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


New York Teacher Speaks Out, “I have the greatest job; I am a teacher.”

I have the greatest job on earth; I’m a teacher. This year, I began my 22nd year at the Ichabod Crane Central School District, where I have taught grades 2, 5, and 6. I love my students and I am very passionate about teaching. I also stay involved with educational shifts and new strategies. I try to exemplify this in the leadership roles I assume as Grade Level Chair, English/Language Arts Liaison, and Middle School Student Mentoring Coordinator. I have always thought of myself as somewhat “old-school” because I respect the chain of command, respect my elders, and consider myself patriotic. I am a rule follower.

For these reasons, I have complied enthusiastically with the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and all of the instructional shifts, professional development, and student testing required due to the adoption of the CCLS. Instrumental in our school district’s adoption of a CCLS aligned English/Language Arts program, I have stayed the course, attempting to reach the lofty goals set forth for our students. I have facilitated professional development and department meetings, reassuring my department that “It will all work out if we keep moving forward.” I have told parent upon parent that “The testing is only one measure of your child’s success,” and “We are seeing some gaps, but let’s keep trying.”

Over the last few years, I have seen many parents cry about their child’s NYS test scores, and I have seen students cry because they can’t complete the tests. I began to question the validity of the assessments as they became more and more daunting for my students, but I believed that if I continued to incorporate the Common Core Learning Standards and provide the highest quality instruction, my students would be evaluated fairly. During this period, I kept the faith in our great state of New York and our educational leaders, hoping that there would be a fair resolution for the children. Optimistically, I thought that if I remained professional, continuing to comply with the mandates, eventually things would change. So, I remained quiet.

Today, I am a broken woman. I read the New York State Testing Program’s Educator Guide to the 2015 Grade 6 Common Core English Language Arts Test (, and I sobbed. I am so disturbed by the descriptions of the test in this Guide that I find myself in deep moral conflict regarding the administration of the 2015 Common Core English Language Arts Test to my students. My students are eleven and twelve years old. They are at the cognitive level Jean Piaget, revered cognitive theorist, characterized as “concrete-operational,” meaning they can think logically about concrete events but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical situations. Yet in the Guide, it states that students will “evaluate intricate arguments”. In addition, “…students will need to make hard choices between fully correct and plausible, but incorrect answers that are designed specifically to determine whether students have comprehended the entire passage…” This is not developmentally appropriate for my students, and I find it cruel and harmful to suggest that it is. I do not believe in knowingly setting my students up for failure. I cannot remain silent for one more day without speaking up for my students.

The reading passages on the 2015 Common Core test will be “authentic passages.” Well, that sounds great until you consider an eleven-year-old reading passages from texts like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which include “controversial ideas and language some may find provocative.” This is not okay with me. The students I work with every day are still children. It is not my business to subject them to “provocative language” in 6th grade. In addition, eleven year old children do not have the capacity to understand these themes. They do not have a context for these time periods in history until they have had more exposure to New York State and United States history. The majority of students do not receive this exposure until they are in grades 7 and 8. The Guide also indicates that students will be reading difficulty levels, or Lexiles, as high as 1185, which is the level 11th grade students are required to understand. When children read, if the difficulty level significantly exceeds their instructional level, the lack of fluency causes a dramatic breakdown in comprehension.

Clearly, this is a set-up for the kids to fail. As students learn, they make sense out of new information through schema. Schemata are cognitive frameworks to which they can add to, or modify, as they learn new information. One could compare the requirement for children to understand these passages to expecting them to master algebra before establishing number sense; there is no foundation to build knowledge upon. If a student has no context, they are not likely to comprehend the text at the deep level required to distinguish fully correct answers from plausible, but incorrect answers. In addition to these inappropriate, unfamiliar concepts and time periods, students will be expected to sift through authors’ use of “intentionally incorrect grammar and/or spelling” and “passages drawn from works commonly taught in higher grades.” Finally, in the Guide it states that “Students will be required to negotiate plausible, text-based distractors. A distractor is an incorrect response that may appear plausible.”

In summary, we are going to ask eleven year olds to read and comprehend passages that are taken from higher grades, some at 5 years above their level, with controversial and provocative language, based on abstract literature and historical documents that the students have not learned about yet, and choose an answer from several plausible choices? We are going to have our students spend nine hours of seat time, allowing extra time for our Special Education students, on these inappropriate tests? (Add another nine hours for Math.) And after all is said and done, we will reduce each child to a number: 4, 3, 2, or 1, based on their performance, providing the teachers and parents with little to no information about what they can and cannot do?

No. No, I cannot.

With all due respect to my students, their parents, my Administration, and Board of Education, I must go on record as strongly objecting to this test. I respectfully request reassignment on the dates of the 2015 Common Core ELA Assessment.

As I said, I have the greatest job; I am a teacher. I today am standing up for my students. Finally.

Jennifer Rickert


You made it personal: We are not the enemy

Seven state-honored teachers protest Gov. Cuomo’s educational leadership

Dear Governor Cuomo: We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal. Read more.

How Teachers Are Fighting to Change One of the Most Segregated School Districts in the Country

Published in The Nation, written by Michelle Chen 

“New York City is defined by its glorious pastiche of cultures, colors and creeds. But inside its public schools, life is far more homogenous, with black and brown students siphoned into under-resourced schools by a persisting color line. But some teachers are challenging the policies that systematically leave disadvantaged kids behind.”

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Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures

A summary of testing season published by the Education Opportunity Network:

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams.

Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.”

According to local news sources, over 33,000 students skipped the tests – a figure “that will probably rise.”

At one Brooklyn school, so many parents opted their students out of the tests the teachers were told they were no longer needed to proctor the exams. At another Brooklyn school, 80 percent of the students opted out. Elsewhere in Long Island, 41 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk reported thousands of students refusing to take the test, and an additional district reported hundreds more.

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Superintendent Pero on Common Core Assessments

Superintendent Pero on Common Core Assessments



April 10, 2014


Dear Parents,


Over the past two years, the practice of educating our children has changed considerably. The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) made changes relative to the adoption of Common Core Learning Standards, Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), The Dignity Act, introduction of a Tax Levy Cap, and the list goes on. In the midst of this era of rapid, relentless change, almost simultaneously, the Pittsford Central School District (PCSD) remains steadfast in its belief that certain things should not change. In particular, our collective sense of always doing what is best for children, continuous improvement, focus on stakeholder collaboration, and our sincere appreciation of our community are tops on that list of things we are proud of – these are the things that distinguish PCSD, and that we feel must not change.


This past week, our students in grades 3-8 completed the NYSED English Language Arts (ELA) assessments. Although NYSED has been administering these exams for many years, this is the second year of assessments based on the new Common Core Learning Standards. Last school year, during the initial year of Common Core, our students performed among the best in the state. Their exceptional performance was not because our teachers “taught to the test;” rather, it was because our teachers taught engaging lessons and continued their practice of paying attention to the whole child. We are proud of this – and this practice will not change.

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Dear Dr. King

Posted by Tony Sinanis on School Leadership 2.o, November 29, 2012:

Dear Dr. John King,

As we close out the third month of this hectic and busy school year, I felt compelled to sit down and write you this letter on behalf of my son, my students, my colleagues, many parents and all of the dedicated and passionate educators throughout the great state of New York (and beyond). I know it has been almost a year and a half since you have taken over as Commissioner of Education in New York State and in that short time, you have brought about many changes and have pushed the world of education back into the spotlight. From implementing the Common Core Standards to revamping the Annual Professional Performance Review, you have brought about a lot of change. As all effective instructional leaders know, bringing about a lot of change also requires stepping back and assessing the affects of the changes being implemented. Are they working? Do we have buy in from all constituent groups? Do people understand what is happening and why? Do people feel supported in navigating these changes and new expectations? Is the best interest of the children at the core of the decisions and ensuing changes being made?

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7th Grade Student Charlize Valentin Sounds Off On State Testing

This courageous Op-Ed by 7th grade student Charlize Valentin, was shared with permission by her English teacher at East Side Community High School. Please share widely:

As parents consider the effects of opting their child out of state tests, one question that comes up frequently is What will my child be doing while her classmates take the tests? When one of my 7th grade students decided with her family that she wanted to opt out, she told me that she wanted to explain to others why she made that choice.  While her classmates bubbled in multiple choice answers and constructed five-paragraph essays, Charlize spent her time examining the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, and researching, planning, and drafting the piece below.  I could not be prouder of the choice Charlize has made, more confident of her growth as a student this year, or more certain that this piece of writing says far more about what she is capable of than a state test ever could.  -Nicole Dixon, teacher at East Side Community High School

by Charlize Valentin, 7th grader

“What am I doing? What are we doing?” I thought to myself in the middle of taking the 2014 English Language Arts Common Core standardized test. My teacher had just finished saying that before and after these tests we weren’t allowed to talk about any questions we had or anything the test had brought up.  Teachers aren’t allowed to talk about the tests with their students, or even to give their opinion about these tests.  At that moment I began to think, “What are these tests turning our schools into?  Since when did our schools become such a ‘Hunger Games’ like setting?”  I began to think these tests are turning our schools into a futuristic dystopian setting, where teachers and children are afraid to go against these tests. A dystopian setting where if teachers even mention that they simply do not agree with these tests, they fear that could lose their jobs.  But just like in every other dystopian novel you’ve read, there’s always that one spark. That one little outlet for hope. And for schools and children these days, our one little spark for hope against these standardized tests is the newly found option of opting out.

In New York state this year, over 30,000 children have made the choice with their parents or guardians to opt out of these standardized tests. This week during the state math test, I became one of the 30,000.

For me, the worrying about these tests began in October in the beginning of my 7th grade year. Everything about the tests worried me.  As students, we heard, “Fail this test and you will have to get held back this year” or “Fail this test and you’ll have to attend summer school.”  And when I asked about opting out most teachers simply would tell me they did not know much about this option.  From the months of October to April I could feel myself beginning to make myself physically and mentally sick. I became so anxious that sometimes I’d simply sit and cry, thinking to myself, “I’m a good student. Just not a good test taker. Why should these tests created by then graded by people that don’t even know me as a student determine whether or not I got held back this year?” Each day a new anger and thought of rebellion against these tests began to build. And every day I thought, “This just isn’t fair.”

As ironic as this may sound, the day before the kids in my school, East Side Community High School, were let out for winter break, our English teacher assigned us practice articles to read for homework to prepare for the upcoming ELA state test. What I soon came to learn was that the articles she gave to us were all about the debate on whether or not these standardized tests were beneficial to us. And even greater, what I soon came to learn about from those articles was the option of opting out. After reading all of those articles, I gave all of them to my mom trying to explain opting out. Little did I know that she had already been looking into this option, and learning about other parents who opted their children out of these standardized tests.  She then showed to me these articles about other kids who opted out and why they opted out. And I understood that what I had  been stressing over and thinking about for so long already had a call to action given by thousands of other kids and parents all around New York, and that I wasn’t alone. Other kids felt the way I did too.  This was more than just a couple of kids and parents in a disagreement with these test makers, it was thousands of kids, teachers and parents finally wanting their voice to be heard. And their voice was saying – “This is not what school is about. What’s in these tests is not what our schools should be focusing on. Our kids are not robots, neither are their teachers. So why are we being treated and being tested on as if we are?”

In my English class this year, we are taught to express ourselves through our writing, to have our voice be heard, to explore new topics and genres, and most importantly, to question why is this the way it is or why is that the way it is.  In my school, children are taught to question, and we are taught to express our individuality and creativity through our school work. But that is not the criteria these tests are based on. These simply want us to read a two-page story then a write a four-paragraph essay on what we read. That’s it. No original claim, no deeper thinking and of course, no opinion.  How are these tests in any way supposed to show what we learned throughout the course of the year? How are these tests supposed to show the hard work and days and hours our teachers go through just to plan lessons so that when we leave class, we are leaving with a mind that wants to question the unknown? But of course, this is not what these tests are asking us to show. Are they really asking us to show anything we learned at all?

I just want to ask, do you not find it alarming that in America 1 out of every 5 children do not know when their next meal is going to be, but all children are completely certain about when their next standardized test is going to be? Is this really what our state is spending its money on? Spending money on tests that only worry and frighten kids, and force kids to think like everyone else instead of themselves? I guess so…

I hope that after reading this, you come to understand that these tests are not fair. And children do not want to be forced to take these tests anymore. Teachers, kids and parents are fed up with being treated as robots and test-monkeys due to these tests. I also hope you understand that myself and over 30,000 kids across the state are opting out, not because we fear these tests are hard and that we can’t do it, but because we have a voice too. And our voice is saying enough is enough. This isn’t fair and we won’t stand for these tests anymore. I hope that after reading this and even after doing more research about this topic, you find your voice saying the same thing too.

Teachers of Conscience Speak Out Against Market-Based Reforms

Diane Ravitch features our letter/position paper on her blog:

Diane Ravitch's blog

A group of teachers in New York City wrote an impassioned plea against the market-based reforms of the Bush-Obama era. It has since been signed by parents and educators from across the nation. It takes a strong position against high-stakes testing and the standardization of the Common Core. Read this letter and consider signing it.

This is the beginning:

“We have patiently taught under the policies of market-based education reforms and have long since concluded that they constitute a subversion of the democratic ideals of public education. Policymakers have adopted the reforms of business leaders and economists without consideration for the diverse stakeholders whose participation is necessary for true democratic reform. We have neglected an important debate on the purpose and promise of public education while students have been subjected to years of experimental and shifting high-stakes tests with no proven correlation between those tests and future academic success…

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