Closer Readings Commentary

Back to School 2014 with EDSITEment

The dog days and cat nights of summer are behind us!
School bells and homework assignments beckon! *

PARCC on the horizon

Outdoor temperatures may have cooled, but all across the nation teachers find themselves in the hot seat. For most states, 2014 will be the first school year that the Common Core State Standards will be both fully implemented and tested.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) ELA/Literacy assessments, based on the Common Core State Standards, measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers. These are designed to give teachers tools to help customize learning to meet student needs.

These new Common Core assessments represent a fundamental shift in student testing, state-to-state all across the country. Sixty percent of the new PARCC ELA/Literacy assessments will involve writing. In all tested grade levels, students will now be asked to analyze a piece of text and use that information to create a written response. Unlike previous assessment passages, written for the purpose of the test, PARCC will feature only previously published texts. Every text passage in the ELA/Literacy portions of the assessments will come from an authentic text.

As the Common Core State Standards are intended to create a staircase of increasing text complexity, teachers are in the process of exercising students’ analytic skills and applying them to more and more complex texts. With their emphasis on rigor, problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration, CCSS represent what business and employers say they want in public education. On their own, the Common Core standards can provide a powerful new framework for improving teaching and learning. But the standards, no matter how good, still must be well measured. Taken together, the Common Core and PARCC assessments hope to represent comprehensive scalable reform.

New! EDSITEment Common Core resources

EDSITEment’s new Back to School feature helps teachers respond to the CCSS requirements and these new PARCC ELA/Literacy assessments. Over the past year, EDSITEment has developed a host of new CCSS lessons and resources. Each lesson aligns to an ELA Anchor Standard for College and Career Readiness as well as three reading, language and writing standards at a given grade level. 

The new EDSITEment CCSS lesson plans and student Launchpads are based on fictional works (stories, drama, and poetry), as well as a variety of “informational texts” (literary nonfiction, speeches, and founding documents of the American republic.) These are designed to build interdisciplinary knowledge and exercise analytic skills across the curriculum in Social Studies and STEM disciplines as well as English Language Arts.

Most of these EDSITEment resources are built around and highlight one or more of the Common Core “exemplar texts.” Exemplars are the books listed in the CCSS Appendix B, provided as suggested examples—guideposts for teachers to the quality and level of rigorous texts that they may select to teach at their grade level.

Tap into these challenging lesson activities and open links to related EDSITEment-reviewed websites for engaging ways to unlock these texts aligned to the Common Core State Standards with your students.  In addition to formative and summative assessments, each resource also includes the following:

  • Background notes directed to teachers to supply needed context
  • Lesson extenders with additional ideas for creative expression and further research
  • Additional resources to supply a host of supplemental resources: related lesson plans; reviewed websites; NEH features; interactives; as well as entries from our weekly Closer Readings+ blog to expand scope and content knowledge of the text, author, and/or topic

EDSITEment is developing a new Teacher Tool Kit (currently the Reference Shelf):

  • AP Resources for English Language Arts and U.S. History
  • Tools for Analyzing Primary Sources and Close Reading
  • Online State Encyclopedias

Find strategies galore in support of your CCSS curriculum to engage students and assess their progress as they make their way up the spiraling staircase of College and Career Readiness.

Happy School Days!


*In star lore, “the dog days” connote the 40 day period of hot, sultry weather beginning July 3 and ending August 11. They are so named as they coincide with the ancient rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. These are followed by “cat nights” which commence on August 17, corresponding to the time when cats are said to yowl. According to Irish folklore, witches’ ability to transform themselves eight times from cat shape back into human form runs out on that date—thus, the folk belief that cats have only nine lives!