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Assessment Passages

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Click here for Assessment Number 1A – Mom’s New Car  (“Module B”)
Click here for Assessment Number 1B – The Mouse  (“Module B”)
Click here for Assessment Number 1C – The Secret Door  (“Module B”) 
Click here for Assessment Number 2A – Jay Frog  (“Module C”)
Click here for Assessment Number 2B – The Water Watchers  (“Module C”)
Click here for Assessment Number 2C – The Witch Barber  (“Module C”)
Click here for Assessment Number 3A – Mystery, The Hungry Horse  (“Module D”)
Click here for Assessment Number 3B – Redd The Cat  (“Module D”)
Click here for Assessment Number 3C – The Tomb Raiders  (“Module D”)

Click here for Assessment Number 4A – The Clarkes’ Christmas Dinner  (“Module E”)
Click here for Assessment Number 4B – Falling Softly  (“Module E”)
Click here for Assessment Number 4C – Snake On The Loose  (“Module E”)
Click here for Assessment Number 5 – The First Snow  (“Module F”)
Click here for Assessment Number 6 – Reading Faces  (“Module G”)
Click here for Assessment Number 7 – My First Trip To The Beach  (“Module H”)
Click here for Assessment Number 8 – Rodeo Cat  (“Module I”)
Click here for Assessment Number 9 – Scrooge Sees Marley’s Ghost  (“Module J”)
Click here for Assessment Number 10 – Escape Of The Ape  (“Module K”)
Click here for Assessment Number 11 – The Miller, His Son, And Their Mule  (“Module L”)

Click here for Assessment Number 12 – The Castaways  (“Module M”)
Click here for Assessment College Ready  (“16th-Grade” Level!)


Assessment 1A: Mom’s New Car


Mom drove up the driveway. I ran to the front door to see her. I knew that I’d see something cool!

You see, Mom got a new car. It’s not a used car. It’s a brand new sports car! It’s a shiny, bright red. That’s like on a fire engine. And it’s fancy looking, like a space ship!

Mom yelled to me. “Come on! Get in! I’ll take you for a ride.” I was thrilled, of course.

I got in and sat next to Mom. She made sure that I put on my seat belt. I stared. There were all of these buttons and dials. I asked, “Mom? Are you sure you know how to drive this thing?”

She howled! Then she said, “Sure honey. I’ve rented cars like this a time or two. By the way, take a deep breath through your nose.”


I did that, and it smelled a bit odd. “Mom, why did you want me to sniff the car?”

She said, “That’s what I call a ‘new car smell.’ There’s nothing like it. Don’t you love it?”

Well, I did not know what to say. But I wanted to be nice. So, I said, “I guess so, Mom. It’s sure different!” And I gave her a big smile.

Then my hand felt the seat. It was soft but firm. It felt comforting. She saw me touch the seat. She said, “That is a leather seat. It’s nice, huh?”

I said, “You bet.”

She described to me lots of the buttons and dials. Then she turned on the radio. Sound was all around me. It was cool!

Then we drove to the highway. Mom showed me how fast the car could speed up to merge into traffic. I think I fell in love with Mom’s new car!


Assessment 1B: The Mouse 


I see a furry mouse. It’s gray, and it’s cute. I like it. Is it a girl or a boy? I don’t know, but it smiles at me, and it’s nice.

The mouse is in my bedroom. It likes my toys. It gets in my doll house. It likes the fake food the most.

I haven’t touched it. It runs from me if I try to. But that’s fine. I’m much bigger. I bet it’s scared of me, but I don’t blame it.

I brought it some cheese. That pleased it! It munched on that cheese and ate each crumb!

I want to name it, so I need a name that works for boys or girls. I’ve thought of “Pat,” or maybe “Chris.” I’ve also thought of “Sam.” Yes, Sam, that’s the one! “Sam the mouse” has a nice ring to it.


“Hey, Sam, what’s up? Are you glad to know me? I know I’m glad to know you. I don’t want to race you. You’ll win, because you are too fast for me.”

I found out where Sam lives. There’s a hole in the wall. It’s right at the floor. I saw Sam run in there. He can hide there in the blink of an eye. I’m glad that he can be safe.

I’d like to see his home. Does he have a TV? Does he cook on a stove? Does he read good books? Does he light a cozy fire? Does he keep lots of cheese?

I tried to peek in there, but it’s too dark. I can’t see a thing. I guess mice see well in the dark. A dark place would scare me. I sleep with a night light on.

I can’t tell Mom about Sam. She’s scared of mice! So, it’s just Sam and me!


Assessment 1C: The Secret Door 


Do you believe in fairies? Well, I do! My granny had a pretty red desk. It had a secret door in the middle. The door had a small keyhole.

“Where is the key?” I asked her.

“I’ll have to look for it,” she said.

After lunch she said, “Sue, I found the key.”

“Let’s open it!” I said.

Granny was gentle, “Because I don’t want to scratch the wood,” she said.

The little door opened. Inside was a piece of paper! I read the note. It said, “My name is Flor. I am a fairy. You can write back to me.”


I ran to get paper and pen. I also got crayons. I drew a picture of a fairy. I wrote, “Do you look like this? What are your powers? Can you do magic? Can you make wishes come true? Your friend, Sue.”

I put the note in the secret door. Granny locked it.

She said, “I need to cook dinner. Go play with your sister.”

I told my sister that I knew a fairy. I said she would only talk to me. I wanted this to be true. I told her that she wrote to me in a secret place.

My sister Sam got mad. “That’s not fair! I’ll tell Granny!”

Granny said, “We’ll only check the secret door tomorrow if you are kind to each other.”

Granny was fair. I told my sister we could play Barbies. I let Sam be the boss. She told me what my Barbie should say and wear.

The next morning Granny unlocked the secret door. My note was gone!

A new note read, “Hello Sue. Hello Sam. I do look like your drawing. My power is flying.”

Sam and I wrote to the fairy all summer. Next Halloween we were both fairies!


Assessment 2A: Jay Frog 


It was once upon a time, and there was a frog. His name was Mr. Jay Frog. He loved to fish. One morning, Jay said, “I’ll get some worms. Then I’ll go fish and catch some minnows. That will be my lunch, a giant dish of them. I want to catch bunches of them.

Jay put on his fishing clothes and went out to his boat. He said, “I know where to go.” He had a good place to fish, and he rowed to this area that he liked.

He sat for an hour. There were no fish bites at his worm! So, he said, “Time for lunch.” He had a bug sandwich, with bread, gnats, dragonflies, and flies. “Yum!” he yelled, and said, “I’ll sit here and eat for a while.”

After a while, a big pond bug came by. It touched Jay’s toe, so he looked down and said, “Hmm, what’s that? Oh, it’s just a pond bug. It BUGS me!” He laughed at his own joke.

Then he heard something move that was in the plants. There was a noise, and then there was a big splash. Jay asked, “What if it’s a rat? That’s not good for me, and I should move!” You see, rats like to eat frogs!

So, Jay shoved the boat out. He felt safe again. “BITE!” The float bobbed. Yank, yank, up, down, it moved a lot.


Jay yelled, “A minnow! I have him by the nose.” He jerked his rod and pulled the thing into the boat. But no, it was not what he thought! It wasn’t a smooth, fat fish. It was something else, a fish with spines! Its name was Jack Sharp. “Yuck,” said Jay, “That’s not good food!”

Jack was in the boat. He bounced ’round and ’round. He pricked; he snapped. He was out of breath, but he jumped out. Now he was in the pond again.

Lots of fish in the pond saw this, and they laughed at Jay. He sat in his boat, embarrassed and angry. His arms were sore. He asked, “Where are some fish to catch, darn it?”

But then it got worse, as he peered into the pond. WHOA! A HUGE trout! It jumped out of the pond, SPLASH, SNAP! It seized Jay! “Ow! Ouch!”

It dove down, DEEP, pulling Jay with it into the water! But Jay had on a coat, which did not taste good to the trout. So, it spit Jay out. That was good luck, but there was some bad luck, too. It ate Jay’s shoes!

Jay came up to the top of the water. He was gasping for breath. He said, “Enough of this. I’m going home!”


Note: this passage was adapted from the public domain Beatrix Potter story “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” acquired at the Project Gutenberg website.


Assessment 2B: The Water Watchers  


Tom and Pam live next to a deep forest. Tom is ten years old, and Pam is six. They like to take long walks in the woods. There is a large blue lake a mile from their home. Their mom and dad let them swim in it. Tom and Pam love to swim there. Even when the water is freezing cold.

They woke up this morning to a warm, sunny day. After breakfast, they headed to the lake. On the way, they saw lots of animals at play.

Blue jays, robins, and cardinals were chirping loudly. Newborn fawns were finding their walking legs. Rabbits and squirrels were running about happily.

Tom and Pam usually have fun at the lake. But today the lake wasn’t any fun at all. They were throwing rocks into the lake. Then they heard some people coming. Tom and Pam hid behind a large bush, so that they would not be seen.

The strangers were wearing long hoods. Pam and Tom could not see their faces. They began scooping up water from the lake into little bottles. Pam asked her big brother, “What on Earth are they doing?”


Suddenly, a bug flew up Pam’s nose. It was very ticklish!  She tried really hard not to sneeze. But she just couldn’t help it.  When the people in hoods heard her sneeze, they quickly ran over to the bush.

Then one of them said, “Please do not fear us! We are the Water Watchers. We go to many worlds to make sure that the water is safe to drink. No one on any world can live without water. People are not careful with their water on some worlds. They let bad things get into the air from cars and factories. These things fall into the lake when it rains. The water becomes dangerous to drink!”

“If this happens to the water, we have to bring in the Cleaning Fish. The Cleaning Fish get rid of the poison in the water. BUT there is a big price to pay. They must be fed EVERY day. And they like to eat cows, horses, and goats. If they don’t get enough to eat, they grow legs and come out of the water. They will take food right out of your arms. And if they are REALLY hungry, they might even eat YOU!!!”

Tom and Pam yelled loudly. They ran back home as fast as they could. The Water Watchers took off their hoods and began to laugh. They were just high school boys who lived near Pam and Tom. One of them said, “I think we did it! Now they will care even more about keeping the Earth clean and green!”


Assessment 2C: The Witch Barber  


Oh, no. Here we go. It’s that time again. It’s the once-a-month horror!

I’d watch my Mom set up the horror. She’d put the two old gray towels down. She’d always use the same ones. They were in the middle of the floor. My heart was pounding.

I heard the call. It was more like a shriek. “Kenny, please get the orange chair! It’s time for a haircut!”

I’d rather walk the plank. Where could I hide? No, that wouldn’t be worth it. Mom and Dad would not let me get away with any monkey business. I had to behave. I’d just have to grit my teeth and let it happen.

Boy, did Mom and Dad watch the money. We could do this at home. Why would we pay for it some place else? Why pay a barber? Yeah, sure, SHE could cut our hair herself. Or so she thought. “Cut” is a poor word for it. It was more like “chop and pull.” The word “torture” came to mind. And I was just six years old!

So, as usual, my kind, pretty mother morphed into a witch. Her skin turned green. She became lizard-like. Warts grew on her nose. Her fingers turned into bones. And her teeth went black. She cackled! And those creepy flying monkeys circled the room, in flight! “Kenny, sit up straight!”


And there were the clippers of death. The witch clippers. Those old, dull witch clippers. They didn’t cut our hair. They PULLED our hair. They TUGGED at our hair! She could have gotten the pliers. She could have pulled our hairs out one-by-one. That would have been no worse!

Those awful clippers started up. What did I hear? Not a soft, gentle hum in my ears. It was more like a chain saw! I wanted to yell, “TIMBER!”

I shut my eyes. I took a deep breath. Surprise! Nothing bad for sixty seconds. But then, “OUCH!” Here it comes. Then, “OUCH” again. Over and over! When would this end!?

This went on for nine minutes. But it seemed like five hours.

But time passes. The ordeal was finally over. There was only one joy that I could get out of it. That was to call out to my brother. “Greg, guess what? It’s YOUR turn!”

Many long years have passed. And now I’m bald. But life has taught me about far worse things than hair pulling! Those shearings had really been nothing at all. They had been just minor blips of pain. I had been SUCH a little wuss.

For, in later years, I would learn of a far greater horror.



Assessment 3A: Mystery, The Hungry Horse 


I was the oldest, at twelve. Thus, I had the power to boss my best friend, Megan, and my sister, Beth, into doing something that led to big trouble.

We set off after lunch. We each brought an apple. We all knew where to head – the field five blocks from our house.

We had scouted this area before. A couple of times, a horse had been there. That’s why we needed apples. The plan was to lure the horse to the fence with the apples. Then we would use the fence to give us the height we needed to mount the horse. Then we’d go for a ride!

I knew it was wrong. We were trespassing, and we didn’t know anything about this horse. Beth was the cautious one.

“What if someone sees us?”

“Like who, chicken? There’s not a soul around,” I jeered.

“Duh, like the owner, miss high-and-mighty,” Beth replied.

Megan piped up, “Okay, Jenny. This was your idea, so you go first.”

“Fine,” I said, but I felt my tummy get tight.


I whistled and held out the apple. The horse trotted over. I held the apple with the flat of my hand. He took the whole apple in his mouth. Then, I quickly climbed the wooden post fence and swung my leg over the horse’s back. The horse continued to chew on the apple, and I waited.

“I’m going to let him finish eating before I make him walk,” I explained.

“He’s gentle,” Beth decided.

A couple of minutes passed. I gave the horse a prod with my heels, and he started walking. I hung onto his mane.

“Cool,” Megan said. “We should name him.”

“Patches!” declared Beth.

“Really? What a boring name,” I said.

Beth tried again. “What about Mystery? You know, because on our visits here, we’ve never known if he’d be here or not.”

I liked the name, but I wasn’t going to tell Beth. The horse stopped.

“My turn!” Megan exclaimed.

I swung one leg over and slid off.

Megan lured Mystery to the fence again with her apple. She repeated my trick for getting on. She prodded him with her heels while he was still jawing the apple. Mystery turned his neck as quickly as a striking snake and bit her in the calf! Megan screamed and slid off in one seamless move. She ran to the fence and climbed to the other side.

“Look at my leg!” Megan cried, as tears made stripes in her dusty face.

Megan’s calf had an angry red welt on it the size of a bagel. It was bleeding around the edges. My best friend was hurt, and it was all my fault.


Assessment 3B: Redd The Cat 


Redd was telling a story to an orange tabby friend of his. Redd was now an urban cat. But his story was about an adventure that he’d had when he used to live in the rainforest.

One week, Redd had gone to meet a good friend of Bob’s. Bob was a toucan who Redd was best buddies with. Bob’s friend was named John. Now, there were no trains in the rainforest. Thus, it was a long trip, which lasted three days. But it was well worth it. He had a superb time with John, who was a bear!

John’s home was in a cave. He had set it up well. It was a great bachelor’s pad! It had a TV and a small gym. There were colorful pictures and photographs on the walls. And there was a pleasant odor of honey in the air!

John was quite humorous. He also liked “human food.” He would surreptitiously watch peoples’ camps. He’d sneak in while the people were out walking. Then he’d gather quite a haul of tasty morsels for himself! So, Redd got to try a myriad of new foods!

There were lots of new choices. Redd tried cookies, eggs, corn, and milk. He jumped for joy after he tried the milk. He thought that it was as good as fish! He did have to use a bowl to drink it out of. But that was okay. He said, “Please John, may I have some more? Thank you very much!”


Redd was happy that weekend. That’s because he knew that he’d made a new friend. John said, “why don’t you visit me about every three months?”

Redd didn’t think twice. He quickly yowled, “Yes!” They said “good-bye.” Then Redd commenced on his long trek home.

The second day of his journey back was surprising. It was about noon. Redd heard a really weird noise that he’d never heard before. Like all cats, he was a curious fellow. So, he just HAD to know what it was!

He followed the sound. Soon he came to a door. It was another tree home, much like his own. But the door was painted dark indigo. That was bold! A sign there said, “Fred the Frog.”

Now, Redd was still quite young. He had a plethora of new experiences awaiting him. For instance, he did not yet know what “Frog” meant!

All at once, the door flew open. Out walked an old creature with dark green, leathery skin. It yelled, “RIBBIT!” So, THAT was the strange sound!

Now, as it turned out, Fred had never seen a cat before. So, Fred and Redd spent a couple of fun days learning about each other’s species!


Assessment 3C: The Tomb Raiders 


The thieves hit paydirt! They’d broken through the hidden door. Their torches lit up the room. It was dazzling.

There was the coffin, finely decorated. Its paint covered all of the rainbow’s colors. And the gold! You could not put a finger on it without touching some speck of gold.

The four robbers were speechless. Their leader – Luckett – started to pace around the room. He’d stop to look at things. Then he’d let out a throaty, “Hmm.” Again and again.

After a bit, he spoke. “Boys, we’ve got quite a haul here. Carson! Come here. What do you make of these gems?”

Carson gazed at them. He picked a few up. He said, “Luckett, this is a king’s ransom. Diamonds. Emeralds. Rubies. I don’t even know what some of these are.”

The men continued to survey the room. There were things from the Emperor’s life. Items of clothing. Perhaps a favored wine glass. There were gold shoes. There were writings on parchment paper.

And the walls were rife with paintings. They must have been meant to tell of the ruler’s life. In one, he was giving a speech to a mass of people. In one, he was leading his troops into battle. The art was lifelike, showing a glorious reign.


One of the men knew their written language. He barked, “Gents! Check this out!” The other three walked to where Samuels stood. There was writing on the wall.

Thompson asked, “What does it say?”

Samuels paused. Then he came back with, “Guys. You ain’t gonna like this. It says, ‘If eyes of humans are reading this, they will suffer a painful death!'”

Carson shook. Thompson sweated. Samuels was nauseous.

But Luckett was a stone, cool as ice, unfazed. Deep from his gut, he laughed. Then he guffawed. “Boys! You’re cowards. You yellow-bellies! You believe in that hocus-pocus? You can leave now. But there’ll be no cut of these riches for you, if ye do!”

The three men looked down. None left the room. Luckett growled, “That’s better. Now, let’s open the coffin. There’s no telling what kinds of treasures are there!”

The men set to prying off the top. It was hard work, but they got it off. But as soon as the top hit the floor, an icy blast hit the room. All but one torch blew out. The men looked in the coffin. No body. No jewels. Empty!

The next thing they knew, Luckett grabbed his throat. He was choking. He yelled, “Can’t breathe!” They saw a darkened shadow behind him. Part of the shadow surrounded Luckett’s neck. In seconds, he’d been lifted up, by his throat. And his boots were four feet above the floor.


Assessment 4A: The Clarkes’ Christmas Dinner 


There was quite a loud bustle in the Clarkes’ home. The butcher came with the goose. Mrs. Clarke made the sauce, nice and hot. Pete mashed the potatoes. Betts sweetened up the apple sauce. Madge cleaned the hot plates. Bob took Tim next to him in a small corner at the table. Two of the young Clarkes set up the chairs.

At last, the dishes were placed on the table. The family said grace, led by Bob. Then there was a breathless pause. Mrs. Clarke looked all along the carving knife. She prepared to plunge it into the breast of the goose. And when she did, a gush of stuffing came out. There was a murmur of cheer at the table.

Oh, what a goose! Bob said, “I don’t think there ever was such a goose cooked.” It was tender, with great taste. It was large, and it had been priced at a value. Each person at the table was admiring the juicy goose.

The sides of apple sauce and mashed potatoes made it an ample meal for all of them. Mrs. Clarke looked at one small chunk of a bone left on the dish. She said, with a smile, “We’ll have some left over!” Yet each person had had enough. And the youngest Clarkes were steeped in sage and onion to their eyebrows!

But now, the plates were cleared by Betts. Mrs. Clarke left the room alone. She was quite nervous. It was now time to get the dessert pudding and to bring it in.


This was a tough dessert to prepare well. What if it was not done? Would it break when it came out of its mold? It had been cooling on the wall of the back yard. What if it had been stolen while they were feasting on their goose? All sorts of horrors were supposed!

But it was time to unveil the dish in the kitchen. First, there was a great deal of steam! The pudding was out of its mold. There was a smell like a wash-day! That was the cloth. There was a smell like a diner and a baker next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that!

The pudding looked perfect to Mrs. Clarke! In just a bit, she entered the dining room. She was flushed, but she smiled proudly. The pudding looked like a speckled cannonball. It was hard and firm. It was blazing in a bit of ignited brandy. And a Christmas holly was stuck into the top.

Oh, what a pudding! Bob Clarke said, and calmly too, that he thought that this was the greatest success that Mrs. Clarke had had since their marriage.


This passage was adapted from the public domain A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, acquired at the Project Gutenberg website.



Assessment 4B: Falling Softly 


It was up to me to teach my “little” sister to ride a bike. The beach house that Mom and Dad had rented came with two bikes. We had arrived, unpacked, and settled in. I would spring my idea on her the following morning.

The next morning, I announced, “Sylvie, it’s time!”

“Time for what?” she said.

“Time that you learned the power and freedom of bicycling! Time that you enjoyed the rush of wind in your hair, as you balance like an acrobat! Time that you embrace speed and risk and the response of a well-oiled machine to your every touch!”

“I’m not going to embarrass myself. And I’m not going to the emergency room on my vacation,” Sylvie decreed.

“You’re in luck,” I declared. “Not a soul will be watching you except me. And I promise that you won’t get hurt.”

“No,” she stated.

“What if I do your chores for you?” I cajoled.

“We’re on vacation. I don’t have any chores.”

“What would convince you to let me teach you?”

This gave her pause. “I want the turquoise necklace that Granny gave to you.”


This gave ME pause. Turquoise is my birthstone. The stone is set in a silver frame that looks like a fancy oblong mirror. The blues range from ocean to midnight. I didn’t think that Mom would let her get away with taking the necklace. I also really wanted to be the one that taught her to overcome her fear.

“Okay,” I said.

“You’re kidding,” she responded.

“I’m serious.”

I took one of the bikes and walked it to the long, flat blacktop driveway of our rental house. I held the bike while she got on.

“I’m going to keep holding on. Then you just pedal really slowly.” This worked for a while. “Okay, I’m going to jog beside you and hold on. Then you can pedal a little faster.”

The bike swayed and dipped a little. Sylvie shrieked repeatedly. It was hard for me to keep up.

It had rained hard the night before. Thus, the sand next to the driveway was wet and tightly packed. I moved the bike to the wet sand. This slowed Sylvie’s speed. And every once in a while, when she seemed pretty steady, I’d let go for a nanosecond.

Yes, Sylvie fell. But she fell on soft sand and laughed about it. After about an hour, I was ready to end lesson number one. Sylvie begged me to keep working with her. By the end of the second hour, my sixteen-year-old sister, Sylvie, was riding a bike! The elation of accomplishment lit up her entire face. And she let me keep the turquoise necklace.



Assessment 4C: Snake On The Loose 


Elle screeched, “Fast, Sean; after him!” You see, Elle and her older brother Sean were chasing Elle’s pet black snake, Pete. He had escaped from his cage, and the siblings were trying to trap him upstairs before either parent returned home.

Pete the snake was squiggling toward the top of the stairs. Sean dove towards him and yelled, “Ouch!” as he hit the wood floor with a pounding thud. His hand reached for Pete, but he just couldn’t grasp him.

Elle leapfrogged over Sean, but it was too late. The siblings stared at each other, knowing that they were in deep trouble. Pete the snake COULD go down the stairs, after all. They heard, “Clump, clump,” and Pete landed at the bottom, whisking himself around the corner where they couldn’t see him anymore.

Both kids were silent. Sean then offered this comment, “Hey, you know what? It’s a shame that Pete’s not a mouse.”

Elle asked, “Why would you think that?”

Sean said, “Well, we’d put cheese out. Mice love cheese, you put some out, and they’re easy to catch in a trap. What foods might Pete like?”

Elle became sarcastic and jeered, “Let’s see, a lettuce and onion salad?” She paused and added, “With some celery and bacon bits and a glass of orange juice?” She thought some more and spit out, “And maybe some blueberry pie? Yeah, with vanilla ice cream.”


Sean groaned, “So humorous of you.”

Elle lashed back, “Well, that was dumb, because you can’t entrap a snake with food. C’mon, Sean, get serious!”

Sean said, “Right, we’ve got to catch Pete, pronto. We’ll have to …” And then they heard a pulsating chime. It was Sean’s cell phone! Sean was sweating as he looked at the phone’s display. “Oh, great, just what we were afraid of.” Sean answered the phone, and he tried to level his voice, trying to be nonchalant. Slowly, he drawled, “Oh, hi Mom, what’s up?”

“Hi, Sean. I left work early. I’m about two minutes from the house. I was lazy this morning, and the trash bins are still blocking my spot in the garage. Can you move them, and then I won’t have to get out of the car.”

Sean winced. “Oh, sure Mom, no problem. See you in a bit!”

Then as Elle saw Pete skirting into the kitchen, a light bulb went off in her head. She cried, “EUREKA, Sean, move the trash bins, and I’ve got the perfect solution to our Pete problem.” Sean couldn’t utter a response, as Elle darted past him too quickly. She then stumbled into the kitchen and slammed the door behind her.

Their Mom was in the house a couple of minutes later.



Assessment 5: The First Snow 


James had not witnessed snow before. He’d never thrown a snowball. He’d never tried to catch a snowflake on his tongue. He’d never constructed a snowman. He’d never dropped the freezing flakes down his dad’s shirt, yelling, “Surprise!” with glee.

There was so much “snow fun” that he had missed in his ten years of life, so far. But James and his family had lived too deep in the South for it to snow, since it just didn’t get cold enough. But they had recently moved to the wintry land of Minnesota before the new school year started. James would now learn about a plethora of new things to do, where the weather is much colder. These were things like ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snow-boarding, ice skating, and hockey. This would all be great entertainment for James.

Ten weeks had gone by in the school year; it was a Thursday evening, and finally, a big snow was coming. James went to bed with great expectations for the following day.

When he surveyed the scene outside his bedroom window the next morning, he could scarcely fathom what he was seeing – or more like what he was NOT seeing! Now there was only pristine white, and he couldn’t see a road, a bush, a branch, or a car. There was only one clear thing in view, and that was the tree trunks in the woods, and even they had some white dust on them.


His Mom came into his bedroom and announced that school was closed, since a foot of snow had descended onto the ground overnight. She explained that the school buses just aren’t safe to ride in weather like this.

So, it was James’s first snow day, and what a magical day it was! He played with snowmen, snow forts, and snowballs. He sledded down steep hills. He fell in the snow and made snow angels with his arms and legs. He also got to observe his cat, Sparky, trying to keep from getting buried in the tall snow drifts.

When it was late in the afternoon on Friday, James was placing a carrot on his third snowman’s face. This one now had a long, thin nose. His Dad drove up the driveway, as he was coming home from work a bit early.

His Dad got out of his car, and James yelled to him, “Living up north is so much fun! I’m so happy that you and Mom brought us here!” James turned around, but then he felt a snowball hit the back of his coat. He and his Dad started guffawing. Then they had fun throwing snowballs at each other, until it was time for dinner!



Assessment 6: Reading Faces 


I’ve had to forgive my mom for something that she couldn’t help. When I was in high school, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was the killing kind, and I was an only child.

I’d come home from school to a quiet house. I always dreaded turning my key in the lock and walking into the heavily carpeted foyer. Mom would call out, “Come, let me hear about your day!”

I would trudge up the stairs, using the time to put on my game face. I wanted to enter her room cheerfully. I always curated what I was going to say.

After I asked Mom how she was feeling, and after she lied to me and told me that she was having a good day, I said, “In history class we got to watch more silent movies, because we’re studying the Roaring Twenties. Oh my gosh, there were some real drama queens back then! Their expressions and the way they move are over-the-top. They all look so campy.”

“Did you see any Charlie Chaplin films?” Mom asked.

“Not today, but we did yesterday. Let’s see,” I continued. “The new pledges to our sorority aren’t allowed to shave their legs or wear any makeup. There’s something really ‘mean girls’ about the whole thing. Cindy has dubbed herself the sorority police, and she goes around examining these girls’ legs for stubble. Then she gets right in their faces to look for signs of eye liner or mascara. It’s totally stupid.”


Mom suggested, “As a sorority officer, you could change the rules for the pledges. What if you required the new pledges to perform some number of hours of community service instead of trying to demoralize them? Please remember, the only thing I want is for you to be a person of integrity. You are my legacy.”

“Gosh, Mom, you’ve told me that already! And why is it that Cindy is Miss Popularity?”

“Because it’s high school, sweetie. When you look back, you’ll see that a lot of people in high school compromised their own values for popularity or power. Come to think of it, a lot of adults still do.”

“But then they aren’t people of integrity, are they Mom?”

“No honey, they aren’t.”

I understood that Mom was trying to instill in me pearls of wisdom before she died. I was angry with her for dying. How could she do this to me? How could she leave me? My eyes filled with tears and my throat seized up.

I quickly turned away and said, “A big bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce is calling my name!”

“That sounds just perfect!” Mom said. She had seen my tears.



Assessment 7: My First Trip To The Beach 


There’s no place in North Dakota that’s near an ocean. And you can’t go swimming in the snow! I grew up in Fargo. Thus, my “sporting life” was more about winter sports.

But how I hankered to experience lying on the beach – well sun-screened, of course – by the deep blue sea, soaking up the sun’s rays and feeling the warm sea breeze.

Well, if we could have afforded to fly in a plane, we could have gone to a beach. But that just wasn’t in the cards. Mom was a high school teacher. And Dad was a late bloomer, putting himself through college to get a Bachelor’s degree in Education. He worked odd jobs. And he just couldn’t get time off for our family to go anywhere for long. So, the beach was out.

Well, one year, the stars and the planets aligned. Dad had graduated. And it was the end of his first teaching year. He was now a science teacher, and he loved it.

Mom and Dad – together for once – got the same two months in the summer off. AND, we had an aunt and uncle who had just bought a vacation condominium in Destin, Florida. They generously offered the condo to us for nine nights in mid-June. And we didn’t have to pay them anything!

So, with time off – and a scenario that was affordable – it was now a no-brainer. HEAD FOR THE BEACH! Hooray, we were DESTINED to go to DESTIN.


Yes, the drive was pretty tedious, about two twelve-hour days to get there. But we did get to see parts of the U.S. that we’d never been through. So, that was a plus. And the trip ended up being perfect.

Here’s a sampling of my great memories. We loved learning to both body-surf and to fight the waves. We constructed countless sandcastles. We ate delectable seafood. And I even learned to like gooey fried oysters. There was a giant putt-putt golf place that we went to three times. There was a mini-“Sea World” place – called the Gulfarium – where we saw a water show with dolphins.

One day we drove over to Seaside. There, we walked around to see what it was like, since that’s where they filmed Jim Carrey in the movie “The Truman Show.” Another day, we went to Gator Beach, where there were over a hundred baby alligators! Dad’s an airplane fan. Thus, we saw the Navy Aviation Museum in Pensacola. That was way cool!

I cried a little when we had to leave. But my parents said that when I was an adult, I could get a job near the ocean if I wanted to!



Assessment 8: Rodeo Cat 


Carlos and Jayla were out walking in their urban neighborhood. Jayla, quite concerned, had asked Carlos to come with her to try to help find her dog, who had been missing for four days now. As they turned a street corner, they heard loud growling, and a gigantic black dog ran towards them!

Jayla was tangibly jittery, and Carlos bravely moved in front of her to protect her. He sighted a large stick, and he picked it up and held it firmly in his right hand, not intending to strike the dog, but to have it at least to keep the dog at bay, if necessary. The kids were frozen solid, like travertine marble statues.

Then, the tree branches, right above the dog, shook wildly, and a huge, furry orange cat leapt out of the tree! It had been surreptitiously perching on a low branch, hidden well among the green leaves. They didn’t realize that the airborne cat was about to take a ride, firmly planted on top of the irascible dog!

The orange cat had jumped onto the barking canine. It had engineered a perfect landing onto the beast’s neck! Its substantial paws were holding on tautly to the dog’s collar. Carlos exclaimed, “Wow! Did you see that acrobatic leap? What a phenomenal sight! I’ll bet that we’ll never eyewitness anything quite like this again!”


Jayla answered, “Yeah, I’m nonplussed! This is totally crazy! Surely, that foolhardy cat isn’t going to get away with this!”

The two friends watched these theatrical proceedings, amazed. Their eyes were getting bigger, as they were immersed in this impalpable scene. Carlos asked, “What other cat, anywhere, would be able to do that?”

It was a chaotic display of athleticism, as the animals sprinted around the yard in a furor. They sped under trees, through the purple flowers, and into the driveway. It was somewhat like Carlos and Jayla were witnessing an animal tornado! They weren’t exactly sure, but maybe this was, quite strangely, the animals’ way of having their own bizarre kind of fun.

The cat meowed vociferously, and the dog was panting hard. Though the cat was bouncing up and down, it simply didn’t budge, and it held on tight to the dog’s collar. It looked like it was riding a bull in a rodeo! And the dog just seemed to take the cat’s orders as they both kept running around at an aggressive speed!

This entertaining spectacle went on for a few mesmerizing minutes. Then all of a sudden, the cat jumped off of the dog. It landed firmly on top of the yellow Volkswagen in the driveway. Then it stared at the kids, arched its back, and hissed at them ferociously!



Assessment 9: Scrooge Sees Marley’s Ghost 


Ebenezer Scrooge was a miser for the centuries. He cared only for building his own personal wealth. He had no empathy for other humans, nor for their lives’ various challenges. Scrooge gave nothing to charity. And he felt that if a person could not make a living and meet their debts, then they deserved to be in a poorhouse.

It was a brisk Christmas Eve in London, and as he locked his counting house’s door, he loudly grumbled, “Bah, humbug!”

Scrooge ate his melancholy dinner in his usual tavern. He had read all the day’s newspapers. Thus, he beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker’s book. Then, he headed home to bed.

He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner, Jacob Marley. In the middle of a stockyard, they were a gloomy suite of rooms, old and dreary. Nobody lived in it but Scrooge. The other rooms had been leased as offices.

The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. And this particular evening, fog and frost hung about the black old gateway of the house.

Now, it is a fact that there was nothing at all noteworthy about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during all of the years that this had been his residence.


Also important to note, Scrooge’s psyche had no room for anything superstitious. He lived in a purely worldly reality. Now, he had not bestowed one thought on Marley since a brief mention that afternoon of his seven-years’ dead partner. So, what was about to occur was inexplicable to him! Scrooge had his key in the lock of the door. Then he saw in the knocker – without its having undergone any explainable transformation – not a knocker, but Jacob Marley’s face!

Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow, as the other objects in the yard were. Instead, it had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, and it looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look. There were his ghostly spectacles turned up on his phantasmal forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by a breath of hot air. And, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid color, made it horrible. But its horror seemed to be in spite of the face, and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression.

Then, as Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was just a knocker again.

This passage was adapted from the public domain A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, acquired at the Project Gutenberg website.


Assessment 10: Escape Of The Ape 


Midori and her dad Satoru were having their morning coffee in their kitchen. Midori yelled, “OY! Dad, check this out! Here’s a photograph of a small truck that turned over on Interstate 84 yesterday. It happened near our exit. Fortunately, the driver wasn’t hurt badly. They were transporting a gorilla to the Portland Zoo. And it escaped, because the door came open due to the crash’s impact.”

Just then, their Black Labrador launched himself onto the sofa, barking like a wild banshee. He was peering nervously out of the picture window.

Satoru and Midori concurrently lunged toward the sofa to assess what was occurring outside. There was nothing obvious, except that the branches of the huge tree that barely touched the picture window were flailing wildly, as if they were being pummeled by a tornadic monsoon. Yet, strangely, there was virtually no wind that morning.

Then, without portent, a gargantuan black conformation dropped out of nowhere. It had evidently been concealing itself high up in the tree, joggling the branches in a furor. Once firmly planted on the ground, it assertively assumed a command position, with its nose cleaved to the picture window. The stupefied humans now found themselves peering directly into the eyes of a tremendously imposing gorilla.


At first, there was an eerie stillness. The primate tilted its head back and forth, studying the figures on the opposite side of the glass. Then, unexpectedly, the trespassing tourist started to jounce wildly, aggressively banging its “fists” on the window.

Midori and her father awkwardly stumbled backwards in surprise. Their dog, now frothing at the mouth, emoted like a choir of dissonant, bloodthirsty Reivers. Midori let out a high-pitched squeal, then said to her father, “This Planet-of-the-Apes Goliath is looking pretty intimidating!”

Rather oddly, the ape then moved AWAY from the window. It started looking around the premises, and it finally veered determinedly toward the storehouse at the far boundary of the yard. It espied something that it desired. The next thing they knew, the gorilla had marched over to pick up a chunk of cinder block that was resting near the driveway, among a few beat-up old skateboards and snowboards, next to their pitiful, rusting Ford Escort. In no time, the quadrumane was rumbling ominously back towards the window.

Satoru absentmindedly mumbled, “Extraordinarily resourceful.” But then, with a jerk back to full attention and consciousness, he bayed at the top of his lungs, “Away from the window!”

Satoru jumped to port, and Midori leapt to starboard. And then, “CRASH!” There was a deafening cacophony. The colossus had heaved the cinder block through the picture window, with dangerous shards and splinters of glass scattering every which way.



Assessment 11: The Miller, His Son, And Their Mule 


A miller and his young son were escorting their mule to the marketplace, in hopes of attaining a purchaser for him. They encountered a troop of girls, chittering and chattering. They exclaimed, “Did you ever see such a pair of fools? Who would be trudging along such a friable road when they might be riding?”

The miller thought that sounded logical, so he made his son mount the mule, while he walked in parallel along their side. Presently, they came upon some of the miller’s old cronies. They chastised him and remarked, “You’ll spoil that indolent son of yours, letting him ride while you toil along on foot! Make him walk, that young lazybones!”

The miller followed their recommendation. Thus, he took his son’s place on the back of the mule, while the boy now trudged along behind. They had not gone far when they overtook a party of women and children. Here, the miller heard them say, “What a selfish old man! He himself rides in comfort, but he forces his poor little boy to follow as best he can on his own legs!”

So, this time he responded to this latest criticism by having his son get up behind him. Further along, they met some travelers, who asked the miller whether the mule he was riding was his own property, or a beast hired for the occasion. He replied that it was his own, and that he was taking it to market to sell. “Good heavens!” they vociferated. “With a load like that, the poor beast will be so exhausted by the time he gets there that no one will even consider him. You’d do better to carry him!”


The old man said, “Anything to please you. So, we shall attempt to do that. They got off, they tied the mule’s legs together with a rope, they slung him up on a pole, and at last they reached the town, carrying him between them. This was so absurd a sight that the townspeople ran out in crowds to laugh at them. And they chaffed the father and the son unmercifully, some even calling them lunatics.

They went on, embarrassed, and they arrived at a bridge over the river. There, the mule, frightened by the noise of the water – along with his own unusual situation – kicked and struggled till he broke the ropes that bound him. Then he tumbled into the water and was drowned.

At this point, the unfortunate miller, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again, convinced that in trying to please all of these people that he had pleased none of them, and that he had lost his mule in the process.


This passage was adapted from the public domain Aesop’s Fables version of this tale, acquired at the Project Gutenberg website.



Assessment 12: The Castaways 


It had been a tremendously difficult day, but Cumberbatch had succeeded with his most important goal, and that was to build a shelter high up in a sturdy tree. He and his wife were now castaways, as the pirates had put them off of their ship, on the African coast, along with their belongings.

All they knew of their whereabouts is that they were on a sandy beach just yards from a thick jungle, and there were many ominous noises coming from the deep forest. They knew that they must build some form of fortress to better protect themselves.

At dusk, Cumberbatch and his wife Emily climbed to their newly-built citadel. They were exhausted, but they did try to snack on some of the provisions that had been left for them, as they needed energy in order to stay alert and ready to respond to what might come their way.

It was getting darker, and Emily began to weep. Cumberbatch gathered her in his arms, whispering words of courage and love into her ears. Soon after that, he lowered the curtain walls. He tied them securely to the trees, so that, except for a minuscule opening toward the beach, they were entirely enclosed. They were ensconced as comfortably as could be possible in such a tenuous position.


Currently, it was pitch dark within their diminutive aerie, and they reclined on their counterpanes to attempt to experience, through peaceful slumber, a temporary respite of forgetfulness. Cumberbatch lay facing the opening at the front, with a loaded rifle and a brace of revolvers within easy reach, in case it was necessary for him to defend them from some unwelcome and perilous intrusion.

They had scarcely closed their eyes, when the terrifying shriek of a panther rang out from the jungle behind them. Closer and closer it snaked its way toward them, until they could hear the tremendous beast directly beneath them; and for an hour or more, they could sense that it was sniffing and clawing at the arbor that reinforced their platform. But eventually, to their relief, it meandered away across the littoral, where Cumberbatch could acutely recognize it in the luminescence of the full moon. It was a colossal, handsome creature, the largest and most intimidating that he had ever witnessed in person.

During the seemingly interminable hours of darkness, they could relish but a few fitful snatches of sleep, as the nighttime noises of the tropical jungle, teeming with its myriad animal lives, kept their overwrought nerves on razor-sharp edge. It must have been at least a hundred times that they were awakened, startled by piercing screeches, or by the stealthy movements of formidable bodies beneath them.


This passage was adapted from the public domain Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, acquired at the Project Gutenberg website.



Assessment College Ready:  (“16th-Grade” Level) 

At a robust fluency rate, these three passages, read non-stop and in their entirety, would take around 6 minutes to read out-loud.

SOCIAL STUDIES PASSAGE (“King” refers to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.):

King himself endeavored to lead a secondary attempt on March 9, but in an unavoidable reversal of his resolute strategy, he regarded himself as obligated to turn the marchers around, when state troopers once again barricaded the roadway. That night, an aggregation of segregationists brutally pommeled to death another protester, a young white minister named James Reeb. Alabama state officials, led by Alabama Governor George Wallace, undertook to prohibit the march from continuing forward; however, a United States district court judge enjoined them to permit it. President Lyndon Johnson also upheld the marchers’ rights to proceed with their plans, appearing on national television to covenant and reinforce his support and lobby for passage of radical new voting rights legislation that he was initiating in Congress. Some two-thousand people departed from Selma on March 21, safeguarded by United States Army troops and Alabama National Guard forces that Johnson had commandeered and designated to be under federal jurisdiction. After walking approximately twelve hours a day, and sleeping in fields along the way, they descended upon Montgomery on March 25.


Practically fifty-thousand supporters, African-American and Caucasian, conjoined with the marchers in Montgomery, where they congregated in front of the State Capitol to hear King and other speakers, including Ralph Bunche, recipient of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize, address the throng. “No tide of racism can stop us,” King proclaimed from the building’s steps, as observers from around the world scrutinized their television screens, as this tension-filled, but extraordinary and paramount juncture in United States history, gradually unfolded.



Erosion is a natural process, and it is oftentimes salutary for the planet; however, excessive erosion can cause extensive problems, including desertification and the ecological disintegration of entire areas. If erosion transpires at a pace faster than the terrain can regenerate itself, this can render the land utterly desert-like, and incapable of supporting life anymore. Believe it or not, soil is actually a valuable and nonrenewable resource, as incorporated within it are nutrients and minerals that are imperative for the successful generation of agricultural productivity. It takes thousands and thousands of years to build up enough soil in a region for the land to be productive, but erosion can wear it away much more rapidly than that, especially at the rate that it has been occurring in neoteric decades. Over the past forty years, the world has, disastrously, seen the annihilation of thirty percent of its agriculturally productive cropland as a consequence of erosion.


Although erosion occurs naturally at a very gradual rate, human activities have sped up the process by an estimated ten to forty times globally, where the biggest culprit is unsustainable agricultural practices and the industrialization of agriculture. The mechanized equipment used in contemporary agriculture allows for deep plowing of the soil, and this fractures the soil into finer particles, which is desirable for agriculture, because it facilitates planting; and it also increases the plants’ access to oxygen. However, deep plowing also magnifies the amount of soil that is vulnerable to being carried away by erosion. Throughout much of history, plowing had to be done manually, and it was a labor-intensive process. With the mechanization of agriculture, farmers are now able to plow much deeper, and more often than ever before, resulting in catastrophic consequences for soil quality.



Cumberbatch gathered her in his arms, whispering words of courage and love into her ears, and soon after, he lowered the curtain walls, tying them securely to the trees, so that, except for a minuscule opening toward the beach, they were entirely enclosed, ensconced as comfortably as could be possible in such a tenuous position as they found themselves.

Currently, it was ominously pitch dark within their diminutive aerie, and they reclined on their counterpanes to attempt to experience, through peaceful slumber, a temporary respite of forgetfulness. Cumberbatch lay facing the opening at the front, with a loaded rifle and a brace of revolvers within easy reach, in case it was necessary for him to defend them from some unwelcome and perilous intrusion.


They had scarcely closed their eyes, when the terrifying shriek of a panther rang out from the jungle behind them. Closer and closer it snaked its way toward them, until they could hear the tremendous beast directly beneath them; and for an hour or more, they could sense that it was sniffing and clawing at the arbor that reinforced their platform. But eventually, to their relief, it meandered away across the littoral, where Cumberbatch could acutely recognize it in the luminescence of the full moon. It was a colossal, handsome creature, the largest and most intimidating that he had ever witnessed in person.

During the seemingly interminable hours of darkness, they could relish but a few fitful snatches of sleep, as the nighttime noises of the tropical jungle, teeming with its myriad animal lives, kept their overwrought nerves on razor-sharp edge. It must have been at least a hundred times that they were awakened, startled by piercing screeches, or by the stealthy movements of formidable bodies beneath them.