As educators work to implement new standards and improve instruction, Ed Trust offers a resource for examining classroom assignments and starting conversations about rigor and expectations: our new “Literacy Assignment Analysis Guide.”

For nearly 20 years now, we have been focused on examining assignments in schools and calling attention to the need for rigorous instruction in every classroom, for all students. That work is rooted in the simple notion that students can do no better than the assignments they’re given. If we are to truly raise the achievement levels of all students, we are going to have to ensure that all students are being engaged with challenging assignments that will help them reach standards — and beyond.

For many years, this work — then known as Standards in Practice (SIP) — took us into schools and districts where we worked alongside teachers as they examined the assignments they gave students in relation to standards.

More recently — and in light of new, more challenging standards — we revamped that work. We wanted to know how educators were translating those new standards into practice in classrooms and whether all students were benefiting equally. So we convened a team of content area experts and, together, created a guide and protocol for analyzing assignments.

sip2In our initial research, distilled in our report “Checking In,” we analyzed more than 1,500 middle-grade assignments across 92 classrooms. What we found was a tremendous variation in the quality and rigor of assignments. Overwhelmingly, the assignments were below grade-appropriate standards, lower-level in their cognitive demand, and lacking sufficient opportunities for extended writing.

Our partnership with schools and districts across the country gave us the opportunity to analyze and draw trends from an additional 2,500 assignments in English language arts, science, and social studies over the past year, and still we continue to see much of the same — assignments that are falling short of the promise that college- and career-ready standards represent. Convening educators from across the country earlier this year showed us that we needed to do more to promote this type of analysis at the classroom and school level.

One artifact of that convening is our new “Literacy Assignment Analysis Guide,” designed to help teachers and leaders examine assignments and spark conversations around assignment engagement and rigor and expectations in their own classrooms.

As you work to make good on the promise of college- and career-ready standards, we invite you to use this guide as is or pull from it to make it appropriate for the particular context in which you work. Either way, we hope you find it useful. And we’d love to hear how you’re using it and the degree to which you find it helpful in starting conversations and driving improvements in the work we ask of our students.