is not the role of a publisher to dictate a lock-step curriculum, but to provide high quality materials and tools that help teachers create their own tailored curriculum that supports the needs of their students. To that end, in the Teacher’s Edition of Advanced Language & Literature, we include information on text pacing, and provide optional pre-built units for each theme that focus on developing a specific skill. We built Advanced Language & Literature to foster local choice, allow for authentic differentiation, and provide in-depth support for constructing a curriculum that fits your school and your students.
One unfortunate way this manifested in this review was by discounting materials that might be used in more than one way, or whose use is at the discretion of the teacher. For instance, the report claimed that there were not frequent opportunities for speaking and listening. Of course, many of the questions following a reading could readily be used in that way–as a one-on-one, small group, or full class discussion, rather than as a written response–and support and ideas for that exist in the Teacher’s Edition. But because those prompts were not mandated to be used in that way, they were not considered. Similarly, vocabulary is built throughout the book by including rich complex texts, and investigating the language choices in those texts through the Analyzing Language, Style, and Structure questions, but since those were not part of a specific scope and sequence, they did not count as part of a “cohesive, consistent approach” despite appearing after every piece in the book.
We would also like to address the ways that we have included grammar in our materials and why the indicator in the Texas Resource Review’s ELAR rubric won’t be able to quite capture the realities of grammar instruction in a contemporary English classroom. As a discipline, English teachers have long wrestled with how to teach grammar and conventions: we’ve used copying of famous passages, sentence-diagramming, daily fix-its, peer editing, and many more approaches. The field has, for the most part, settled on the idea that grammar and conventions reflect a student’s own cultural, social, developmental, and educational contexts and that any improvement in the use of conventions must be done within the context of the students’ own writing. Research has shown that stand-alone, isolated, class-wide grammar instruction has no impact on students’ writing skills. And while Texas Resource Review recognizes this importance–for instance evaluating materials on whether there are “opportunities for application in context”–their demand for a single year-long scope and sequence makes these evaluations problematic.
As any classroom teacher can tell you, there are some students who need more support than others--and that’s okay. The TRR indicators calling for a single year-long plan for grammar go against what the field has learned long ago: conventions are developmental and students have widely varying needs for grammar instruction.
Therefore, in Advanced Language & Literature, we focus on providing teachers and students with the resources they need to make their own choices for grammar instruction, since student needs and contexts vary widely. For that reason, we provided a series of flexible options for building targeted grammar skills: The book includes a thorough grammar handbook in the back of the book, GrammarGirl podcasts, online grammar exercises, and adaptive LearningCurve activities. In short, this book moves students a step closer to the reality of college-level classes, where grammar becomes the student’s responsibility, but we have provided many supports to guide that transition. Additionally, questions on grammatical concepts throughout the book tend to move past the baseline of simply understanding grammar, and focus on the effects of grammatical choices. This inherently requires a knowledge of grammar that is found in the Grammar Handbook, but recognizes that simple correctness in grammar should never be the end goal of its study. The Texas Resource Review indicator would make it seem as though grammar were absent from this book, but in fact grammar is addressed, just not as direct instruction, and not as part of a mandatory scope-and-sequence.
This book encountered a similar rigidness in the evaluation of research. While Texas Resource Review was looking for evidence of a “progression” or “series of research tasks throughout the school year,” what our book does is teach the thinking and writing skills needed to work effectively with multiple sources, assess credibility, and write an evidence-based argument. The book provides direct instruction of how to assess and use sources (Chapter 4 - Synthesis), in-context practice in every Entering the Conversation section, and a wealth of opportunities throughout the book in Topics for Composing prompts labeled “Research.” We provide these key building blocks and opportunities, and let teachers decide when and how to deploy them, which is not what the indicators that Texas Resource Review works from are designed to assess.
With that said, in order to better meet TRR indicators III.a.3 (vocabulary), III.a.4 (independent reading), III.b.3 (grammar), and III.d.1 (research/inquiry) we have created optional full-year plans for grammar, research, and vocabulary that step out how one might utilize the resources in the program, and a worksheet for independent reading accountability. They can be found here, and in the book’s digital platform.
In closing, while TRR is a thorough and conscientious process, we would like to make clear that we believe that in order to differentiate instruction effectively, components of the review such as scope and sequence, and year-long plans should be left in the hands of classroom teachers and local administrators. We do not feel that this is the role of a publisher to dictate. We believe our TEKS alignment allows for this local decision making. We, the authors of Advanced Language & Literature, are committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of background and skill-level, can be successful in the AP® English courses and in college, by providing clear and aligned preparation in their 10th grade class, and by providing flexible tools that allow professionals in the classroom to make the best choices for their students.