Glossary for Instructional Resource Evaluation Tool

This resource will help clarify terms used in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy (CCSS for ELA/Literacy) Instructional Resource Evaluation Tool.

  • Accurate Content (in an ELA context). The information presented is well written, grammatically correct and free from spelling errors. The content has been thoroughly edited and there is a bibliography included if the author has cited sources.
  • Assessment for Understanding. There is a balanced approach to assessment including both formative and summative assessments in multiple formats, not only to guide instruction but also to identify student mastery of content.
  • Credible Content (in an ELA context). The information uses reliable sources, the author and/or publisher is a trusted source and the material is current, having been published recently. In addition, the material should be free from bias and offer a consistent point of view.
  • Domain-Specific Texts. Vocabulary specific to a particular field of study (domain), such as the human body (CCSS, p. 32); in the standards, domain-specific words and phrases are analogous to Tier 3 words (Language, p. 36) (CCSS, Appendix A, 2010).
  • Equity and Access. Materials are free from bias in their portrayal of ethnic groups, gender, age, disabilities, cultures, religion, etc. and contain accommodations for multiple learning styles, students with exceptionalities, English language learners and cultural differences (National Association of State Text Book Administrators [NASTA], 2011).
  • Evidence. Facts, figures, details, quotations or other sources of data and information that provide support for claims or an analysis and that can be evaluated by others; should appear in a form and be derived from a source widely accepted as appropriate to a particular discipline, as in details or quotations from a text in the study of literature and experimental results in the study of science.
  • Gradual Release of Responsibility. The Gradual Release of Responsibility is a research-based instructional model developed by Pearson and Gallagher (1993). In this optimal learning model, the responsibility for task completion shifts gradually over time from the teacher to the student, fostering independence.
  • High Expectations. Rigorous learning so students may successfully transition from grade to grade and onto post-secondary experiences. These expectations are defined by instructional continuums, state-level standards and applied learning competencies.
  • Scope and Sequence. Scope is defined as “a clearly stated set of K-12 learning objectives that reflects local, state and national expectations. Sequence is the order in which those objectives are taught” (Nichols, Shidaker, Johnson, & Singer, 2006). Sequence is often decided by grade level, while scope is more detailed and includes the specific learning objectives, which often include benchmarks.
  • Tier 1, 2 & 3 Words. Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown and Linda Kucan (2002, 2008) have outlined a useful model for conceptualizing categories of words readers encounter in texts and for understanding the instructional and learning challenges that words in each category present. They describe three levels, or tiers, of words in terms of the words’ commonality (more to less frequently occurring) and applicability (broader to narrower).
    • Tier 1 words are the words of everyday speech usually learned in the early grades, albeit not at the same rate by all children. They are not considered a challenge to the average native speaker, though English language learners of any age will have to attend carefully to them. While Tier 1 words are important, they are not the focus of this discussion.
    • Tier 2 words (what the standards refer to as general academic words) are far more likely to appear in written texts than in speech. They appear in all sorts of texts: informational texts (words such as relative, vary, formulate, specificity and accumulate), technical texts (calibrate, itemize, periphery) and literary texts (misfortune, dignified, faltered, unabashedly). Tier 2 words often represent subtle or precise ways to say relatively simple things—saunter instead of walk, for example. Because Tier 2 words are found across many types of texts, they are highly generalizable.
    • Tier 3 words (what the standards refer to as domain-specific words) are specific to a domain or field of study (lava, carburetor, legislature, circumference, aorta) and key to understanding a new concept within a text. Because of their specificity and close ties to content knowledge, Tier 3 words are far more common in informational texts than in literature. Recognized as new and “hard” words for most readers (particularly student readers), they are often explicitly defined by the author of a text, repeatedly used and otherwise heavily scaffolded (e.g., made a part of a glossary) (CCSS, Appendix A, 2010).


NASTA. 2011. Common Criteria for New Forms of Instructional Materials Support Common Core State Standards, ACTS/NASTA. PPT retrieved Aug. 7, 2012, from

Common Core State Standards. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects, Appendix A.