- Copyright Type
- Print Version
- Estimated number of pages:
- Digital Version
- Estimated number of click or scroll pages:
The quality review is the result of extensive evidence gathering and analysis by Texas educators of how well instructional materials satisfy the criteria for quality in the subject-specific rubric. Follow the links below to view the scores and read the evidence used to determine quality.
Section 1. English Language Arts and Reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) Alignment
TEKS Student %
TEKS Teacher %
ELPS Student %
ELPS Teacher %
Section 2. Texts
Section 3. Literacy Practices and Text Interactions
Section 4. Developing and Sustaining Foundational Literacy Skills
Section 5. Supports for All Learners
Section 6. Implementation
Section 7. Additional Information
|Grade||TEKS Student %||TEKS Teacher %||ELPS Student %||ELPS Teacher %|
The materials provide well-crafted, publishable texts, but they do not cover a range of student interests. Many texts are provided by experts in various disciplines or adapted by the publisher’s in-house authors. However, there is a limited range of increasingly complex and diverse texts with a Lexile above 1050. Texts expose students to content-specific terms and varied sentence structures with proper mechanics, usage, and spelling. However, the materials do not offer a wide range of relevant, high-interest titles covering a range of student interests.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
For a quick search of titles, one can download a list from the “Teacher Resources.” Some text passages embedded within the units are “Murasaki Shikibu: The Woman Behind the World’s First Novel,” “Bats: Fact or Fiction,” “The Roads Less Traveled,” “The Power of One Person,” “Extra Pieces,” “Can the Internet Help End Poverty,” “The Good, the Bad, and the Al,” “Pro/Con: Should we bring back extinct species?” “Amelia Earhart and the Mystery of the Nikumaroro Bones,” “Videoconferencing Edition,” “ 13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Eiffel Tower,” “Hard Time: Working to Rehabilitate Teen Prisoners,” and “Is the Truth Out There?” The texts incorporate content and language appropriate to the subject matter. Texts are of high quality and cover various topics.
The materials include texts representing multicultural, contemporary, classical, and traditional genres that increase in complexity throughout the year. For example, in “TT 2.0 NexLevel” L2, “Altyn, Part 1” by Olivia Webb is inspired by Siberian mythology. The text begins with a detailed introduction of the setting: “A fierce wind blew across the Siberian plain. It curled down over the mountains, across the valleys, and around the heads of the wooly yaks and horses that ran in great herds across the sloping ground.”
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L4, students analyze the use of rhetorical devices in contemporary advertisements and a narrative titled “I Need a Phone.” TT 2.0 NexLevel L5 includes a text modeled from the first line of Marc Anthony’s speech in William Shakespeare’s classical play Julius Caesar. TT 2.0 NexLevel L6 has texts with different poetic elements (i.e., stanza, rhyme scheme, meter), such as “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes, “My Life CLosed Twice Before Its Close” by Emily Dickinson, and “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun” by William Shakespeare.
Cycle 13 includes the expository text Exploring the Deep. This is a very well-written and well-edited text. It is an appropriate, contemporary selection of publishable quality with which to begin the eighth-grade year. Cycle 14 includes the literary nonfiction text Journey Through the Triangle. This text is designed to look and read as the captain’s log of an ocean explorer. It includes wonderful illustrations, maps, and other visuals. It is written and edited well and is clearly of publishable quality. This cycle also contains the most varied and complex texts of the eighth-grade year, including “Myths of the Great Bear,” a folklore passage; “Man on a Wire,” literary nonfiction; “Race for the Moon,” an expository text; and “Escaping Earth’s Gravity,” a fictional passage. “Race for the Moon,” for instance, includes quotes from astronauts and underlined and bolded essential vocabulary, like spawned, artificial satellite, and conquer.
However, many of the texts are adapted by the publisher’s in-house authors, and the materials do not cover increasingly complex traditional, contemporary, classical, and multicultural diverse texts to meet a range of student interests in middle school. The only texts within the Lexile range set in place for eighth grade are “Film Distribution” and “Songwriting.” More texts are needed to cover a range of student interests to support ELAR instruction in eighth grade.
The materials include a limited variety of text types and genres. The texts within the materials include content that meets some of the grade 8 TEKS requirements. The materials do not include realistic fiction, adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, humor, fantasy, science fiction, short story, poetry, argument, or a procedure or protocol. The materials indicate that the grade 8 Lexile range is 1050L–1175L. Students progress through “cycles” within the program and move through their grade-level units based on their performance. The materials for grades 6–8 are included within four units. The print and graphic features, usually at the beginning of the texts, represent the topic being read.
Examples of literary texts include but are not limited to:
Bats: Fact or Fiction by Jessica Peters (literary nonfiction)
The Roads Less Traveled by Peter Jacobson (literary nonfiction)
The Good, the Bad, and the Al (author unknown) (literary nonfiction)
Amelia Earhart and the Mystery of the Nikumaroro Bones by Peter Jacobson (literary nonfiction)
Hard Time: Working to Rehabilitate Teen Prisoners by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (expository)
Is the Truth Out There? by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (literary nonfiction)
“The Call of the Wild” by Jack London, adapted by Jessica Peters (fiction)
Examples of informational texts include but are not limited to:
Murasaki Shikibu: The Woman Behind the World’s First Novel by Jessica Peters (biography, 1160L)
Is the Truth Out There by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (expository)
Examples of print and graphic features include but are not limited to:
Graphic organizers for targeted skills, bold words, captions, illustrations, and glossaries are present in a variety of texts. Adventure Time: Videoconferencing Edition by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters contains photographs of giant redwood trees in California, an astronaut in space, and a seal; captions explaining those photographs; and an illustrated map of Chances Peak, Montserrat.
Pro/Con: Should We Bring Back Extinct Species? by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters begins with an illustration of what appears to be a museum displaying extinct animals like the dinosaur. Photographs in the text include two horned goats butting horns and a Burmese python wrapped around a tree. There are also subheadings.
Your Brain on Technology by Peter Jacobson includes a diagram of the “Information Process Theory,” which supports the text’s explanation of how information is stored in the brain.
The materials provide texts that are appropriately complex for eighth grade. The publisher utilizes “The Lexile* Framework for Reading” to determine the difficulty of the reading levels. Although the materials provide a Lexile score for each text, the materials do not include qualitative features for each text within the grade level; they provide a general overview of qualitative features based on Lexile levels. No text complexity analysis is included.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In the “Teacher Resources” component, the “Istation Books and Passages” document lists all the available books and passages; it also specifies the Lexile range for the grade level (1050L–1175L), according to the Lexile* Framework for Reading. Although the passages listed in this document within the Lexile range for grade 8 are limited, teachers can find additional texts by searching the Teacher Resources. The materials are designed for students to progress through instruction at their own pace via “cycles” and units.
The materials include texts at the appropriate quantitative level of complexity for the grade level. The measure is based on the Lexile that accompanies each text and stage of reading. The following stages of reading are accounted for: Emergent, Early, Beginner, Transitional, Intermediate, and Progressing Adolescent. Each stage of reading is assigned based on quantitative and qualitative features per the Lexile.
According to the “Istation Stages of Reading,” each stage has general “Reader Characteristics” and “Text Characteristics” that will guide the qualitative selection of text, based on Lexile measurement and targeted skills. For example, for an Emergent Reader (no Lexile range), the text characteristics are “repetitious phrases or patterns, one line per page with few words in the line, and predictable text with strong pictorial support.” For Progressing Adolescents (700 L–1150 L), the text characteristics are “many new vocabulary words requiring readers to use context, glossaries, or dictionaries, a wide range of complex and informational texts. Texts present societal issues important to adolescents, such as growing up and family, and texts present multiple themes using multiple text structures.”
“TT 2.0 NexLevel” includes World of Wonders, a collection of passages that progressively increase in Lexile level. For example, TT 2.0 NexLevel Level 2 includes passages such as “Against the Odds” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (860L) and “13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Eiffel Tower” by Amber Richards and Jennifer Branson (1050L). TT 2.0 NexLevel Level 5 includes passages such as “The Psychology of Propaganda” by Peter Jacobson (1030L) and “Bats: Fact or Fiction” by Jessica Peters (1180L). TT 2.0 NexLevel Level 7 includes passages such as “The Power of One Person” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters (1090L) and “Your Brain on Technology” by Peter Jacobson (1170L). The texts include illustrations, bold type, glossaries, figurative language, and structures that correlate to the genre.
Although the materials provide a Lexile score for each text, they do not include qualitative features for each text within the grade level. Materials provide a general overview of qualitative features based on Lexile levels. No text complexity analysis is included.
The materials contain questions and tasks that support students in analyzing and integrating knowledge, ideas, themes, and connections within and across texts. Lessons target certain skills and provide opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they learn. The materials provide a series of activities that build conceptual knowledge, are text-specific/dependent, target complex elements of the texts (such as making inferences or using symbolism to extract deeper meaning from the text), and integrate multiple TEKS. The questions and tasks included require students to discuss important details and ideas as they synthesize information from multiple texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials require students to use text evidence to support answers, claims, and inferences. Students make personal connections to texts via the program’s “Reading 6–8 Model of Instruction Experiential Learning.” The questions and tasks target a pathway of “concrete experience,” “reflective experience,” “abstract conceptualization,” and “active experimentation.” This process entails “engaging in an activity to give context to a skill, reflecting on the experience, gaining understanding and skills from the activity, and applying new skills or learning to a novel situation.” Additionally, the materials integrate standards throughout each lesson and support applications of learning in contexts outside the classroom. In this grade level, students begin with “NexLevel” Level 2–7.
In Unit 2, “The Hub–Point of View, Bias, & Perspective,” students engage in “concrete experience” learning. They view social media content and text messages to activate prior knowledge of point of view, bias, and perspectives. In Unit 3, students go deeper with these skills by making connections and identifying big ideas in argumentative texts.
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel” L3, “Priority—Informative Text Organizational Patterns,” students learn about different organizational patterns (i.e., definition pattern, classification pattern, chronological pattern). They discuss how the patterns are developed: “What is [the word or term]?” “What categories classify the subject?” and “In what order did [the event(s)] happen?” Using what they have learned about developing informative texts using different organizational patterns, students evaluate texts that utilize multiple patterns.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L5, “Priority—Advanced Argumentative Texts,” students learn to identify different types of claims utilized in argumentative texts. They then read three examples, underline the claim, and determine the type of claim it is. Students also read the example essay “The Importance of Group Work” and underline the claim in the introduction paragraph and “three pieces of supporting evidence in the body paragraphs’ topic sentences.”
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L1, “Priority–Characterization,” as an introduction to analyzing character traits, students answer the question, “What one word would you use to describe your personality?” Students continue to explore characterization by reading short paragraphs, recording a word that describes the character, and highlighting or underlining the words in the passage that support their answer. Students then learn about direct and indirect characterization and practice identifying the two using the acronym “WALTER” (“Words, Actions, Looks, Thoughts, Effects on others, Responses”). Students answer a series of questions, including “What does the character say, and how does he or she say it ?” “What does the appearance of the character tell me about him or her?” “What does the way that others respond or treat the character tell me about him or her?” “What does the way that the character responds to different types of situations tell me about him or her?” Finally, students read two passages and use the WALTER graphic organizer to examine the characters.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, in the “Extension Lesson” of the “Masks Novella” unit, students review the themes of Masks. Next, they read “Atlyn: Part 1” by Olivia Webb and brainstorm about multiple themes in that text. Using a Venn diagram, they compare the themes of the two texts and write an essay based on the information in the graphic organizer. The essay must include a thesis statement about the common themes in the stories, comparisons of how each story “develops the theme through events and character interactions, using text evidence,” and an ending “with a universal/big idea.”
The materials contain various tasks and questions in which students analyze the language, make inferences, and draw conclusions about the author’s purpose in cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding. Students also study the author’s word choice to describe characters and determine the motivations for their actions. Students can make inferences about the author’s purpose and craft and analyze literary choices to understand the text. However, there are no explicit materials to compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic or analyze an author’s choices across texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Content at a Glance” provides various lessons that cover “comprehension skills, word analysis skills, fluency skills, and vocabulary skills.” In Lesson 1, students make inferences. In Lesson 2, students learn about plot elements and symbolism. In Lesson 3, they learn about the antagonist and protagonist, which also leads to comparing and contrasting. In Lesson 4, students dig into nonfiction text structures and the author’s purpose. Intertwined in all lesson units is the opportunity for students to write on the topic. Additionally, there is a focus on vocabulary that includes root word analyses and analogies.
The instructional materials support students’ analysis of the literary and textual elements of texts. Making inferences is taught throughout the text sections. In “ISIP Advanced Reading” 8C, Lesson 4 features a graphic organizer to assist with inference. The student chart has the vignette text in the first column, the student’s inferences in the next column, and the student’s clues for the inferences in the last column.
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” “Multimodal Texts,” teachers introduce students to the term “multimodal text” and explain the five different communication modes (linguistic, visual, audio, spatial, and gestural). Students practice identifying modes used in different multimodal examples, such as memes, songs, websites, and traffic signs. Students apply this skill to a multimodal comic using questions such as “How would you describe the style of the images?” “How does that style impact the experience of reading this text?” “What symbols are used in the comic?” “How do they convey meaning?” “How does the arrangement of text and images support understanding?” “How would you characterize the tone of this multimodal text?” “What is the author’s purpose?”
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L3, “Informative Text Organizational Patterns,” teachers explain that writers utilize certain words and phrases to create different patterns when organizing topics and details in an informative text to help the reader follow the ideas and understand the information more easily. They guide students through the “Organizational Patterns Notes” handout, reading and discussing three patterns: the definition pattern (“given to explain an unfamiliar term”); the classification pattern (“occurs when items or ideas are arranged into smaller groups…[and] explained”); and the advantages and disadvantages pattern (“organizes a topic...into positive and negative elements.”) The students work in pairs to determine which organizational pattern is used in the given text by highlighting keywords in the text and annotating in the margins.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L4, “Priority—Rhetoric,” students analyze rhetoric by exploring rhetorical appeals and devices. After learning about different rhetorical appeals (e.g., logos, pathos, ethos) and rhetorical devices (e.g., allusion and juxtaposition), students practice identifying these elements in a set of advertisements (as a whole class, with a partner, and independently). They also complete a “Rhetorical Device Hunt” by reading a short statement and identifying the appeal or device used. Using the text “I Need a Phone,” students analyze how those rhetorical appeals and devices communicate meaning and improve the reader’s understanding of the text.
Although the materials include lessons about the author’s purpose and stylistic choices, students do not compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic or analyze an author’s choices across texts.
The materials include a cohesive, year-long plan for students to interact and build key academic vocabulary instruction in and across texts. Vocabulary activities, such as using word analysis and context clues, allow students to determine unfamiliar or multiple-meaning words. The materials also provide teacher-directed lessons containing scaffolds and supports to differentiate vocabulary development for all learners.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include a “Content at a Glance” resource. Each lesson contains various tools and techniques to make the building of vocabulary and vocabulary instruction engaging, individualized, and relevant. Each unit contains a vocabulary activity as a part of daily lessons and instruction, including the study of Greek and Latin roots. Additionally, students practice their understanding of academic vocabulary and build key academic vocabulary both within and across texts by using vocabulary in context. For example, the “Middle School Reading: Context Clues Priority Report Lesson” employs five strategies to support the application of unknown words in the appropriate context. This lesson provides a lesson objective, a pre-filled key terms chart, and scaffolded support strategies; it also lists the necessary materials.
Students take the “Istation’s Indicators of Progress” (ISIP™) assessment monthly, which measures four critical reading components: word analysis, text fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Materials state: “The ISIP™ reading assessments immediately deliver reports that show...reading progress, including identifying areas of weakness.” The assessment places students in different program levels based on the results. Teachers use this information to deliver individualized instruction, targeting areas of weakness for students struggling to master the skills.
In the “Abnarwahl” game, students work to escape a submarine by examining sets of words to determine their common root word and definition. For example, they see the word primate and its definition (“a mammal characterized by advanced intellect and fine motor skills”), the root origin and its definition (“LATIN: first”), and the words primarily, primer, primitive, and prime. Students examine all five words, decide what root word they have in common, and enter that root into the “actuator.” Then, students match those words with the given definition (which includes the part of speech): “(adjective) of first importance,” “(adverb) mostly,” “(adjective) from the earliest times,” “(noun) a small book used to introduce a topic.” Students drag the words to the “analyzer” to hear the word read aloud in a sentence. Finally, to complete the escape, students match the words primate, levity, hydrant, and suspend with their proper definitions: “(noun) a mammal characterized by advanced intellect and fine motor skills,” “(noun) a lightening of the mood with humor,” “(verb) a water outlet,” “(verb) to hang.”
In the “Card Match” game, students are given a set of cards: three vocabulary words, three definitions, and three “context cards” (the vocabulary word used in a sentence). To complete each round, students drag the cards to the correct column (“word,” “definition,” “context”), making sure that all the cards in the row match. For example, students see the words reserve, abnormal, and consumer, the definitions of each of those words, and sentences with a blank for each of the words. They move the cards around the board until they are confident that the three rows have the correct matches. Clicking on the green “match” button checks the work, and students win points for all correct rows. They make adjustments if needed, check their work again, and advance to the next round.
The “TT 2.0 NexLevel Curriculum” overview includes explanations of the vocabulary skills developed throughout the year. Students learn, practice, and master vocabulary by using context clues and word parts (roots, suffixes, and prefixes) to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. Each level in the student platform includes a section called “Arcade.” In the Arcade, students play different vocabulary games.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Priority—Vocabulary: Analyzing Context Clues,” teachers introduce and model the “IDEAS” acronym strategy for using context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. Students complete a chart with definitions, examples, and signals for each type of context clue (“Inferences, Definitions, Examples, Antonyms, Synonyms”). Then, they practice using the strategy to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words in a sentence.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Word Walls Guide” provides teachers with an explanation of a word wall and how it should be used. Teachers also find instructions on setting up word walls and suggested student activities incorporating the word wall. For example, in the “Spotlight Game,” teachers shine a flashlight on one of the words, and students share an example, the meaning, a synonym, or antonym. In “Word Origins and Root Words,” students work with a partner to find the word origin/root of a few word wall words, then creatively share their findings or identify word wall words that share the root provided by the teacher. Materials also provide suggested lists of words separated by categories, such as “General Academic,” “Word Analysis/Grammar,” “Literary Devices/Figurative Language,” and “Text Structures/Writing.”
The materials include a clearly defined plan for students to self-select texts, read independently for a sustained period of time, and write about what they read before advancing to the next section of learning. Without teacher support, the interactive reading curriculum requires students to follow specific protocols and procedures to achieve independent reading goals.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
“Training Videos” provide a quick tutorial and help articles to support teachers and administrators with the initial steps of getting started using the program. The “Teacher’s Features” button includes a video about how to use the “Teacher Station,” taking the teacher “on a tour of some amazing teacher tool features that allow the extension of Istation in many different ways.” Materials state: “The educator will see how they can use featured Istation animation in various topics to teach the whole group, small group, or even one on one to enhance the learning experience.” At 5:08, the speaker reviews the self-selected resource “World of Wonders,” which is a “self-selected reading option that students will also have access to during Ipractice at home." The “More about Teacher Station” link provides written guidance on the Teacher Station feature and its components.
In World of Wonders, students can select texts to read and respond to based on their place within the interactive curriculum. The first time students enter the World of Wonders, they learn that they have a set amount of time to complete the tasks. When the time limit has been reached, students leave this section of the curriculum and resume their work during their next interaction with the program.
Throughout the interactive reading curriculum (“TT 2.0 NexLevel” Levels 2–7), students self-select texts to read and write in response to a prompt. Students either save the written response to complete/edit later or “publish” their writing. Teachers evaluate reading responses received only after students have published the writing. Students must complete and publish the written response before moving to the next section.
In the World of Wonders archive, students monitor their independent reading progress. They see stories that have been read (indicated by an eye icon), stories they have unlocked and have access to choose from, stories they have not yet unlocked (indicated by a grey lock icon), stories for which they have started a written response (indicated by a pencil outline icon), and stories for which they have completed and published a written response (indicated by a filled-in pencil icon).
The instructional materials also include a section called the “Istation Report and Management Portal.” Within it, the “Lexile–Find a Book” feature helps users find books at the appropriate Lexile and use subjects of interest as search criteria. Ways to track books students read, such as reading logs or charts, were not found. A “My Library” resource area is embedded in the instructional platform, but it is unclear whether students can maneuver through this independently for self-selection purposes.
The materials provide students some opportunities to develop composition skills across multiple text types for a variety of purposes and audiences. Materials allow students to write literary texts to express their ideas and feelings about real or imagined people, events, and thoughts; students also write informational texts to communicate ideas and information for specific purposes. Materials also allow students to write argumentative texts to influence attitudes or actions on specific issues, but they provide limited guidance on crafting texts for a specific audience. The materials are grouped for middle school, grades 6–8. Students have some opportunities to develop composition skills across multiple texts. There are a couple of opportunities across grades 6–8 to write correspondence in a professional or friendly structure.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” after reading “Forgotten by Time” by Laurel Aquadro, students write “an original story inspired by the events of Agafia’s life.” Materials instruct them to “use the author's craft (such as vivid descriptions and precise word choice) and genre characteristics (such as well-developed characterization, conflict, and setting).”
In “Drafting—Personal Narrative (HX Narrative Essay Contest),” students review each part of a model personal narrative. The teacher reads the model essay to the class and guides them to identify the exposition, rising action, climax, turning point, falling action, and conclusion. Together, the class completes a plot diagram of this information. After reviewing the model, students begin to draft their own essay using the graphic organizer and chosen topic from the prior “Prewriting—Personal Narrative” activity.
In “Writing Rules: Expository Essay,” Lesson 2, students write an informative essay about “an invention that has affected people’s lives.” The materials provide explicit instruction on purpose and audience. Students examine a variety of texts written for a variety of purposes and audiences. Considering their audience, students evaluate and revise their expository essay using guiding questions, such as “What is the subject of my essay? Besides my teacher and peers, who is my target audience? Do I include information about my topic that my audience may not know? Will my audience understand the language I have used? Do my lead and closing strategies focus on my readers’ interests?”
After reading Soccer and the World Cup (1080L), students write an informational summary. Materials instruct: “Your summary must include the central idea and all important supporting details. Use the strategies you know to include information.” A provided writing rubric for informational or expository texts supports students in communicating for this specific purpose.
“Timeless Tales” 2.0 NexLevel Level 3, “Priority—Analyzing an Argument,” provides several opportunities for students to write argumentative texts to influence a specific audience on a specific issue. The materials provide explicit instruction on the elements of argument, including several text examples. Students write an argument that includes a claim, evidence, and reasoning for one of the following prompts: “What is the best video game system? Why? or Which genre of music is the best? Why?” “Extending the Lesson” provides an additional opportunity for students to write persuasively. The teacher assigns students a debatable topic. Students “write an argument that uses strong evidence to persuade their audience to agree with the side of their choosing.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Priority—Author’s Purpose,” the “Lesson Extras” provide an opportunity for students to write a persuasive speech nominating a film for an imaginary new Academy Awards category, the “All-Time Best Picture.” Students select their favorite movie and write a two-paragraph speech. The first paragraph is an objective summary of the film; in the second, students “use persuasive language to make a case for why the film deserves the award.” Students are encouraged to use personal anecdotes and images to enhance their message.
While the materials contain some opportunities for students to develop composition skills across literary, informational, argumentative, and correspondence texts types, the activities are limited and not specific for each middle school grade level.
Most of the written tasks in the materials require students to use clear and concise information and well-defended text-supported claims to demonstrate the knowledge gained through analysis and synthesis of texts. Materials provide opportunities for students to demonstrate in writing what they have learned through reading and listening to texts; there are some opportunities for students to use evidence from texts to support their opinions and claims.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials do provide opportunities for students to use evidence from texts to support claims and opinions. For example, a “World of Wonders” lesson provides an opportunity for students to use text evidence to support their claim about the author’s point of view and purpose. Students read “13 Things You Didn't Know About the Eiffel Tower” and write “an informational text to explain how the author’s point of view in this text supports his or her purpose.” Students must include text evidence to support their responses.
In “Middle School Reading,” students read an excerpt from The Call of the Wild by Jack London, adapted by Jessica Peters; take a quiz; and finally, write an essay predicting what they think will happen next in the story. In the essay, they must “include text evidence to support [their] prediction.” Students also read “Soccer and the World Cup” by Olivia Sanzzi, complete a quiz, and write a summary of the passage, including “the central idea and all important supporting details.”
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” for the “Argumentative Essay Prompt (Pro/Con),” students first read “Pro/Con: Should we bring back extinct species?” by Laurel Aquadro and Jessica Peters. The article presents both sides of the argument regarding bringing back extinct species. After reading, students choose one side of the argument that they feel passionate about. They then write an argumentative essay that uses relevant text evidence to defend or challenge the author’s claim and position.
Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel L1, “Priority—Characterization,” provides an opportunity for students to use text evidence to support a claim. Students read a publisher-created text, identifying the character traits of several characters and providing specific text evidence to support their claim. Students consider how the character’s “behavior, motivations, and/or beliefs influence the resolution of the conflict in the story.”
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L2, “Priority—History and Culture,” students read “Altyn, Part 1: Inspired by Siberian Mythology” by Olivia Webb. The goal of the lesson is to make inferences about a culture based on a text. While reading the text, students make guided annotations about the culture by answering the questions in the “Make a Note” boxes. Students also highlight the text evidence that supports their annotations.
Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel Level 2, “Priority—Point of View,” provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate in writing their knowledge of point of view. Students silently read or listen to the text “Destination: Unknown.” They then translate one of the sections of the passage from the first person to a third-person point of view.
Timeless Tales Units 2 and 3, “Priority—Story Elements,” provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of the theme. Students read several of Aesop’s fables: “The Cat Maiden” and “The Jay and the Peacock.” They then write a theme statement for each fable, using text evidence to explain how the “small world of the story connects to the big world theme.”
Students apply composition convention skills and have opportunities to publish their writing. The materials facilitate students’ coherent use of the elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. Students have opportunities for practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking and writing, including punctuation and grammar. However, grammar, punctuation, and usage are not taught systematically across the year, and the composition skills may or may not be applied in increasingly complex contexts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
A writing “Scope and Sequence” focuses on grades 6–8 with headings for ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and personal narrative writing. However, many of the lessons do not provide systematic instruction for each middle school grade level with increasingly complex contexts. Rather, the materials provide individual lessons on the various components of the writing process.
There are lessons for each part of the writing process, including planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing, with specifics for online learning and teacher-directed lessons. For example, students have an opportunity to coherently use the elements of the writing process in the publisher’s “First Annual National Essay Contest.” Students write a personal narrative addressing how “Young Voices Make a Difference.” Students read “Claudette Colvin: A True Revolutionary” by Jenny Branson, identifying and analyzing the elements of a personal narrative. In “Middle School Reading: Writing Personal Narrative—Prewriting (Day 2),” students brainstorm a list of topics, select a topic, and choose two types of graphic organizers to use to prewrite their personal narrative. On Day 3, students review a personal narrative model essay titled “Wrong Name, Wrong Number” by Lisa Mackay and annotate the plot elements and use of transition words. Then, students draft a personal narrative from the information in their graphic organizer. On Day 4, students review a model paragraph before and after the editing and revision process, working with a partner to note the revisions. The teacher explains the difference between revising and editing. Students “apply their new revision and editing skills to their drafts.” On Day 5, after reviewing a model essay, students “use proper Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting to finish their essay.”
“Writing Rules: Expository Essay, Planning Lesson 2.1, Choose an Overall Topic” is another example in which teachers guide students in a discussion about decision-making in their personal lives as an analogy to how writers also narrow down their topics based on certain criteria. The teacher then leads students in a brainstorming session related to the expository topic. Students evaluate possible writing topics based on given criteria and select and plan for an expository writing topic.
In a “World of Wonders” passage, “Views of the Desert,” students read the poem “Crossing” by Jessica Peters and the short story “The Desert’s Gift” (anonymous). Then, students draft an essay comparing the various themes found in the poem to those in the story. Students first identify at least two themes that “Crossing” and “The Desert’s Gift” share; then, they analyze how the themes are developed through the interaction of characters and events.
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “Priority—Summarize and Paraphrase,” students practice speaking using proper academic language while presenting to their peers. This presentation is guided by a “Presentation Rubric.” The rubric provides expectations for ideas and information, organization, voice, and poise. However, materials do not provide direct instruction for practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking.
The materials include some “Writing Rules” lessons that address editing for basic conventions such as spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. However, the materials do not provide any teacher guidance or direct instruction for grammar, punctuation, and usage. For example, in Unit 6, “Conventions Trait Writing Rules” provides an opportunity for teacher-guided editing of sample passages for errors in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. However, the lesson does not extend the editing practice to students’ writing. The teacher-directed lesson “focuses on how to edit and proofread paragraphs for conventions to make writing clear and readable.” The lesson is designed for multiple grade levels. An editing checklist provides a general overview of editing suggestions for spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and paragraphing. Also, a bookmark illustrates standard proofreading marks. The teacher provides direct instruction using the checklist and bookmark to edit a sample paragraph. Students repeat the process independently with another sample paragraph.
The materials provide some support for students’ listening and speaking about texts. The teacher-directed lessons include some speaking and listening opportunities focused on the text(s) being studied in class, allowing students to demonstrate comprehension. However, most oral tasks are unstructured, lacking response starts, specific talking points, or discussion prompts. Although the materials provide many opportunities for students to speak and listen, the oral tasks do not regularly require students to use clear and concise information and well-defended text-supported claims to demonstrate the knowledge gained through analysis and synthesis of texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
When teachers use teacher-directed lessons, students speak about and listen to texts. These lessons are set up using the gradual release model. For example, in the “Timeless Tales” Unit 1 “Summary” lesson, students read “a long piece of text of choice and break the passage into several chunks of three or more paragraphs.” Next, student groups summarize a chunk of text. Each group cooperatively completes the “Gist Summary Organizer” for their portion of the passage. Finally, students “orally share their summary in sequential order with the class.”
In Timeless Tales Unit 3, “Symbolism,” students read “Belle and the Bully: A Middle School Tale.” Students are encouraged to read closely so they can discuss the symbolism individually with the teacher or in a group. In Timeless Tales Units 1 and 2, “Inferencing,” students also read a short story of choice. They then “present, independently or in pairs or groups, a section of dialogue” from a chosen novel. Meanwhile, other students “make inferences about the characters based on the excerpted dialogue and discuss what clue words led them to make the inference.”
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel L2,” “Dramatic Techniques,” students define and discuss the elements of a dramatic scene (act, scene, scripted dialogue, and stage directions); define and discuss dramatic techniques (monologues, soliloquies, dramatic irony); and discuss how playwrights develop characters and plot. Students either listen to the teacher read short scenes aloud or read aloud/act out short scenes focusing on those dramatic devices. Students compare and contrast a teacher-selected play that also has a film adaptation: First, they discuss what they think may happen in the film version based on the scripted dialogue and stage directions in the printed copy of a scene from the play. Next, they watch the film version of the same scene and discuss if the film is “faithful to the script” and what (if any) liberties the director took and why.
The TT 2.0 NexLevel “Masks Novella Unit” also provides some opportunities for students to engage in text-based conversations to demonstrate comprehension and connect to texts. For example, while reading a section of Masks, students “focus on making connections between Masks and 1) themselves; 2) another story, movie, or TV show; and 3) the world.” The materials provide a simple key of symbols for annotations. After independently reading and annotating, student pairs discuss their connections and annotations. Students work together, filling out a “Bull’s-Eye Organizer based on their reading and discussion.” Although the materials do not specifically require students to refer to specific text evidence to support their discussions, students discuss their annotations and connections with the whole class. This novella unit is designed to cover multiple grades and literary concepts.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Mood,” students discuss and define the term mood by circling the emoji on the handout that represents their current mood, then sharing what the feeling is and why they chose that emoji. After defining what mood is in literature, students listen to an excerpt of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and circle the emoji that represents how they feel after hearing the text. Students share the words or phrases they heard that drove them to choose that emoji. Next, students listen to a read-aloud of the Wuthering Heights passage again and use a “Word Choice Wheel” to choose synonyms for the mood they chose using their emojis; they support their choices with words and phrases from the text. Students repeat this process with a partner, reading aloud to each other, discussing mood choices, and supporting choices with text evidence.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L3, “Informational Text Features,” students learn how to use text features, characteristics, and structures to foster a more profound understanding of what they read. After a teacher explanation, students work together in pairs to read The History of Storytelling. They discuss, summarize the text using “the structure and features of the text as a guide for organizing [the] summary,” find evidence that the author uses in the text to support the claim that “with stories, people could ask questions and look for answers,” and determine why the author used a specific figure in the passage. Once all pairs are finished, they share their answers and text evidence in a class discussion.
The materials engage students in productive teamwork and student-led discussions. They provide guidance and practice with grade-level protocols for discussion to express students’ own thinking. Rubrics for student-led discussions and presentations detail the protocols and language expectations for students.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Student-Led Discussion Rubric” measures “components of a student-led discussion, including active listening, communication, participation, and engagement.” “Actively Listening” includes summarizing what others say, asking clarifying questions, and making thoughtful comments. “Communication” involves giving and following oral instructions. “Participation” assesses asking for suggestions, taking notes, and identifying points of agreement and disagreement in the group. “Engagement” requires providing and accepting constructive feedback.
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, “Priority—Summarize and Paraphrase,” an additional activity for English Learners, “Pair Them Up,” includes student discussion. Student pairs summarize by developing “gist statements.” They then take turns asking questions about each paragraph and suggesting the gist statement for each. Students comment on and improve upon one another’s gist statements as they go. The teacher may evaluate students or have students evaluate themselves using the Student-Led Discussion Rubric.
The materials provide practice with grade-level protocols for discussion. In Timeless Tales, “Storytelling Across Cultures,” students choose idioms such as “blood is thicker than water” or “the early bird gets the worm” to see if they can discover their meaning and decide if they have a personal connection with the idiom. Students then discuss as a class and can use the “Group Collaboration Rubric.”
In Timeless Tales, “NexLevel 2.0,” “History and Culture,” students engage in grade-level discussions to express their own thinking. Given several examples of “behaviors, traditions/customs, symbols, and words that are part of a culture,” students brainstorm with a partner to find additional examples. The class shares answers and discusses, using the Group Collaboration Rubric.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L6, “Priority—Analyzing Poetry,” students follow along as the teacher models the steps to analyze “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes. Next, partners read, annotate, and analyze “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close” by Emily Dickinson. They discuss their ideas about both poems individually and compare the two poems by answering questions such as “How do the structures of these two poems differ?” “How does the specific structure of each poem support its message?” “How do these two poems come to different conclusions about this theme?”
In Timeless Tales Unit 1, “Priority—Summarize and Paraphrase,” “Pair Them Up” is an additional activity for English Learners that includes student discussion. A “Student-Led Discussion Rubric” helps facilitate the discussion. Students can self-evaluate in the categories of “Active Listening,” “Communication,” “Participation,” and “Engagement.” In the Communication category, students are guided to use clear communication and to “expertly give and/or follow oral instructions that include multiple steps to perform a task, answer a question, or solve a problem (when applicable).”
The “Presentation Rubric” is separated into four categories: “Ideas and Information,” “Organization,” “Voice,” and “Poise.” Ideas and Information includes conveying ideas and information using relevant facts and examples to support claims. Organization includes stating main ideas clearly and moving from one idea to another in a logical order, presenting an effective introduction and conclusion, and using presentation time well (not too rushed nor too slow). Voice involves enunciating, speaking loudly, using an interesting tone and emphasis, and using formal conventions of language. Poise requires emphasizing main points with natural gestures and maintaining eye contact with the audience.
Timeless Tales NexLevel 2.0, “Analyzing Drama,” provides an opportunity for students to analyze a scene from a play that also has a movie adaptation. Students make predictions about the events based on the scripted dialogue and stage directions. Materials instruct: “Observe the same scene in the film. Compare and contrast the two versions. Is the movie faithful to the script? What liberties has the director taken? Why?” Students write a critique of the scene. The teacher models “examples of good eye contact, speaking rate, volume, enunciation, natural gestures, and conventions of language.” Students present their critiques to the class using the Presentation Rubric.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L4, “Priority—Rhetoric,” “Extending the Lesson,” students create their own advertisements for a real or fictional product of their choosing. The advertisements must include at least one example of the elements of rhetoric (ethos, pathos, and logos). They post visual advertisements around the class for a gallery walk and present audio and video commercials to the whole class and discuss. In another task, students practice their oral communication skills by creating and presenting a visual display based on their research of an assigned rhetorical appeal.
The materials engage students in short-term inquiry processes to confront and analyze various aspects of a topic using relevant sources. They also 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. Although the materials support students in identifying primary and secondary sources, they do not engage students in sustained recursive inquiry processes.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The research unit includes a “Research Unit Overview Teacher Guide,” teacher slideshow, and student guide, with graphic organizers, worksheets, and reference materials to support students through the research process. The materials for the research project guide students through the process of picking a topic, creating basic and analytical research questions, writing a research plan, creating source notecards, synthesizing research notes, citing sources in MLA format, paraphrasing, and revising and editing using a checklist. The teacher’s slideshow mirrors the information on the student research worksheets. The “Research Unit Overview” states: “This unit is designed for students grades 6–8 and can be easily adapted to suit any topic or classroom. Each lesson includes ideas for differentiation, and can be accomplished in 20 minutes, leaving additional class time for completing research, writing, or conferencing with the teacher.”
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” “Research Unit,” Lesson 3, “Source Basics,” teachers explain the difference between primary and secondary sources and give examples of both. Students record the definitions and examples of each on the “Source Basics” section of their student guide and complete the activity at the bottom of the page. They fill in the reasoning as to why the given source (like the US Constitution, a high school history textbook, or a recording of a presidential speech) is a primary or a secondary source. Students also learn how to vet their sources for reliability, credibility, and bias. Within these lessons, there is a link to articles for students to examine and decide if they are primary or secondary resources (e.g., “Biden Meets with Leaders,” “Facci Says CDC Looking at Study Suggesting 3 Feet Sufficient For Social Distancing”).
Students research speeches in TT 2.0 NexLevel L5, “Priority—Advanced Argumentative Texts.” They look for excerpts with “claims, supporting evidence, and a counterargument and rebuttal” to answer the question, “What are some claims and supporting evidence in famous speeches?” Students then share their results in a presentation, paper, or another creative outlet. In another lesson, TT 2.0 NexLevel L6, “Priority—Analyzing Poetry,” students research and examine the advertisements and table of contents of an issue of the NAACP magazine The Crisis, in which Langston Hughes originally published the poem “Mother to Son.” This lesson provides historical context for interpreting its meaning. Students also read the opinion piece by W. E. B. DuBois and answer the question, “How does knowing the historical context change your interpretation of the poem?” Students share their information and conclusions.
Although the materials do not address the presentation of research to the appropriate grade-level audience, the Timeless Tales NexLevel 2.0 research project provides support for students to create a written report of their research findings. It includes a “Group Collaboration Guide” for a “group research project with defined member roles and a rubric for evaluating collaborative student discussions/projects.” Materials suggest putting students in groups of four to six and provide “Group Member Role Cards” describing various roles and responsibilities (e.g., reader/recorder, reporter, runner, leader). Students select from a list of topics, conduct research finding “at least 3 unique, reliable sources per person,” organize “a panel talk presentation,” “take questions from the audience,” and “support all comments and claims with facts from their sources.” A rubric scores the presentations on collaboration, active listening, communication, participation, and engagement. The materials do not provide direct, explicit instruction for the group collaboration research project or teacher guidance for the implementation of the components of the project.
The TT 2.0 NexLevel Research Unit “Student Guide” facilitates the organization of research and ideas. The resource provides a page on which the student can write the bibliography information for five different sources as well as important quotes and points. The “Synthesize Your Research” page assists students in organizing the information according to each inquiry question. The “Modes of Delivering Your Findings” page assists students in selecting the proper mode of delivery for their research and leaves space for them to make a plan to publish their research project.
The materials contain one research unit intended to be taught across multiple grade levels. They do not engage students in sustained recursive inquiry practices within grade 8.
The materials contain interconnected tasks that build student knowledge and provide opportunities for increased independence. Questions and tasks build and apply student knowledge and integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking. Materials require students to analyze the integration of knowledge and ideas within individual texts and multiple texts.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials provide opportunities for increased independence, following a “Teach, Guided Practice, Independent Practice” structure. Students are introduced to skills at the beginning of each unit, practice the skills with guidance from the teacher, then continue developing the skills independently. Those skills are further developed in subsequent lessons.
In “Timeless Tales” Unit 1, students read an excerpt from The History of Storytelling. During the reading, students participate in interconnected writing by completing the “Gist Summary Organizer,” which helps students identify the main idea statement of each paragraph. Thinking, listening, and speaking are embedded within the “Teach” and “Guided Practice” portions of the lesson with planned discussions (e.g., “So let’s think about the information in these two paragraphs. What are the archaeologists doing? Where are they? Think about these questions as you decide what to write for the gist of these two paragraphs. What is the main idea of the introduction? Pause for student responses and accept all reasonable answers.”)
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel” L1, students explore direct and indirect characterization by defining, discussing, and identifying character traits. A chart of character traits supports them in discussing and identifying personas in different scenarios. Students listen to each scenario and read along, choose a character trait that describes a particular character, then answer the question, “What words in the passage show us or tell us that [character name] has that trait?” They discuss and record their evidence on their handout. Students expand their learning by defining, discussing, and analyzing characterization. After distinguishing between direct and indirect characterization, they reread the scenarios used to identify character traits. Questions include “How do you know [character name] has that trait?” and “Did the author tell you or did you make an inference?” Students examine different sentences, decide if each sentence is an example of direct or indirect characterization, and record their decision in writing.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Author’s Stylistic Choices,” students build and apply knowledge about how an “author’s stylistic choices affect meaning.” Students begin by examining three sentences with very similar content but very different ways of communicating the information. The teacher guides students through the analysis process, focusing on three questions about author style: “Are the words formal or informal? Are the sentences long or short? Does the author use imagery?” Students practice analyzing the author’s style by applying these three questions to several sentences that convey similar content in different styles. The materials scaffold students by applying these same stylistic questions to three different versions of a short passage of text.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Multimodal Texts,” students analyze how words and images work together to communicate meaning. First, students listen to explanations of the term multimodal text and the five types of communication (linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, spatial). Next, they discuss and record the type of communication demonstrated in a set of examples (e.g., political cartoons, memes, songs, and traffic signs). Students then read the given comic independently and participate in a class discussion, identifying the main idea and analyzing the text by answering questions (e.g., “How does [the] style [of the images] impact the experience of reading this text?” “How do [the symbols used in the comic] convey meaning?” “How does the arrangement of text and images support understanding?”) Students explore further by drawing a picture to match the given text or writing text to match the given picture, sharing their work with a partner, and discussing “How...the images added...help convey meaning alongside the text?” or “How did the images on the page help guide the text...added?”
In TT 2.0, “History and Culture,” students read “Altyn, Part 1” by Olivia Webb and answer questions paragraph by paragraph, as directed in boxes next to each paragraph. Questions include “How do people in the story live?” and “What are the cultural gender roles?” The answers can be found in the text directly next to the question. Students continue using this strategy to answer text-dependent questions in “Altyn Part II.” Students also read Experts From My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Gannett to practice fluency. A fluency chart allows students to record the time spent reading in minutes and seconds after the first and second read. To practice speaking, students find a favorite paragraph from the passage and “read” or “say” a portion of the paragraph like their favorite television character. Reading partners discuss any difficulties they had when reading the selection orally.
In Timeless Tales Unit 2, “Vocabulary Visa Analogies,” students “demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words used in context from an unfamiliar text” and use vocabulary words in analogies. The “Vocab Visa 1: What Is the Meaning of This?” worksheet contains 11 sentences with a variety of possible unfamiliar words. Students use context clues to infer the meaning of the targeted words. The teacher distributes copies of “The Four Dragons.” Students listen to the story and identify words from the “Vocab Visa” activity. The teacher distributes mnemonic vocabulary charts with the vocabulary word, a linking word, a definition, a sentence using the mnemonic device, an image of the sentence, a sample sentence from the passage, and an additional sample sentence. Students demonstrate their working knowledge of the vocabulary words by completing antonym and synonym analogies with the targeted words.
In Timeless Tales Unit 4, “Understanding Words in Context,” tasks increase student engagement while providing increased independence opportunities. Through several teacher-led activities, students identify and use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. They then work in small groups to “create a script using all vocabulary words to present a dramatic reality show scene,” including helpful context clues. The groups present their scenes to the class. Students evaluate how well the group used the vocabulary words and “provided appropriate context clues.” Also, a presentation rubric evaluates students on whether they “convey their points in an organized way, speak clearly, and demonstrate poise.”
The materials provide scaffolded practice over the course of the year. However, due to the program’s structure, materials do not spiral the teaching and practice of the standards (TEKS) across the year. Instead, they focus on supporting individual student mastery of specific skills as determined by the progress monitoring data for targeted skills.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
Materials engage students in activities that adapt to their level and generate reports containing data reflecting student progress for targeted instruction. Across the school year, students demonstrate literacy skills across the four domains of word analysis, text fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
The materials are designed to immerse students in “authentic learning experiences” and provide continuous engagement “with texts in multiple genres at increasing levels of complexity.” Students practice comprehension skills (such as perspective/bias, theme, and faulty reasoning) and explore rhetorical appeals and devices (such as ethos, logos, pathos, juxtaposition, and straw man). Students interact with the materials, practice the skills, and submit work in the sequence provided by the online platform. Teachers use reports generated by the program to monitor student progress and use teacher-directed lessons for “targeted skill instruction for individuals and small groups.”
For example, in Unit 1, “Storytelling Across Cultures,” Lesson 1.1B, “Making Inferences,” the lesson embeds scaffolded practice to help students make inferences. In the “Teach: Activate Prior Knowledge” section, with the teacher’s help, students define key vocabulary terms and learn what it means to infer. During “Guided Practice: Reflect and Connect,” students work with the teacher’s guidance to learn how to use the “Iceberg Organizer (Graphic Organizer 2)” to discuss literal and deeper meanings. During “Independent Practice: Construct Meaning,” students independently apply new skills to make inferences. Students practice using the Iceberg Organizer to determine the literal and deeper meanings of “The Three Pig Brothers” by Joshua Dalton.
Overall, the teacher-directed lessons follow a gradual release structure (teach, guided practice, independent practice) and contain extensions and modifications. Materials specifically include a scope and sequence for grades 6–8 that “outlines the framework of skills that are taught, practiced, and reviewed” for the various programs (e.g., “Istation Reading” and “Timeless Tales”).
The “Istation Reading Scope and Sequence” breaks down the literacy skills by category as they are addressed in “Cycles” 7–15. Students take subtests to determine the appropriate cycle for their skill level. The Scope and Sequence provides skill descriptors for the following categories: Listening, Phonics and Word Analysis, Writing and Spelling, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension. The Scope and Sequence also breaks down the skills addressed in “ISIP Intervention Lessons” and “Cycle-Based Teacher Resources.” The Scope and Sequence describes the skills addressed in “Teacher-Led Classroom Small Group Instruction,” including supplemental vocabulary, comprehension, and writing activities. The materials support distributed practice over the course of the year. Fundamental skills, such as phonics and word analysis, are mainly in the beginning cycles. Vocabulary skills, such as decoding irregular words using syntax and context, are addressed throughout the cycles.
The “Timeless Tales Scope and Sequence” and the “TT 2.0 NexLevel Scope and Sequence” provide an overview of each unit’s “Interactive Curriculum” or “Teacher-Directed Lessons for Small-Group Instruction.” The literacy skills and descriptors are broken into the following categories: vocabulary, reading fluency, comprehension, writing, and research. The various literacy skills identified for the Timeless Tales lessons are not balanced or distributed over the course of the year. For example, some skills, such as analyzing “how the author’s use of language contributions to mood, voice, and tone,” are only addressed in Unit 2. Other skills, such as writing “informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content,” are present in each of the four units. “Reading Fluency” and “Language & Listening” skills are taught in each unit through Interactive Curriculum and Teacher-Directed Lessons for Small-Group Instruction. Some of the identified skills are not addressed in any units (e.g., “Explain the difference between rhetorical devices and logical fallacies.”)
In addition to the interactive curriculum, Timeless Tales provides teacher-directed lessons that can be used for targeted skill instruction for individuals and small groups. Some of the targeted skills are addressed multiple times, while others are only addressed in one unit rather than spiraled over the school year. For example, Timeless Tales Units 2 and 3 provide activities for students to explore story elements. Several “Story Element” graphic organizers allow students to identify setting elements (time, place, environment, and mood). The “Characterization Notes” graphic organizer provides guiding questions to help students identify various aspects of a character, including physical traits, thoughts/feelings, motivations, actions, and words. The materials include explanations and graphic organizers for students to record conflict and write a theme statement. Also, several passages of varying length allow students to practice identifying story elements.
Overall, the teacher-directed lesson structure allows the teacher to select the lesson that each student or group of students needs, as determined by the online program or classroom observation. Given this structure, a teacher would be able to use various lessons for scaffolded practice throughout the year, as needed by the students. However, the number of lessons does not allow for a year’s worth of spiraling and repeated practice.
The materials do not specifically label learning opportunities for students working above grade level. The materials provide some planning and learning opportunities, such as extensions and differentiation. However, due to the adaptive nature of the materials, students work at their current level of mastery. Extensions included in each cycle are for mastery of that skill rather than for grade-level mastery.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials indicate that upper-grade-level materials can be used for “pre-teaching or enrichment purposes” with students who demonstrate mastery at the “initial level of instruction” (students who reach “Tier 1” on the program’s assessment scale). For example, in “Comprehension—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The lessons are grouped to accommodate students reading within the 600L–1000L Lexile range. Materials state: “Timeless Tales Comprehension (Grades 6 and Up) lessons may be used in conjunction with ISIP™ Advanced Reading Teacher Directed Lessons” for supplemental curriculum.
In “Vocabulary—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The “Timeless Tales Vocabulary Visa (Grades 6 and Up) lessons may be used in conjunction with ISIP™ Advanced Reading Teacher Directed Lessons” for supplemental curriculum. Also, in “Text Fluency—ISIP Advanced Reading Teacher-Directed Interventions,” teachers find a collection of lessons in an “instructional sequence to master targeted and prerequisite skills needed to improve reading.” The lessons are grouped “to accommodate all levels in grades 4–10.”
The “Instructional Tier Goals” support document explains that the purpose of the assessments built into the materials is “to identify students potentially at risk of reading failure.” Students are placed into “Tiers.” The highest tier is “On track to meet grade-level expectations.” The materials are designed for students in grades 6–8. Therefore, students in grade 8 do not have access to texts with Lexiles and complexity levels above their grade level. However, the materials include “Lesson Extras” and extensions that consist of modifications and additional activities; these provide opportunities for students to apply literacy skills in different contexts. The materials do not label this section specifically for students who demonstrate above-grade-level literacy skills.
For example, in the “Increasing Student Engagement” section in the “Lesson Extras” of “Timeless Tales” Unit 1 and 2, “Priority—Making Inferences,” students perform an internet search for bumper stickers that may have a deeper meaning. They discuss the deeper meaning and what inferences are needed in order to discover that hidden message.
In the “Write” section of “Extending the Lesson” in “TT 2.0 NexLevel, Word Analysis—Spelling,” students analyze words using syllables, root words, and affixes. Extensions include writing a new verse to a popular song using the skills students learned in the syllabification portion of the lesson, making sure the rhyme scheme and meter fit the song. Students can also research “oddball words” that defy the syllabification rules (e.g., “beloved (be-lov-ed)”).
Timeless Tales 2.0 NexLevel L3, “Priority—Analyzing Argument,” provides several lesson extensions. These lessons may provide a challenge for students who are demonstrating literacy skills above grade level. For example, in the “Write” extension, teachers can provide a debatable topic, and students “write an argument that uses strong evidence to persuade their audience to agree with the side of their choosing.” In the “Research” extension, teachers can assign students a controversial topic. Students research it and take a position, gathering “multiple, credible sources” and organizing “a class presentation advocating their position.”
After a paraphrasing lesson on comprehension, students read Easter Island and create a “trailer” for a movie or article. This lesson is found in “Paraphrasing Priority Reports.” For an additional extension, the teacher can provide longer texts or books for students to paraphrase.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel L1, “Priority—Characterization,” the Extending the Lesson section provides x students four opportunities to practice characterization. The options are “Gamify,” “Write,” “Perform,” and “Research.” The extensions would be beneficial for students demonstrating literacy skills above that expected at the grade level. In the Write option, students create a character (or write about themselves). They decide on one major character trait for this person and use “WALTER” and direct characterization to write about this character. Teachers then have the option to turn the final results into a game. Students can read what they came up with while the group works together to figure out the character trait, type of characterization, or which part of WALTER is being used.
The materials reviewed provide planning and learning opportunities, including extensions and differentiation, for students who demonstrate literacy skills below that expected at the grade level.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include an individualized, interactive, student-paced program that utilizes a monthly assessment to determine each student’s reading level (“ISIP™”). The ISIP™ assessment places students in one of three levels: Tier 1 (“On track to meet grade-level expectations”); Tier 2 (“At some risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”); or Tier 3 (“At significant risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”). According to the results of the ISIP™ assessment (i.e., the “Priority Reports”), there are targeted intervention opportunities for teachers to reteach “specific skills-based, small-group lessons” to struggling students on Tiers 2 and 3.
In the “Instructional Tier Goals,” the materials state that goals “become progressively more difficult with each assessment period.” Goals target overall reading ability with the following subcomponents: “reading comprehension, word analysis, vocabulary, text fluency, and oral reading fluency.” Additionally, per “Istation Books and Passages,” the program is designed with a readability measure correlated to Lexile, which allows each student to experience uniquely designed lessons regardless of grade level. The purpose is to “match readers to the text within their instructional or independent reading ability.”
In the “Instructional Tier Goals,” the materials state that goals “become progressively more difficult with each assessment period.” Goals target overall reading ability with the following subcomponents: “reading comprehension, word analysis, vocabulary, text fluency, and oral reading fluency.” Additionally, per “Istation Books and Passages,” the program is designed with a readability measure correlated to Lexile, which allows each student to experience uniquely designed lessons regardless of grade level. The purpose is to “match readers to the text within their instructional or independent reading ability.” The program embeds “ISIP Early Reading” and “ISIP Advanced Reading.” Students start at their level and progress through the instructional tiers; this includes students who meet grade-level expectations. Teachers may also assign work to students based on need using the backpack feature in the program.
Within the instructional materials for each unit, “Lesson Extras” provide extensions to differentiate rigor for students demonstrating below-level literacy skills. ISIP Advanced Reading also offers lesson guidance for teachers to build student comprehension. There is a guided lesson within “7B Reading Comprehension,” “Unplug Yourself!” The provided dialogue allows teachers to teach prediction and summarization and check for understanding for students not proficient with these skills. These lessons are listed as Tier 2 intervention tools; these types of lessons are included at various graduating levels.
For example, in “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” “Priority–Word Analysis: Spelling,” students deconstruct complex words, starting with antidisestablishmentarianism for students on grade level. Teachers guide them to use word parts (affixes, suffixes, and prefixes) to determine the given word’s meaning. As an adaptation for struggling students, students write the word parts separately on index cards or sticky notes along with that part’s definition, then arrange the cards to create the word’s definition. In the sidebar, teachers find simpler words like unbelievable and premeditated to use in place of the original word.
As students learn about “Argument Claims and Supporting Evidence” in TT 2.0 NexLevel L5, “Priority—Advanced Argumentative Texts,” teachers support struggling learners by allowing them to explain their thinking verbally before completing the “Analyzing Strong Claims and Evidence” graphic organizer. Later in the same lesson, students evaluate the elements of argument by reading a revised version of “The Importance of Group Work” and comparing it to the original version. Students underline the revisions and think about and record new “ideas that are appealing to the intended audience of just students.” To support comprehension and fluency, teachers record the text for struggling students to listen to as they complete the activity.
The materials do not include supports for English Learners (ELs). The materials do not provide support commensurate with the various English language proficiency levels defined by the ELPS (beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high), such as the study of cognates or bilingual dictionaries. Although the supports within the materials recommended for students performing below grade level correspond with modifications that can be effectively used with ELs, the supports are not explicitly designated for those students.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
This individualized, interactive, student-paced program utilizes a monthly assessment to determine the student’s reading level (“ISIP™”). The ISIP™ assessment places students in one of three levels: Tier 1 (“On track to meet grade-level expectations”); Tier 2 (“At some risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”); or Tier 3 (“At significant risk of not meeting grade-level expectations”). Opportunities for teachers to support ELs are included in the “specific skills-based, small-group lessons for targeted intervention.” Teachers deliver intervention based on these results, not strictly based on students’ English language proficiency level. The tiers in which students are placed may correspond with lessons that include support for ELs, but the materials on grade level do not include those resources.
Although other languages are not offered in the materials, teachers can “Select Product: Reading/Espanol” to search for Spanish resources. Selecting Espanol will bring up an option to “Search Espanol.” Additionally, there is a “Search Wizard for Espanol” that teachers can use to search for additional resources that fit the student’s educational needs. Launching the “Wizard” will bring up options to “Find by Skill” or “Find by Cycle.” Selecting a reading stage will bring up an aligned lesson that addresses a particular skill. From there, the teacher can find many resources that are in Spanish. Lessons, such as “Comprehension auditiva,” are enriched with supports (e.g., many picture activities as the mode for comprehension input and output). Each cycle has lessons that correspond to reading stages. Other resources include “book resources, lesson resources, materials resources, passage resources, poem resources, and reference resources.”
The materials provide word analysis lessons in which students develop vocabulary. However, there is no intentional, strategic use of students’ first language as a means to linguistic, affective, cognitive, and academic development in English.
In “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” a “Word Walls Guide” explains what it is and why it should be used: “The words are often paired with a visual representation to help ELLs. A word wall is a well-researched approach to teaching vocabulary that supports ELL instruction.” The document also explains how to set up a purposeful word wall and how it should be used. Lastly, it provides a suggested list of word wall words.
In TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Priority—Vocabulary Analyzing Context Clues,” students use the acronym “IDEAS” to analyze unfamiliar words and determine their meaning. Although modifications throughout the lesson align with best practices in EL instruction (e.g., repeating the process a few times to ensure students understand how to use the strategy), there are no modifications that explicitly support ELs.
The materials do not include modifications for teachers to support ELs at any English language proficiency level as defined by the ELPS (beginner, intermediate, advanced, advanced high). Additionally, the materials do not provide suggestions that allow students to use words from their first language to help them make connections to English vocabulary. There are no scaffolds, such as translations, cognates, bilingual dictionaries, or other comprehensible input modes.
The materials contain assessment and guidance for teachers and administrators to monitor progress, including interpreting and acting on data yielded. Formative and summative assessments are aligned in purpose, intended use, and TEKS emphasis. The assessments and scoring information provide sufficient guidance for interpreting and responding to student performance; they are connected to the regular content to support student learning.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials contain a variety of formative and summative assessments. The program’s “Indicators of Progress” (“ISIP™”) is an “online developmental assessment” that provides screening, progress-monitoring, and “continuous formative students assessments.” Materials include “Computer-Adaptive Testing,” which uses “a sophisticated, adaptive algorithm, the computer selects assessment items based on the student’s abilities regardless of age or grade level.” The Computer-Adaptive Testing program responds to a student’s performance by adjusting the difficulty level of items based on their performance accuracy. “On-Demand" assessments also can be administered by the teacher in direct response to student need and performance.
The ISIP™ is designed to be used as a “tool that informs teachers’ decision-making and intervention strategies.”The assessments are nationally normed, can be completed in 30 minutes, and are administered monthly. The “ISIP Summary Report” shows the number and percentage of students in each instructional group for the current month. The “Distribution Report” shows the number of students performing in ranges of ability. The ISIP is directly connected to regular content to support student learning in the online adaptive curriculum. Materials provide students an individualized instructional path based on their “demonstrated ability level” on the ISIP assessment. The assessment content for grades 4–8 includes word analysis of multisyllabic words, reading fluency with a focus on understanding, vocabulary development that helps students recall terms and provides interaction with prior knowledge, and comprehension skills. The curriculum contains frequent embedded skill checks that assess and identify when a student is having difficulty with a skill. The materials address the students’ needs by providing reteach activities and “another opportunity to learn the skill before moving ahead.”
“Benchmark Assessments,” or summative assessments, “assist educators in identifying students in need of intervention, which includes the use of a universal “screener” that assesses students at the beginning (BOY), middle (MOY), and end of the year (EOY). The BOY identifies potential reading problems. The MOY assesses student progress and needs for additional support. The EOY assesses if students have “achieved grade-level reading standards.”
“Istation Reports” support teachers and administrators in interpreting and acting on yielded data. In the “Program Guide,” the “Reports” section states the reports “can be run at the class, school, or district level depending on the level of access and desired information.” The reports can be filtered through a “drill-down” function, providing data on the individual student, class, grade, school, and district level. The real-time assessment results can be viewed at the “district, school, grade, teacher, group, and individual student level by all subgroups, demographics, and performance levels according to user permission settings.”
Teachers use that data to inform effective, targeted instruction for individuals or small groups using the provided teacher-directed lessons; these lessons correspond to the specific skills with which students struggle. Teachers access different types of reports in the “Reports” section of the website. For instance, “Skill Growth by Tier” shows “each skill assessed and the progress made by the students through the current month as measured against performance goals within tier groups.” The “Priority Report” alerts teachers of students needing additional support and provides lessons based on demonstrated weaknesses.” The “Standards Report” “groups the standards that relate to each ISIP™ skill and provides actionable steps to help improve each skill.”
On the istation.com website, teachers and administrators can access information that shows the alignment of the program to the state standards (TEKS) by clicking on the heading “Toolbox,” then choosing “State Correlations.” Under the “Texas” state subheading, teachers and administrators find links to PDF documents categorized by grade and subject (e.g., “Reading: 6th–8th”). The link connects to the “Istation Reading® Curriculum Correlated to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading Grades 6–8.” The table for each grade level includes the subject (“Reading,” “Writing,” and “Inquiry and Research”); the TEKS number; the student expectation in words; the sections of the “iStation” app that correlate to that TEKS; and the iStation teacher resources that correlate to that TEKS.
The materials include year-long plans and supports for teachers to identify the needs of students and provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of a range of learners to ensure grade-level success. The overarching year-long plan created by the individualized, computer-adapted structure provides teachers with resources to engage students in multiple grouping structures, which are comprehensive and attend to differentiation to support students via many learning opportunities. The “Teacher-Directed Lessons” (TLDs), the program’s version of a teacher edition, contain annotations and support for engaging students in the materials; there is also support for implementing resource materials and student progress components. However, the TDLs do not include support for implementing ancillary materials.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The materials include plans that are comprehensive and support diverse learners through many learning opportunities. The design “serves as a universal screener and progress-monitoring tool” that provides data on which teachers base their small group differentiated instruction. Benchmark assessments administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the year provide detailed data (identifying students who may have reading struggles, determining the amount of progress or lack of progress students have made, and identifying whether or not students achieved grade-level reading standards, respectively) throughout the year. In addition to data compiled from the monthly “ISIP™” assessment (“Istation’s Indicators of Progress”), the computer-adapted testing and the on-demand assessments determine which TDLs to implement. The materials provide a “Scope and Sequence” organized by “Cycles” rather than a traditional year-long plan of instruction. However, the materials can be implemented throughout the school year. “Istation Reports,” like the “Priority and Standards Reports,” provide teachers and administrators with immediate data to inform effective instructional plans for students. Reports automatically link to additional lessons for further intervention.
The program provides differentiated instruction by adjusting the Lexile level of passages based on the students’ ISIP “Comprehension” score. The “Timeless Tales” units provide differentiation to support students by adjusting the “level of difficulty, activities, and populations provided to students” based on student performance. This population includes students struggling to understand and master the skill, those needing English language support, and those ready for enrichment.
The TDLs provide “over 2,300 research-based teacher-directed lessons that can be used to differentiate instruction for individual students, small groups, and whole groups.” They include “a scaffolded lesson structure that builds from basic to complex skills; and interdisciplinary content in English, math, science, social studies, and the humanities.” Teachers find differentiated instruction suggestions for diverse learners in “Lesson Extras” of the Timeless Tales units. The TDL includes a “Modify” guide to support differentiated instruction for learners struggling to identify an argument’s elements. For example, in Timeless Tales “2.0 Nex Level” L3, “Analyzing Argument,” the Modify scaffold suggests having students independently or in small groups copy the teacher’s example and highlight or label the claim, evidence, and reasoning.
In the TT 2.0 NexLevel units, the TDLs’ step-by-step instructions embed teachers’ annotations to support student learning. For instance, in TT 2.0 NexLevel, “Priority—Vocabulary: Context Clues,” teachers teach students how to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words by analyzing context clues. Teachers find annotations throughout the lesson to support student learning and implement differentiation for diverse learners (e.g., providing visuals for each type of context clue and supporting students as they create a flipbook or other graphic organizer demonstrating the five types of context clues). For greater engagement, students can compete against each other by working in small groups to analyze sentences from the lesson, discuss their thoughts, and write their definition and the context clue type they used to help determine the definition on a dry-erase board. The group that finishes quickest and has the correct answer gets points.
The TDL includes a “Gauge Understanding and Respond” section that provides instructional strategies to engage students. For example, in Units 2 and 3, “Story Elements,” to engage students who are struggling to respond and help them “locate evidence from the text relevant to the four parts of setting previously discussed,” materials provide several probing questions: “What about the time period? Are there any clues as to when this story may have taken place besides ‘at dawn’? Notice that Burned One is fetching water from a lake and that she has to stir the fire. These are clues that the story takes place in the past. Go ahead and underline them now. Are there any clues that tell us where the action takes place? Where does Burned One live?”
The materials have ancillary materials, such as the “Home School Connection,” “Jump Paths,” and the “Istation App.” “Ipractice,” a component of “Istation at Home,” “supports classroom instruction by providing students with the opportunity to explore different worlds, witness history, and practice new skills through mini-lessons, reteach lessons, and self-directed navigation.” Istation at Home guides student learning by providing online and printable books for students to self-select and “practice skills which aid in reading fluency and build their confidence as readers.” The “Parent Guide” provides a list of all of the Ipractice activities available for Istation home. However, the TDLs (i.e., the teacher’s edition of the curriculum) do not include support for implementing these ancillary materials and student progress components.
The materials include implementation support for teachers and administrators. The materials are designed to assess students’ literacy skills, place them at their instruction level automatically, and assess their progress monthly. The materials provide TEKS-aligned scopes and sequences outlining the essential knowledge and skills taught in the program, the order in which they are presented, and how knowledge and skills build and connect across grade levels. The computer-adaptive instruction that can be delivered year-round provides for a school year’s worth of literacy instruction. However, the “Teacher Resource” and the teacher-directed lessons do not include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction or realistic pacing guidance, routines, and support for 180-day or 220-day schedules.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The “Cycle and Unit Descriptions” section of the “Toolbox” tab of istation.com includes a link to the “Istation User’s Guide: Interactive Instruction Page.” The “Istation Reading: Cycles of Instruction” section explains how the entire program works and details the purpose, objectives, and benefits of each stage of the interactive instruction. It also explains how each part of the program is connected across grade levels.
Materials provide several scope and sequence documents outlining the essential knowledge and skills taught in the instructional materials’ various components: “Writing Rules,” “Istation Reading,” and “Timeless Tales.” Although these documents are not broken down by grade level, they are organized by writing skills, cycle, and unit. The “Istation Reading Scope and Sequence” is organized by grades 6–8, “Cycle of Instruction,” and “Teacher-Led Small Group Instruction.” The materials specify the cycles and frequency with which Cycle of Instruction skills are taught. The “Timeless Tales Scope and Sequence” outlines the skills addressed in each unit. The skills are categorized by “Vocabulary, Language and Listening, Reading Fluency, Comprehension, and Writing.” The Scope and Sequence denotes which skills are “Covered by Teacher Resources” and which skills are covered in each unit. The “Writing Rules Scope and Sequence” “outlines the framework of skills that are taught, practiced, and reviewed in Istation’s Writing Rules!” Each skill has an “Online Instruction” and “Teacher-Directed Lesson” component. The Scope and Sequence identifies specific instruction skills (e.g., “Select a topic appropriate for the audience.” “Write simple and compound sentences.”) These instruction skills are divided into the following categories: “Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Essay Writing (Personal Narrative).” The Scope and Sequence identifies how each instructional skill and category is often addressed by online or teacher-directed instruction.
The TEKS alignment is found in the “State Correlations” section of the “Toolbox” tab on istation.com. The “Istation App” (student platform) and “Istation Teacher Resources” correlate to each specific TEKS and the Texas English Language Proficiency Standards. For example, the interactive learning platform (Istation App) provides students with instruction and practice on TEKS 8.2C (determining “the meaning and usage of grade-level academic English words derived from Greek and Latin roots such as ast, qui, path, mand/mend, and duc”) with “Timeless Tales Unit 2, Word Analysis Lesson—Word Sort” and “TT 2.0 NexLevel L2, Arcade—Abnarwhal.” Another teacher resource available to support student growth with that skill is the “TT 2.0 NexLevel Priority Word Analysis Lesson—Root Words and Word Families.”
Explanations of how the materials should be implemented for maximum efficacy are found in the “Assessment Information” section of the Toolbox tab of the istation.com website. Students complete the “ISIP™” assessment monthly throughout the school year; this makes for 8–12 automatic assessments per year, depending on each district’s school year’s length. Also, in the Toolbox, under the “Usage Criteria” tab, teachers find guidelines for student usage of the digital component (30–40 minutes per week).
The “Instructional Tier Goals” section of the Toolbox tab on istation.com includes guidelines for student growth and pacing of the program throughout the school year. Because the program is intended for supplemental intervention, it is suggested Tier 1 students spend 30+ minutes per week on the program. Tier 2 or 3 students should spend 40+ minutes per week. According to the “User Guide,” the “Middle School Bridge Cycle” alone contains over 1800 minutes of content, which would be enough for 45 weeks of instruction for a Tier 2 or 3 student. Additionally, there are 15 cycles of “Istation Reading,” “Middle School Reading: HumanEX,” and “Middle School Reading: NexLevel.”
In the “My Boards” tab, implementation lessons are on “cards” and sorted by topic. For example, in “Getting Started,” the cards include “How Do I Know if ISIP Is in Progress?” “Visit Our Help Center,” “Visit Istation Teacher Resources,” and “Access Istation Instruction.” The “How Do I Know if ISIP Is in Progress?” card states: “The ISIP IN PROGRESS bar indicates when an ISIP assessment is in progress. When the ISIP assessment is complete, the student moves seamlessly into the interactive instruction.” In the top right corner of the teacher login page, there is a green “Get Help” icon. The “Help Center” includes a “Get Started” section that contains implementation guides for teachers. These guides are available for Day 1, Month 1, Month 2, “Ongoing,” and “At Home.” There are also training videos available within the Help Center. Additionally, a searchable User’s Guide contains both “Teacher’s Tools” and “Technical Information.”
The materials provide information for administrators to collaborate with program specialists to “design targeted and customized professional development sessions” to support “fidelity of program implementation by training educators to differentiate instruction for effective screening and progress monitoring, disaggregate data for instructional use, and track growth toward campus/district goals and initiatives to optimize usage of the program as well as uncover growth opportunities.”
While materials include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction through the computer-adaptive instruction that can be delivered year-round, they do not include a school year’s worth of literacy instruction or realistic pacing guidance, routines, and support for 180-day or 220-day schedules through the Teacher Resource or teacher-directed lessons. Students work on an individualized instructional pathway of lessons based on their results on the ISIP assessment. The “Cycle and Unit Descriptions” page on the Istation website states: “Students move forward through the Istation interactive instruction at their own pace. Because the Istation curriculum is designed to automatically place students at their individual instructional level, students and teachers do not choose what activities to complete, nor can students be moved backward in the instruction. Istation performance is not intended to be used for classroom grades.”
The digital student edition’s visual design is neither distracting nor chaotic. Materials include appropriate use of white space and design that supports and does not distract from student learning. Pictures and graphics are supportive of student learning and engagement without being visually distracting.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
The pictures and graphics in the online student application support learning and engagement without being distracting or chaotic. The online application uses a soft blue cloud background. The design is free from distracting images and colors. The text uses a clear font in contrasting colors from the background so that it is easy to read. The materials support student learning by providing clearly labeled icons with simple images that reflect the content. Icons are appropriately sized, are not crowded, and contrast with the light blue and white cloud background.
The main screen of the student application contains clearly labeled links to the various instructional tools. The links include simple icons and labels both in English and Spanish. The “ISIP” reading assessment allows students to select a theme that adjusts the visual appearance of the assessment. For example, the night theme has a dark background with white lettering. The “Library” page contains colorful images and clear labels for reading levels and genre categories. After selecting a reading level or nonfiction text, the students are directed to the appropriate online library. The book titles are clearly labeled. The pictures are easily identifiable by students and support student learning by clearly identifying the book topics.
The pictures and graphics are supportive without being distracting. The colors are bright, clear, and colorful. Animated characters that represent diverse populations are included in each lesson. The characters move around the screen to create an engaging “game-like” environment. Text features and fonts are appropriate and are adequately placed for students to navigate each screen. Icons, such as a “go back button,” are repeatedly used. Hence, students are familiar with what appears on their screens as they work through lessons. When students are working through reading passages, the pages are uncluttered; white space is appropriately used for readers in grades 6–8.
In all seven levels of “TT 2.0 NexLevel,” students meet “Tony the Bouncer.” This animated character asks questions (students read the white lettering to know what Tony is saying). Students then choose from the brightly colored potential responses to review the hub’s skills. The character is expressive and in the proper proportion to the rest of the text on the screen. Once students have successfully reflected on their learning with Tony the Bouncer, they can enter the arcade. The arcade resembles a true arcade: It is colorfully decorated and has multiple free-standing arcade games to choose from. There is a drink cup with a straw on the ground next to one of the arcade games. The games are interactive and keep score. At the end of each game, students have the potential to make the list of the top scorers, which promotes high engagement. The names of the games (e.g., “U.F. Whoa!” and “Laboratory Lockdown”) support student engagement as well.
More specifically, in NexLevel Level 3, “Fluency,” students read a short passage with missing words. They are instructed to read quickly and select the correct word from the dropdown box to complete each sentence. The font is in a grade-appropriate size, and adequate white space (in black) surrounds the teal text. An animated robot character provides instructions on how to complete the activity and then leaves the screen for the lesson’s fluency portion. When students read for fluency, the only graphics shown are a partial background covered by a large black box of text. It does not distract from the activity.
Students review what they have learned about arguments in NexLevel Level 3, “Reteach.” The terms are reviewed with short animations and definitions. The graphics and animations help students understand each term’s definition and review the unit’s content. At the top of the screen, there are large letters to remind students of key academic vocabulary. When text appears on the screen, it is visually appealing and has appropriate white space. It does not distract from student learning.
The technology present in the materials supports and enhances student learning. The curriculum is a winner of several national educational technology awards. As a supplemental resource, the materials provide a technology platform that includes assessments, a reading library, oral reading fluency, and writing rules activities.
Evidence includes but is not limited to:
Each student lesson is on a digital platform. The technology components enhance student learning by providing engaging visuals and explanatory animations. The consistency present in each lesson creates a platform that students can work through with familiarity. Lessons start by welcoming students to the site. An arrow allows students to click back to replay if additional instructions are needed or if they need to hear the questions once more. The materials are easy to navigate with clearly labeled icons and instructional paths; they are free from extraneous, distracting information, images, and animation.
The “Reading Program Guide” describes the materials as “dynamic game-like educational technology” consisting of “adaptive assessments and curriculum...aligned to Texas educational standards.” Students access the application via “PCs, Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks.” The technology automatically places students into the program at their current instructional level. Students then work through the individualized path, which consists of lessons that follow a “research-based instructional method: introduction and teach, guided practice, application of skills, and reteach as needed.” The activities are sequenced from easy to more complex.
The platform provides a “Teacher Station” that includes a preview of the online lessons, including “Timeless Tales” and “Nexlevel.” The materials are clearly labeled and organized by grade clusters. Appropriate teacher guidance is provided in the online “Toolbox” and “Help Center.” Teachers and administrators access reports detailing when students are experiencing difficulties with specific skills via the website. Teachers use that data to deliver “Teacher-Directed Lessons,” which can also be searched and printed as needed. A “Teacher Help Center” is supported by “qualified personnel who can answer questions about the system or help resolve an issue”; it is available via a toll-free phone number, email, and chat when logged into the website. Bilingual (Spanish/English) personnel can assist if necessary as well.
Read the Full Report for Technology
(pdf, 387.08 KB)
Read the Full Report for Pricing
(pdf, 174.54 KB)
Read the Full Report for Professional Learning Opportunities
(pdf, 378.13 KB)
Read the Full Report for Additional Language Supports
(pdf, 160.76 KB)