2008 New York State English Language Arts Q & A
(updated January 28, 2008)

Questions and Answers Document for Scoring the 2008 ELA tests- This document answers questions that were raised by RIC scoring trainers while viewing the DVDs. All other questions may be telephoned or emailed to CTB at the scoring helplines: 1-888-282-0059 or ny_scoring@ctb.com.

Administrative Questions

Q: When are the makeup dates?

A: The information for makeup testing can be found in Appendix C of the 2008 School Administrator’s Manual for Public and Nonpublic Schools. It is the principal’s responsibility to facilitate testing of the students who did not complete the test on the regularly scheduled testing dates. This document can be found on the State Education Department’s website at:



Q: What are the criteria for choosing scoring committee members?

A: A good candidate for an ELA scoring committee should have the following capabilities: English language arts expertise, experience with scoring open-ended questions (including the use of rubrics), and one or more years of teaching the specified or adjacent grade levels to be scored. Additional recommendations for selecting scorers can be found in the 2008 School Administrator’s Manual for Public and Nonpublic Schools.


Q: How are scorer numbers assigned?

A: Each scorer and scoring committee will have been assigned a number; your site coordinator should provide you with a roster with these numbers on it. These numbers are a way of identifying scoring committees in order to provide feedback when conducting read-behinds.


Q: Is there a source for obtaining additional test materials or training materials?

A: The 2008 School Administrator’s Manual for Public and Nonpublic Schools lists the materials needed for testing and the corresponding sources of assistance to obtain materials.


Q: What are the duties of a scribe?

A: When a student is allowed the accommodation of a scribe, the scribe must record word for word what the student says. Additional information about scribes can be found in the 2008 School Administrator’s Manual for Public and Nonpublic Schools.


Q: When the students read the passages and directions may they use “whisper phones”?

A: Students are not allowed the use of whisper phones on the test unless they have an IEP or 504 plan that indicates this testing accommodation.


Q: Can our Spanish teacher score papers?

A: A Spanish teacher may score responses written in English; however, he/she may not translate student responses that are written in Spanish. The English Language Arts Condition Codes state that responses are scored zero if the entire response is written in a language other than English.


Q: What should be done with the CAS answer sheets after training is completed?

A: It is a local decision whether to keep them or destroy them.



Q: How many scorers are required to score each test book?

A: Regardless of the scoring model being used, a minimum of three scorers is necessary to score each student’s test book.


Q: What should be done if student answer sheets have been soiled or mutilated in some manner?

A: The school must transcribe all student information and test responses onto an unused answer sheet, which is then added to the stack. Do not fold, bend, tape or staple any answer sheets.


General Scoring Questions


Q: Is it possible to see specific common errors/neutral revisions for the editing paragraphs in grades 3, 5, and 7?

A: Yes. Common changes that students made on the field tests are provided on the training DVD for each grade level. These changes are internalized more quickly when the scorers can write down the possible changes and hear the explanations for scoring them.


Q: When does a response receive a score of 0?

A: Cluster responses are given a zero if the entire response is illegible or scribbled, consists of an indication of a student’s refusal to respond, is written in a language other than English, or corresponds to a description of zero in the ELA Scoring Considerations or scoring rubrics.


Q: If a student’s response is blank, how should it be scored?

A: In grades 4, 6, and 8, condition code A is applied if every question in a cluster is left blank. In grades 3, 5, and 7, the short-response questions are scored individually; for those items, condition code A is applied if the question is left blank.


Q: If a student is absent, how is that student’s test scored?

A: If a student is absent and has not had the opportunity to do a makeup test, fill in the absent circle for that session on the student’s answer sheet.


Q: How should a paper that has been totally erased be scored when the student’s response can still be read?

A: If a response in grades 3, 5, or 7 is totally erased, then the response is considered blank, which is a Condition Code A. In grades 4, 6, or 8, all responses within a cluster must be blank or erased to receive a Condition Code A.


General Cluster Information


Q: In the Reading/Writing session of Grades 4, 6, and 8, can a cluster response be given a top score if only one of the passages is referenced in the extended response?

A: No. To receive a top score (4 points in Grade 4 and 5 points in Grades 6 and 8), the extended response must contain references to both passages. However, please remember that the clusters are scored holistically and the other requirements for a top score response must be met in order to achieve a top score.


Q: If a cluster demonstrates voice, is it possible that the cluster may not receive a top score?

A: Yes. The cluster should be scored holistically and assigned scores on the basis of the entire cluster. The lower-point clusters may contain elements of top score responses, which may include voice.


Q: Is one relevant detail in any item of the cluster sufficient to give the entire cluster a score of 1 and not a zero?

A: Yes. The cluster may receive a score of 1 if any part of the cluster correctly responds to the task. To be given a score point of zero, the entire cluster must be completely incorrect, irrelevant, or incoherent. Also, note the scoring considerations: if a student answers only one question, and that question is not the extended response, the score is zero.


Q: How is a cluster scored when a student writes, “I don’t know” for each of the responses?

A: The cluster would receive a 0-point score. According to the English Language Arts Condition Codes, responses are scored a zero if the entire response consists of an indication of the student’s refusal to respond.


Q: Why do the training materials for scoring Writing Mechanics for Grades 4, 6, and 8 reflect the Sample Test instead of the current operational test?

A: Since the principles of scoring Writing Mechanics remain the same regardless of the questions posed to the students, the training materials for this section of the test may be considered generic and can be used from year to year.


Q: When scoring writing mechanics, are the students expected to write out numbers?

A: No. It is acceptable to write the numeral instead of the word (see Grade 8 Writing Mechanics, Practice Set 1A and 1B).


Guide to 0-score point cluster responses:




Grade Specific Questions


Grade 3 Listening/Writing

Item 27

Q: Why are the responses in Practice Set 17 inaccurate?

A: The students are asked to give two examples from the story that show Chip is tired. In other words, what is Chip doing that causes us to think that he is tired? The answers in Practice Set 17 state what makes Chip tired, not the actions that demonstrate he is tired; therefore, the student did not answer the question. Acceptable responses should include text-based details that show Chip is tired, such as “he yawns,” “he moves more slowly,” “his eyes close,” or other relevant text-based details.


Item 28

Q: Is it acceptable to eliminate the word “big” before the word “brother”?

A: Yes. This change is a neutral revision because it does not create a grammatical or mechanical error, nor does it significantly alter the meaning of the sentence. 


Q: Is it acceptable to capitalize the words “Big Brother”?

A. No. This is considered an error since “big brother” is not a proper noun.


Q: Is it considered two errors if the words “Big Brother” are both capitalized?

A: Yes. The capitalization of each word is counted separately.


Q: Is it acceptable to cross out the word “then” before the words “I forgot”?

A: Yes. This change is a neutral revision because it does not create a grammatical or mechanical error, nor does it change the meaning of the sentence.


Q: Is it acceptable to substitute the word “it” for “that” in the last sentence?

A: Yes. This is a neutral revision because it does not create a grammatical or mechanical error, nor does it significantly alter the meaning of the sentence.


Grade 4 Listening/Writing

Item 29

Q: Is it acceptable if the student states that the principal tells Rigo to be quiet when he sees Rigo outside?

A: Yes. This is a relevant text-based response. While the principal does not directly tell Rigo to be quiet, he suggests it by saying that if Rigo were an actor, he should use his quiet voice off-stage.


Grade 6 Listening/Writing

Q: Why does the second 3-point anchor paper receive a 3-point score?

A: Overall, the responses fulfill some requirements of the tasks and indicate an understanding of the story as a whole. The responses demonstrate some accurate conclusions about the family’s actions with a few relevant text-based examples as support.


Item 27

Q: Is the graphic organizer on the second 2-point anchor paper incomplete?

A: No. Some students may elaborate, but this response accurately identifies Sonar’s homes.


Item 29

Q: What are some acceptable responses to describe the temperature change?

A: An acceptable response should include a text-based detail (spring-like temperature of the house or a variation) and demonstrate some understanding of how the change in the bat’s environment caused the bat to awaken.


Grade 6 Reading/Writing

Item 32

Q: Does the phrase “she set a world record” receive credit?

A: Yes. This is an accurate, text-based detail that supports why Harriet Quimby’s achievement was considered remarkable.


Grade 7 Reading

Item 28

Q: The rubric states that a response that includes no support can still earn 1 point. If no details can merit 1 point, why wouldn’t one detail earn 2-points?

A: A response may be considered incomplete, thereby earning 1 point, for a variety of reasons. However, in order for a response to earn 2 points, it must be complete and correct.


Grade 7 Listening/Writing

Item 35

Scoring Guide Correction

CAS 21 on page 97 of 7ELA-VOL1—The score point for this paper should be a 1 and not a 2 as printed. The key for this paper on the answer key at the end of the book should also be a 1 and not a 2.


Q: Why is it unacceptable for “chess club” to be capitalized?

A: In this context, “chess club” is not a proper name.


Q: In the past, the editing paragraph has been used for writing mechanics. Why are we looking at word choice (i.e., although/so) for editing?

A: The Grade 7 (as well as Grade 5) editing paragraphs have always included usage and grammar errors. Word choice is considered part of usage.


Grade 8 Reading/Writing

Q: Why does the Practice Set include two 3-point papers but no 2-point paper?

A: The practice set is a realistic sampling of papers similar to what the scorers will see when scoring actual student books.


Item 32

Q: Does the response for “determined” have to be in chronological order?

A: No. Although chronological order would make the response stronger, it is not necessary. Item 32 is part of a cluster, so it should be scored holistically with Items 31, 33 and 34.


Item 34

Q: If a student explains only Adam’s or Michael’s motivation (but does so thoroughly), do we assign the response a score of 2 for addressing part of the task?

A: This type of response could be considered incomplete and could therefore be in the score point 3 area, but the entire cluster must be considered before assigning a score.