Text Dependent Analysis: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


If you are teaching ELA anywhere in Pennsylvania right now I’m sure you have heard of the ominous TDAs.  The integrated ELA PSSA test this year will be including these text dependent analysis type questions which will account for 19% of a student’s overall score on the test.  While it seems that there is still a lot of mystery out there about these changes, I have learned some things at the various professional development events I’ve attended and wanted to share.

The Good

I truly am an eternal optimist, ask my husband! So what better place to start than with the good.  In my own opinion from teaching ELA I do believe that these types of questions are raising the bar for students and helping push schools and teachers to raise the rigor and our expectations of students.  Teaching students how to read a short text, annotate it and analyze it for focused topics is a great skill that should be taught to students.

I’m excited about the opportunity for many students across our state of PA, and I’m sure many other states experiencing state testing changing in rigor, to move past the days of just summarizing to the days of critical thinking and analysis.

As a result of this shift on the test, close reading is becoming more popular.  Get our lesson on close reading here. The ability for students to take a text, grapple with it and come out on the other side with an interpretation and then have to put that understanding in writing is an awesome opportunity for students to grow.

The Bad

Well, I guess the reality of this is that most of us just started hearing about the TDAs before the holiday season and the test is in April.  Yikes!  Not a lot of time to get students prepared.  Unfortunately, it seems that in various avenues of life, sometimes things get rolled out and there isn’t time left to prepare.  With already crazy schedules and heavy work loads, teachers are struggling to figure out ways to integrate the TDA preparation into already full curriculums and a calendar where the days of preparation are quickly dwindling away.

The Ugly

After attending multiple professional development events over the last month, it seems that those out there who are training teachers on this testing change really do not know much about the changes themselves.  While I’ve been to three different PD sessions, all of them basically had the same information.  It’s unfortunate that there isn’t more information out there to help teachers get ready to prepare our students for the test.  Ultimately, we want our students to succeed and we put our blood, sweat and tears into that goal every year.  It can be frustrating when it seems like we have no direction in where to go to figure out how to help them.

All in all, there are both positive and negative aspects to the shift in the PSSA tests this year.  Below I’m including a list of things I’ve learned about the TDA that I thought I would share in helping other teachers to get prepared to help their students succeed.

4 Things to Know About TDA

  1. TDA questions must be in Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Level 3 or higher
  2. There will be 2 TDA questions on the test- one is a field question
  3. The TDA counts for 19% of the total score
  4. The prompts themselves are in a formulaic construction meaning that teachers can emulate the formula and create TDA like questions based off of the content being used in the class.
    1. Sentence 1- State background information about the topic in the prompt.
    2. Sentence 2- Give the actual task of the prompt
    3. Sentence 3- Tell students to use evidence from the text
  • Friendships are often built off of mutual respect between friends. Analyze how the author uses language to illustrate this mutual respect between Opal and the librarian. Use evidence from the story to support your response.    {Based off of Winn-Dixie}


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