New York Teacher Pushes Back Against Measures of Student Learning (MOSL)

Please note that do to the evaluative nature of this assessment, I cannot disclose the content; therefore, I have omitted the specific content. However, while previewing what I would be administering to my students, I found errors that I felt compelled to bring to the attention of the assessment officers at the New York City Department of Education. Here are the responses: 

Dear Periodic Assessment Team,
I’m writing to you with regards to the grade 1 end-of-year performance task for ELA, which my school uses as its MOSL. Upon review of the materials, I have some concerns regarding the content of the assessment.
1.) Please see page 28 of the text —–, the revised and updated version.  The —–photograph and the —–photograph are the same.  The —– photograph should show ———not a ——–
2.) ——–is a level M/N text (620L, grade 3) and it’s being used as the independent reading text for the first grade ELA MOSL performance task.
3.) In ——, the author refers to the group —- of as ——.  In the big book, it’s called a ——-. This is confusing, especially for first graders.
Can these concerns be addressed/corrected before the assessment is given beginning next week?
NYC Teacher

Hi NYC Teacher,
Thank you for your email regarding the grade 1 ELA performance task. We have copied your concerns and responded to them in-line below with suggested ways to address the concerns through administration. Please let us know if you have additional questions; we are happy to help!
Best regards,
The Periodic Assessment Team
NYC Department of Education1.) Please see page 28 of the text ——-, the revised and updated version.  The —photograph and the —-photograph are the same.  The —–photograph should show —, not a ——.The photographs are indeed the same.  Teachers that are concerned about this should feel free to cross the picture out in the IR (independent reading) books if they feel it will be problematic for students.  As a reference point, the duplicate photo is in the “review” section at the end of the IR text, and students will have had multiple accurate encounters with the concept that is presented on the p.28 photograph. We have alerted the publisher and they will be correcting this in future printings in the original and updated versions.
2.) ——is a level M/N text (620L, grade 3) and it’s being used as the independent reading text for the first grade ELA MOSL performance task.
The quantitative scores for this text do fall within the range that is more often associated with 2nd and 3rd graders.  Readability scores for —– vary depending on the measure being used, but are generally reflective of numerous syntactic and semantic features, in this case being largely influenced by compound sentences and scientific vocabulary.  While quantitative scores are an important part of determining text complexity, qualitative features, the specific task, and our first grade readers are also considered when reviewing texts.
This text’s explicit informative purpose, predictable and simplistic structure, clear photos and graphics, and quantity of text per page are indicators of an accessible first grade text. The task itself, which topically aligns with first grade science standards, also includes a read aloud and discussion for the purpose of scaffolding the independent reading and writing component.  Those factors are intended to minimize the knowledge demands for comprehending —.  Upon consideration of all of these dimensions of text complexity, it was determined that this text is appropriate for independent reading in the first grade performance task.

3.) In ——, the author refers to the group of  —- as —-.  In the big book it’s called a —-. This is confusing, especially for first graders.The task guidelines (Grade 1 Teacher Directions for Performance Task) for the pre-reading and during-reading discussions are designed so that teachers can flexibly scaffold the lesson to prepare their students for the independent reading and writing sections. You are welcome to address this potential point of confusion in whatever way best meets the needs of your students in either of those lesson components.

Dear Periodic Assessment Team,
Thank you for your quick response.  Yes, I have additional questions and concerns.1.) Were any working first grade teachers involved in creating this assessment? If so, how many? Were any of them teachers of ELLs and/or students with IEPs?2.) Who determined that these are “accessible first grade texts”? Did working first grade teachers make this determination? What research are you going by?

3.) As this task is Common Core-aligned, I wish to point out that no early childhood education professional or K-3 classroom teacher participated in the writing of the Common Core standards.  In fact, 500+ early childhood experts signed a statement rejecting the standards (for a variety of reasons) for children in grades K-3.  You can read more here

4.)  While the student response sheets are reasonable, our six and seven-year-olds are being presented with too much information on two sub-topics.  As I pointed out in my email, one text uses the term —–; another ——. Even with scaffolding, this is confusing.

Also, the directions state – repeatedly – that students will independently read ——, which is a 2nd/3rd grade text.  How many NYC first graders are reading at level M?  Keep in mind that this task is being administered to children who may not yet be reading independently. According to Defending the Early Years (DEY), “…the average age at which children learn to read independently is 6.5 years. Some begin as early as four years and some not until age seven or later – and all of this falls within the normal range.” Indeed, I see this in my classroom comprised of 25 diverse learners. Some children shut down when presented with a text that is far above their reading level.  Others copy random sentences from the text.

Despite the accommodations mentioned in the directions, all students are expected to use the same above grade level text. You did not provide us with alternative, simpler texts on the same topic.

5.) Due to the photograph error on page 28, our struggling readers will not be able to use this visual to help them complete the task.

With all of this in mind, how can I – in good conscience – administer this task to my first graders?  My rating is being based – in part – on a low-quality, developmentally inappropriate assessment that I had no role in creating.

NYC Teacher

May 1, 2015

Hi NYC Teacher ,Thank you for the follow-up email. The NYC Performance Tasks were designed in collaboration with and reviewed by internal and external groups, including NYCDOE classroom content teachers as well as teachers of students with disabilities and teachers of English language learners. In addition, NYCDOE worked with internal and external assessment researchers, designers, and content experts, and members of the DOE Divisions of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners.The ELA tasks for grade 1 were designed to have flexible administration to account for the wide range of settings within NYC. As stated earlier, the Teacher Directions booklet provides some suggestions for addressing vocabulary and scaffolding in order to differentiate across DOE schools. We encourage schools to collaborate on, discuss, and norm the administration method that works best for the grade level team given each school’s unique environment. As a reminder, these assessments are designed to measure growth on grade level standards from the beginning of the year, not a summative achievement level.

While we recognize there are a variety of opinions regarding the Common Core Learning Standards, the CCLS were adopted by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). NYCDOE in accordance with that adoption aligns curriculum and assessments to those standards.

The decision to use the Grade 1 ELA Performance Task is made at the school level. We recommend you speak with your principal if you have concerns about its use as this is a decision that was made by and affects multiple teachers in your school.

Best regards,
The Periodic Assessment Team

May 2, 2015Dear Periodic Assessment Team,With regards to the internal and external groups and the NYCDOE classroom content teachers who collaborated in creating the NYC Performance Tasks, were any of them working first grade teachers or experts in early childhood education? Did any of these individuals/groups look through the actual texts before they were ordered for testing purposes?I am deeply troubled by current educational policies in both New York City and in Albany (as well as at the federal level).  Yes, I am aware that these assessments are designed to measure student growth on “grade level standards” from the beginning of the year. Since 2013, I have written about the flawed and developmentally inappropriate first grade NYC Performance Tasks that are being used as a local measure (MOSL) to evaluate teachers.  In November of 2013, I met with —– at Tweed to discuss with her my concerns about this MOSL assessment.  I also detailed why ReadyGEN, a NYC ELA Core Curriculum program, is developmentally inappropriate for students in grades K-2.  Many other working NYC teachers share my views.

In addition, I have expressed these concerns to a variety of other NYC administrators and organizations: my principal, my superintendent, my CFN, Community Education Council members, and Chancellor Fariña.  As a teacher of conscience, I want my students to have the best possible education and the same learning opportunities that PROSE schools offer. Like Brooklyn New School and The Earth School, for example, why can’t we create our own authentic curriculum and assessments? I understand that there is an application process for becoming a PROSE school, but shouldn’t this model be promoted more by the NYCDOE?

I hope that in creating future assessments, you will consider my feedback.  In advocating for my students and for my daughter, who attends a Brooklyn public school that also administers the NYC Performance Tasks, I will continue speaking out against unsound educational practices.

NYC Teacher


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