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English Language Arts

ELA friends,

2020 is here, and we are off and running! Our wish to you is for health, happiness and some additional rest as you finish out this school year. We appreciate you.

ELA updates-

  • Please share and join this amazing PD opportunity for ELA grades 6-12 from the Missouri Writing Projects Network! ‌
    The Missouri Writing Projects Network will host a Zoom Meeting call to support DESE's January ELA 6-12 Content Meeting. Join us on the call if you were unable to attend the Jan. 16 Content Meeting in Jefferson City or if you attended and want to take a deeper dive into the conversation and activities from the session. This PD opportunity is available to any staff member in your school district! ‌ Please register in advance for this video conference workshop, so we can provide you with easy instructions to join us Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 4:00 PM. ‌link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSenCnQ5pC6wDhavuPtfDdc40aHAHaceL1MiEyMZbdG97UPspg/viewform?usp=sf_link 
  • Newly Released! ELA Grade 8 Passage-based Informative-Explanatory Reading Set with items, writing prompt, scoring guides and detailed, annotated writing samples available under the Assessment Tab below.
  • Now What? K-12 Missouri State Literacy Plan – Watch for additional professional development opportunities around creating your own district’s literacy plan coming this spring. More information to follow.
  • Join the Edmodo ELA Friends Group - Want to get email updates on work and PD opportunities as well as other happenings at the state level? Join the ELA Friends Edmodo group. Send a request email to either of us if you are not a part of this communication system. 
  • The ELA grades 3, 4, and 5 Item Specification documents have been updated with new item stems and content/assessment notes. These changes are seen in red italics in the document on the DESE Assessment page under the Item Specs tab and/or DESE ELA page under the Assessment Resources tab.
    Updates to ELA Grades 6, 7, and 8 will be posted the week of January 27, 2020.
    Questions? Contact Debbie Jameson or Lisa Scroggs

Communication is our focus here in the English Language Arts Department at DESE. Please contact either of us any time, as we want your feedback, questions and comments on our quest to help Missouri school districts produce success-ready students.

Lisa and Debbie

Debbie Jameson
Director of English Language Arts


Lisa Scroggs
Assistant Director of English Language Arts


English Language Arts Starting 2017-18

These resources will help educators prepare for implementation of the April 2016-adopted Missouri Learning Standards
Grade Level Expectations and the new state tests starting in the 2017-18 school year.

Document Description
MLS Expectations K-5 PDF Expectations adopted by the Missouri State Board of Education in April 2016; state testing over these new expectations begins during the 2017-18 school year.
MLS Expectations K-5 Word
MLS Expectations 6-12 PDF
MLS Expectations 6-12 Word
MLS Expectations K-12 Excel
MLS Expectations K-5 with Examples Replication of the K-5 MLS Expectations document above with explanations and examples added.
MLS Expectations Coding System Provides examples and explanations of coding used to refer to expectations in ELA, math, science, and social studies.
ELA Glossary K-12 Definitions for terms used frequently in the ELA curriculum; working document for educators intended as a guide to assist with classroom instruction.
NEW ELA/Social Studies Crosswalk Example Links ELA and social studies to support critical thinking and interdisciplinary learning in elementary classrooms.
Crosswalks K-5 Alignments between the new MLS Expectations and the standards that were used through the 2016-17 school year.
Crosswalks 6-12
Vertical Progressions 6-12 Chart of each new MLS expectation by grade level.
MLS Expectations Terminology 6-12 Explanations and examples for selected terms in the 6-12 MLS Expectations. The PDF version of the 6-12 MLS Expectations contains hyperlinks from the terms to this document.
Gap Analysis Template K-5 Tools to assist educators in implementing changes from the old standards to the new MLS Expectations; guides educators in planning implementation of the new MLS Expectations.
Gap Analysis Template 6-12
Curriculum Framework Provides assistance for districts in planning, writing, revising, and implementing curriculum.

Professional Development, Conferences, and Competitions

Missouri Writing Projects Network Contact and basic information for the consortium of the five National Writing Project sites in Missouri
International Literacy Association Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 10-13, 2019
National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, November 21-24, 2019

Assessment Resources

ELA Items Specifications

Kindergarten Grade 1 Grade 2
Grade 3 (Updated 01/2020) Grade 4 (Updated 01/2020) Grade 5 (Updated 01/2020)
Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8
Grades 9-10 Grades 11-12

​Guide to Creating Quality Assessments

Grade-Level Assessment Resources End-of-Course Resources

Performance Level Descriptors

New Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) will be available in late Summer/Early Fall. The new PLDs will replace the Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) that were used through the Spring of 2017. Previously used ALDs can be found below.

Grade-Level Assessment Scoring Guides

Grade 4 Writing Samples

Grade 8 Writing Samples

Grade-Level Assessment Writer’s Checklist

Performance Level Descriptors

EOC Scoring Guides

Writing Samples

End-of-Course English I and II Assessment Writer’s Checklist 

End-of-Course English I and II Assessment Writer’s Checklist 

EOC Practice Tests

Blended Writing Resource Set

Use the materials in this set to see what blended writing looks like and to get an idea about how blended writing can be scored with the new EOC scoring guide.


Find out about the why’s and how’s behind the new writing prompt and scoring guide.

Scoring Guide

Conventions (2 points)

The 10-point guide describes what is expected in different levels of student writing.

Content Development/Elaboration (4 points)

Organization and Flow (4 points)

Writing Task


Students in a Missouri high school wrote to this prompt during an informal trial in April 2017. The essay models below are from that trial.

Source #1

This source from the Kentucky Transportation Office of Highway Safety was used by students during the writing prompt informal trial. (used with permission)

Source #2

This source from the City of Bryan, Texas, was used by students during the writing prompt informal trial. (used with permission)

Models of Blended Writing

Model A

Model A for Practice

Balanced blending of narrative, expository, and argumentative writing is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model B

Balanced blending of narrative, expository, and argumentative writing is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model C

Model C for Practice

Balanced blending of expository and argumentative writing is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model D

Balanced blending of narrative, expository, and argumentative writing is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model E

Balanced blending of expository and argumentative writing (with an attempt at some narrative) is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model F

Model F for Practice

Strong narrative writing with inclusion of some expository and argumentative writing is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model G

Balanced blending of narrative, expository, and argumentative writing is smooth, effective, well thought out, and purposeful.

Model H

Model H for Practice

Blending of narrative, expository, and argumentative writing is adequate and generally purposeful.

Model I

Model I for Practice

Argumentative writing with minimal addition of expository writing shows little blending of genres.

Senate Bill 319

State Policies on Reading Assessment, “Reading Improvement Plans", Student Retention and MAP Testing

Enacted in 2001, Senate Bill 319 clarified reading assessment as defined in Missouri Revised Statute § 167.645. Senate Bill 319 calls for the early assessment of students' reading skills and requires school districts to intervene with students who are reading below grade level. The law requires:

  • Elimination of the “retest” requirement for students scoring at “Step 1” on the MAP exams.
  • Limiting the use, for accreditation purposes, of MAP scores from students with limited English proficiency.
  • Assessment of students in grades 3-6 (with some exceptions) to determine their reading level.
  • Individualized “Reading Improvement Plans” for students in grades 4-6 who are substantially below grade level in reading.
  • Additional reading instruction for students with Reading Improvement Plans.
  • Retention of students in grade 4 if they are reading below the third-grade level. (Several exceptions to this requirement are specified in the law).


Frequently Asked Questions

How does the law affect MAP testing policies?

  • Students, with limited English proficiency, scores from the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) shall not be counted until the students have been enrolled in school (in Missouri or another state) for at least three full years. Such students must take the appropriate MAP exams, but their scores will not be included, for accreditation purposes, in districts’ results until students have met the three-year threshold.
  • Eliminates the requirement that students who score at “Step 1” on any MAP exam must retake the exam the following year.

How does the law affect reading instruction and assessment?

Previous regulation provided that any child who was more than one grade level below his/her current grade in reading must be retained. Section 167.645, RSMo provides specific requirements for identifying and assisting elementary students who are substantially below grade level in reading and restricts the prospect of mandatory retention to grade 4. Following are the law’s key provisions related to reading assessment and remediation:

  • School districts must assess and determine the grade-level reading ability of students in grade 3 and students in grades 4-6 who transfer in during the year. This determination must be made within 45 days of the end of the school year. This assessment is NOT required for students who have already been determined to be reading at or above grade level. (See Question 3 for details about options for conducting reading assessment.)
  • Students with disabilities or limited English proficiency may be exempted from the mandatory reading assessment. In addition, assessment is not required for students who have been determined “prior to the beginning of any school year, to have a cognitive ability insufficient to meet the reading requirement [of this law].” (See page 4 for the full definition of who may be exempted from reading assessment.)
  • School districts must develop an individualized “Reading Improvement Plan,” to be implemented during grade 4, for any third-grader who was determined to be reading below second-grade level. Each school district will determine the content of students’ Reading Improvement Plans. The reading plan MUST include, at a minimum, “30 hours of additional reading instruction or practice outside the regular school day during the fourth-grade year.” Such instruction may be provided during the summer before grade 4 or during the regular school term.


  • Minimally, school districts must have systematic assessment procedures in grade 3 to determine the reading level of students. Assessment is also required for students in grades 4-6 who transfer in during the year, unless they have already been determined to be reading at or above grade level.
  • Reading Improvement Plans must be implemented for identified students in grades 4-6.
  • (1) Students in grade 4 who are reading below third-grade level will be required to have summer reading instruction; they must be assessed again at the end of summer school. (2) Students in grade 3 who are reading below second-grade level MAY be required, by local policy, to attend summer school as a condition for promotion to fourth grade.
  • Mandatory retention in grade 4 will be applied for students who are still reading below third-grade level at the end of summer school (and who don’t qualify for an exemption).

How is grade-level reading ability determined?

The law permits each school district to establish its own methods for assessing students. “Multiple methods of assessment” are encouraged. Reading assessment is defined as “a recognized method of judging a student’s reading ability, with results expressed as reading at a particular grade level. The term reading assessment shall include, but is not limited to, standard checklists designed for use as a student reads out loud, paper-and-pencil tests promulgated by nationally recognized organizations and other recognized methods of determining a student’s reading accuracy, expression, fluency and comprehension . Assessments which do not give a grade-level result may be used in combination with other assessments to reach a grade-level determination.”

What happens in grade 4?

Students in grade 4 with Reading Improvement Plans must be assessed again within 45 days of the end of the school year. Those who are still reading below third-grade level “shall be required to attend summer school to receive reading instruction.” The reading level of these students must be assessed again at the end of summer school. At this point, if a child is still reading below third-grade level, the district must notify the parents or guardians, “and the child shall not be promoted to fifth grade.”

Mandatory retention may only be imposed once. The law states: “No student shall be denied promotion more than once solely for inability to meet the reading standards set out in this [law].” However, school districts MUST repeat the assessment procedures to monitor children’s reading progress during grades 4-6, and school districts MAY continue to mandate summer school attendance.

What follow-up measures are required in grades 5 and 6?

The law states that the process of conducting annual reading assessment and developing Reading Improvement Plans “shall be repeated as necessary through the end of the sixth grade, with the target grade levels rising accordingly.” Minimally, this means that school districts must re-assess students who have Reading Improvement Plans at the end of grades 5 and 6. It is recommended, however, that districts develop a comprehensive assessment plan to monitor the reading progress of all students.

Are there any exceptions to mandatory retention?

Mandatory retention does NOT apply to students who are appropriately exempted from the required reading-assessment process. (See “Exceptions,” page 4). Although mandatory retention based on reading level applies only in grade 4, school districts MAY adopt policies that require retention for any student who does not fulfill local requirements to attend summer school for extra reading instruction. School districts also may adopt or maintain their own policies regarding retention of other students, regardless of age or grade level, when a decision is made that “retention is in the best interests of the student.”

How long must Reading Improvement Plans be used?

The requirements related to reading assessment, Reading Improvement Plans, additional instruction and summer school participation apply from the end of grade 3 through the end of grade 6. School districts may provide other forms of reading assistance or intervention before grade 3 and beyond grade 6.

What records must be kept regarding a student’s reading level?

At the end of grade 6, school districts MUST make a notation on the permanent record of any student who is determined to be reading below the fifth-grade level. This notation may be removed at any time the child reaches his/her appropriate reading level.

Are there specific requirements for summer reading programs?

School districts must offer extra reading instruction in the summer (at least 40 hours) for any student with a Reading Improvement Plan. Such instruction may be offered in conjunction with a regular summer school program, and districts may provide these services on a cooperative basis.

Will remediation under this law affect a district's accreditation?

No. The law prohibits state education officials from using remediation data from any school district as part of the accreditation process.

What information must be provided to parents and citizens?

Upon request, school districts MUST provide parents, patrons, the news media and others with information about the number and percent of students who are receiving extra reading instruction pursuant to this law. Note: School districts may wish to consider this requirement in connection with § 160.522, RSMo, concerning “school report cards.”

School districts must “make a systematic effort” to inform parents and patrons about their reading programs, teaching methods and related policies. Districts also must provide clear information (“in terms understandable to a lay person”) about these topics to the parents of any child with a Reading Improvement Plan.

What Are the Exceptions?

Some students may be exempted from the assessment, remediation and retention requirements of § 167.645, RSMo. Specifically, these provisions do not apply to: “[1] students receiving special education services under an individualized education plan pursuant to § 162.670 to § 162.999, RSMo, [2] to students receiving services pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 whose services plan includes an element addressing reading, [3] or to students determined to have limited English proficiency [4] or to students who have been determined, prior to the beginning of any school year, to have a cognitive ability insufficient to meet the reading requirement set out in this section, [§ 167.645, RSMo], provided that districts shall provide reading improvement plans for students determined to have such insufficient cognitive ability.”


DESE’s Recommendations: Start Early; Update Policies

While § 167.645, RSMo, prescribes steps school districts must take in grades 3-6, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education strongly encourages systematic reading assessment BEFORE grade 3. Procedures for monitoring student progress in reading, identifying problems and providing intervention should begin during the second semester of kindergarten and continue during grades 1-3.

School districts must be prepared to make informed, official decisions about the reading level of students in grade 3 and those who transfer in during grades 4-6. Districts must also be prepared to make informed, official decisions about mandatory summer school attendance for some students and possibly retaining students in grade 4. Therefore, districts should carefully review their existing policies and procedures regarding reading assessment; the development of Reading Improvement Plans; summer school attendance; retention in grade 4 based on reading level; retention at other levels and for other reasons; and the notification of students, parents and the public about reading-related matters.

Resources for Reading Assessment

In April 2000, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education published and distributed Reading-Assessment Instruments as a tool to assist Missouri school districts. It was developed in response to the 1999 state law that authorized the “Read to Be Ready” grant program (§167.346, RSMo). The guide describes 34 assessment instruments available to school districts from various sources.

For other information or assistance related to reading assessment, please contact DESE Communication Arts Curriculum Consultant at (573) 751-4898.