Here is a great study that was conducted this year where researchers looked at the quality and rigor of middle school assignments.
This Education Trust report by Joan Dabrowski is a follow-up to a September 2016 analysis of the rigor and Common Core alignment of student assignments in two urban districts (see Marshall Memo 602 for a summary). The four criteria used to analyze assignments were:
– Alignment with Common Core standards;
– Soliciting text-based responses from students;
– Cognitive challenge, especially the creation of a piece of extended writing;
– Motivation and engagement – Students have choice of task, product, process, or text; the topic is poignant and uses real-world materials; and there are connections with students’ experiences, goals, interests, and values.
The report contains a detailed critical analysis of six middle-school assignments:
- grade 7 ELA end-of-unit writing task
- grade 8 ELA close-reading assignment
- grade 7 American history assignment on the Constitutional Convention debates
- grade 8 Socratic Seminar on Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter
- grade 6 science writing prompt on the seasons
- grade 7 writing prompt on flower structures.