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Students can rise no higher than the assignments and instruction they are given.

Makes sense, right? We all want young people to be challenged in the classroom by the work they do.

Yet, our initial analysis of assignments in middle-grades classrooms found that assignments often do not reflect the high-level goals set by new, more rigorous college- and career-ready standards. We must do better — particularly on the quality of assignments that low-income students and students of color receive.

Interested in learning more? Join us at our upcoming convening, Growing All Students Through High-Quality Assignments. This not-to-be-missed opportunity is happening in Baltimore from May 15 to 17. See you there!

So what does a strong literacy assignment look like for middle schoolers in English language arts, science, and social studies/history? To answer this question, we include six sample assignments in our new report, “Checking In Update: More Assignments From Real Classrooms.” These assignments were collected from middle school teachers in classrooms across the country. We explore the rigor involved in each assignment, highlight key components, and pose questions for educators to consider.

Joan Dabrowski, who led the analysis, explains more about the assignments in this video.


This report is the second in our Equity in Motion series. In response to feedback from practitioners on our first report, we revised our Literacy Assignment Analysis Framework and incorporated those changes into this report.

Watch this video to learn more about our updated framework and how to use it.


In addition to the two videos, “Checking In Update: More Assignments From Real Classrooms” includes a unique interactive assignment tool. As part of this web resource, each assignment is presented without comment to allow users to take it in as if they are a student seeing it for the first time. Once users review the assignment, they can use the interactive icon menu to turn on the annotated comments. Each assignment page also includes information about the assignment based on the four domains of our Literacy Assignment Analysis Framework.

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