Texas StudySync was built from the ground up to fully align with the interrelated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and English Language Proficiency Standards. The program’s instruction guides students as they develop knowledge and skills with increased complexity in order to think critically and adapt to the ever-evolving nature of language and literacy.
The quality of the StudySync program is evident from the scores conferred by the Texas Resource Review. However, there are two criteria in which the committee's score of “partially meets” merits a response and further explanation.
3.d.1 Materials engage students in both short-term and sustained recursive inquiry processes to confront and analyze various aspects of a topic using relevant sources
• Materials support identification and summary of high-quality primary and secondary sources.
• Materials support student practice in organizing and presenting their ideas and information in accordance with the purpose of the research and the appropriate grade level audience.
The Texas Resource Review committee has given this indicator a score of 2/4, stating that it “partially meets” the criteria therein. In their evaluation, the committee states that users of Texas StudySync “have multiple opportunities to research and present their findings in a variety of ways,” but that those materials “do not support the identification and summary of high-quality primary and secondary sources.”
Students engage in short-term research and inquiry processes throughout each unit. Longer-term research occurs in the Research Extended Writing Project (Unit 4) and the Extended Oral Project (Unit 6). Skill lessons in these units (like those shown below), along with others in the Integrated Reading and Writing sections of the units give explicit instruction on the process of identifying quality sources for research and presenting that research in a properly summarized or paraphrased manner with accurate citation.
- Planning Research
- Evaluating Sources
- Research and Notetaking
- Critiquing Research
These lessons combine to teach students how to identify, evaluate, and use high-quality sources. Students learn all the elements of identifying and critiquing possible sources in order to build their research from high-quality materials.
Lessons on commentary, summarizing, and paraphrasing teach students how to present and interact with the ideas from texts they encounter so that they can use their sources effectively in their writing. These skills appear in the first four units of the grade 10 curriculum, giving students the opportunity to practice these skills initially with high-quality texts that have been selected for them. This placement allows teachers and students to practice and master these skills before they engage with them in the course of their extended research writing.
Each of these skill lessons model a student applying the skill to two different sections of a text. In the Close Read lessons that follow, students write responses applying those skills. For example, after students read “Seeing at the Speed of Sound,” they are asked to write a response analyzing the effectiveness of different modalities using paraphrased ideas and information from the text. This activity allows teachers to assess students’ mastery of paraphrasing, while also assessing their ability to use a text’s paraphrase for a larger analytical purpose.
In all four of these lessons, students gain valuable skills for including text evidence in their writing that will prove useful in all of their text-based writing assignments, but will be vital for their research writing.
6.2 Materials include year-long plans and supports for teachers to identify needs of students and provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of a range of learners to ensure grade-level success.
• Materials provide an overarching year-long plan for teachers to engage students in multiple grouping (and other) structures. Plans are comprehensive and attend to differentiation to support students via many learning opportunities.
• Teacher edition materials include annotations and support for engaging students in the materials, as well as support for implementing ancillary and resource materials and student progress components.
• Annotations and ancillary materials provide support for student learning and assistance for teachers.
The Texas Resource Review committee has given this indicator a score of 1/2, stating that it “partially meets” the criteria therein. In their evaluation, they state that the Texas StudySync “materials provide some supports for teachers to differentiate instruction” but that those many of those supports “remain the same from unit to unit, with little change to move students towards increased proficiency with grade-level tasks.”
Differentiation and scaffolding are a bedrock of Texas StudySync’s instructional design. Each lesson in Texas StudySync’s Core ELAR units includes scaffolded support for four levels of English Language Learners, as well as Approaching grade level readers. These targeted scaffolds automatically appear with every digital assignment and feature supports that are specifically tailored to each activity or desired outcome in the lesson. For example, texts are accompanied by visual glossaries and synopses so that English learners are able to access the text. Class discussions are accompanied by speaking frames or sentence starters, and writing prompts are accompanied by word banks, paragraph frames, or sentence starters, depending on students’ levels of proficiency. ELL and Approaching grade-level students receive scaffolds for every lesson, in every section of the unit.
The examples below show the scaffolds provided with Close Read writing prompts for Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, Advanced High, and Approaching level students. Note how the scaffolds move students toward increased independence and proficiency.
- Beginning Scaffolds - Paragraph frame and word bank:
- Intermediate Scaffolds - Paragraph frame and word bank for some answers
- Advanced Scaffolds - Differentiated sentence starters and differentiated response length
- Advanced-High Scaffolds - Differentiated sentence starters and differentiated response
- Approaching Scaffolds - Differentiated sentence starters and differentiated response length
Because each scaffold is written specifically for the text it accompanies, each scaffold is unique. Moreover, the level of support decreases with each level of proficiency, so that Beginning level students receive more support than Intermediate, Intermediate more than Advanced, and so on. This increase in independence moves students toward proficiency, which builds increased proficiency with grade-level tasks.
The TRR evaluation also claims that StudySync “materials do not provide guidance for assessing student progress throughout the materials other than sample responses to questions and rubrics, which remain the same throughout the year.”
StudySync materials provide multiple opportunities for assessing and monitoring student progress. Each lesson contains multiple formative assessments, with summative assessments at the end of each unit.
Teachers can monitor progress at the unit and year level with the data tracking in the StudySync Gradebook. All assignments and activities in StudySync are aligned to standards, and any work students complete within the StudySync platform provides data for those standards. Color coding provides at-a-glance information about student skills mastery. Teachers can click on any standard in the gradebook to find additional opportunities for instruction.
Diagnostic and Benchmark assessments provide further information about student progress.
At the beginning of the year, teachers can use the Grade-Level Readiness Screener and the Reading Diagnostic Assessment to guide instruction.
Each grade also includes three Benchmark assessments and three State Test Prep Assessments. These assessments can be administered to students throughout the year, preparing students for end-of year testing, and providing a picture of student year-long achievement.
Teachers are also prompted periodically to evaluate their students’ progress and adjust their proficiency levels accordingly to ensure that students are getting the appropriate scaffolds.
Beyond grade level learners also receive scaffolds designed for their ability to complete work that meets or exceeds expectations at an accelerated pace. The activities offered for Beyond grade-level students take them further into the content of a lesson should they complete the activity before other students. As an example, a tenth grade Close Read lesson on La Juanita asks students to analyze how the author’s stylistic choices help to develop a theme about isolation.
Finally, the Strategies Glossary, located in the additional resources section of each grade level, is a tool for educators that includes thoroughly detailed, research-based strategies that will improve the learning of every child, regardless of each classroom’s diverse needs. These strategies provide rationales for grouping structures and give teachers suggestions for how to adjust those groups throughout the year. The strategies in this document can be used for a variety of lessons within the classroom, especially written for the unique learners in mind. They are flexible, adaptable, and allow educators to differentiate lessons seamlessly.