updated 5/4/05


Frequently Asked Questions

Test Administration      Writing        Speaking      Scoring

 Test Administration

Q.   How do schools order the NYSESLAT?

A.  Schools order the NYSESLAT electronically via Harcourt Assessment, Inc.ís website. Instructions for ordering NYSESLAT were mailed to  principals of public, nonpublic and charter schools. All questions are to be directed to Harcourtís Customer Service Center (CSC) at 1-800-763-2306 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. 

Q.  Who should take NYSESLAT?

A. All limited-English-proficient (LEP) students in grades K-12 should take the NYSESLAT.

Q.   Why is NYSESLAT an untimed test?

A.   Since the NYSESLAT is administered to all LEP studentsóto those who are just beginning to learn English and to those who are ready to go into regular academic classesóthe test is untimed so all LEP students have the opportunity to show what they know and are able to do.

 Q. Will the administration directions regarding an untimed test be explicit?     Time constraints during the school day for teaching periods for teachers may vary from school to school.

A.  It is the teacherís decision to determine whether their students "are working productively" or not. If a student is working productively, then that student should be permitted to continue working on the test.  Schools will need to allocate extra time during  the school day to administer NYSESLAT.

            Q. Are Grade 2 students still permitted to write their answers in the test booklet, and the teachers transfer their answers to the bubble answer sheet?

      A.   Yes.  The teacher or aide will transcribe the answers of Grade 2 students from the test booklet onto the bubble answer sheets.

       Q.   Are NYSESLAT training materials available on the Office of State Assessmentís website?

   A. Yes. Training materials are posted on the website at:

       Q. Will an Item Map be available, and how will it be distributed?

   A. Yes, an Item Map will be posted on the Office of State Assessment website (http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/nyseslat/) after NYSESLAT is administered.

       Q.  When can we expect the writing and speaking exemplars to train?

     A.  The secure writing and speaking exemplars will be sent to schools with the operational test.   The writing and speaking exemplars provided for Harcourtís "train the trainer" sessions may be used for training prior to the test.

     Q. In the Writing Directions, the teacher says:  "Do you understand what you need to do?"   What happens if a student doesnít understand?  Can the teacher paraphrase the directions?

    A.  If necessary, teachers may supplement the directions with their own explanations.  However, teachers may not paraphrase or give help to students on specific test questions.   

            Q.  If teachers have to cover word walls, do they also have to cover ABCs and vowel charts?

A.  No, it wonít be necessary to cover ABC charts and vowel charts. NYSESLAT test questions cannot be answered from looking at such charts. "Word walls," however, provide information that students can (and have during field testing) incorporate into their responses to Writing prompts.

     Q.  Do we use a tape recorder for speaking?

     A. No. The student's speech is not recorded. A teacher scores speaking during the administration of the test. 

Q.  Do we use a tape recorder for listening?

A.  A tape recorder must be used to administer the listening test for grades 2-12.   The teacher dictates the K-1 listening test.    An audiocassette tape tests will be provided with the secure test materials.   A teacher may only administer the listening script to grade 2-12 students in the event of a malfunction of the tape recorder.

Q.  If a student has a Proficient score in the one section of the test, but not in the other sections, can a student "bank" the Proficient score and not have to take that section of NYSESLAT again?

A.  No.  The NCLB Act requires that LEP students be evaluated annually on each of the four modalities:  Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.  

Additional questions under Test Administration added 4/12/05

Q. Can scrap paper be used?

A. No. 

Q. Can students underline/highlight in the test booklets?

A. Yes 

Q. How do you provide for untimed conditions in the listening section of the NYSESLAT?

A. Since a prerecorded audiocassette tape must be used, it is not possible to provide untimed conditions for this section of the test.     There are pauses after the listening stimulus to allow students time to answer the question.

Q. Can the teacher repeat or replay the cassette tape in the listening section?

A.  No, the Listening cassette should be played straight through only one time. This is the standard administration.

Q.  What accommodations are available for LEP students?

A. The NYSESLAT is designed specifically for LEP students. Therefore, testing accommodations ordinarily permitted for LEP students taking other State examinations are unnecessary and are not permitted for the NYSESLAT. LEP students who have or incur disabilities should be provided with the testing accommodations specified for those situations. 

Q. Do students with disabilities still get the accommodations specified on their IEP for the NYSESLAT? 

A. All LEP students with disabilities should be allowed the testing accommodations specified in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, two testing accommodations are not permitted for any LEP student because they would interfere with the measurement of the construct of that session of the test:

        Session 2ĖReading may not be read to any student.

        For Session 3ĖWriting, students may not receive assistance nor have their responses corrected for spelling, grammar, paragraphing, or punctuation.

Students who have been declassified may continue to be provided with testing accommodations if the local CSE recommended the accommodations at the time of declassification and included them in the studentís declassification IEP.

The Departmentís Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) provides more information on testing accommodations for students with disabilities on its web site: ftp://unix2.nysed.gov/pub/education.dept.pubs/vesid/oses/test.access.mod/testacce.txt

Questions about testing accommodations for students with disabilities may be emailed to VESID at  vesidspe@mail.nysed.gov

Q. How should the listening test be administered to a student with a hearing impairment?

A. The Listening component of the NYSESLAT may be signed to a student with a hearing impairment provided that signing is indicated as a testing accommodation in the student's IEP or 504 Plan. If the student with the hearing impairment is not proficient in sign language, he or she may be permitted to read the listening passages provided that this accommodation is indicated in the IEP or 504 Plan.  The listening passages are provided in the teacherís Directions for Administration (DFA).   

Additional question under Test Administration added 4/28/05

Q.  When timing is indicated in the Directions for Administering (i.e. "you will have five minutes to write about the pictures"), does this mean that this part of the test should be timed?

 A.  No, the NYSESLAT is untimed. The timing indications that are included in the Directions for Administering reflect the time that has normally been needed to complete tasks during field testing and cognitive labs. So for example, when teachers read the Writing directions to the students, the teacher is free to make it clear that if more time is needed, students (who are working productively) will be allowed to continue.

 Another reason to mention time is that a completely open-ended time frame is not necessarily a comfort to students. Some students will begin to question how long they should take--am I spending enough time? So, the timing statement gives students some idea of the scope of the response expected.

 Additional question under Test Administration added 5/4/05

 Q.  Where should the studentís demographic label be placed on the Writing test book?

 A.  The label should be placed on the back of the Writing test book.

 Q.  Do all test materials, used and unused, need to be returned to Harcourt?

 A.  Yes, all used and unused NYSESLAT test materials must be returned to Harcourt Assessment, Inc.   The used and unused Writing test books should be packed in the carton(s) in which they were shipped to the school, and with the pink label to the top of each carton. The used and unused Speaking, Listening, and Reading test books should be packed in the carton(s) in which they were shipped to the school, and with the green label to the top of each carton.

All test materials should be returned to:

Harcourt Assessment, Inc.
Attention: Scoring Operations
19500 Bulverde Road
San Antonio, Texas 78259

Writing Subtest

Q. How relevant must the response be to writing prompts?  If the response is well-written, but is not or only tangentially related to the prompt, how should it be scored?

A.  After careful consideration, it has been determined that if a response, regardless of how well-written it is, is completely off-topic, and has no contextual relevancy to the Writing prompt, it should be given the score point zero.  However, since the Writing prompts are graphics-based with very little text, if a student chooses to write about a recognizable part of the graphic, the response should be considered relevant and should be scored according to the rubric.  Responses of students at a very low proficiency level can be addressing the prompt through the use of only one or two words that are relevant to the graphic, for example "bunny" or "father."  For more advanced students, relevancy is demonstrated primarily through the use of appropriate vocabulary, but also through the complexity of ideas and structure.

Q. Can we assume that a score point 4 response of a 2nd grade student will look much different from a score point 4 response of a 4th grade student?     Can grade specific responses be added (especially at the grade 2-4 level)?

A. The Student writing in grade 2 is different from that of grade 4 students, but the written justifications will reflect the rubric, not the specific grade level. If the rubric is carefully adhered to, students from all grades within the 2-4 level should receive a fair and accurate score. To help ensure this accuracy for all grade levels, each grade will have unique cut scores for the different proficiency levels in Writing, which is made up of three parts, Writing Conventions, Pre-Writing, and Writing.

Q. Can "0" responses be added to the set of anchor papers?

A.   Yes, Harcourt Assessment, Inc.will add some "0" papers to the sample papers.

Q. On the Writing Conventions part, can the questions/sentences be read aloud to the students?

A. The students read and answer the Writing Conventions questions independently.  However, a teacher may read the questions/sentences aloud only if this is specified in a student's IEP. 

Q.  Will one or two teachers score the writing section?  In prior scoring, two teachers had to score the test:  no one teacher could score more than two sections of the test.

A. Since one section of the test, Writing Conventions, is multiple choice and machine, one teacher will score the other two sections of the test, Prewriting and Writing.

Q.  Has thought been given to using the prior NYSESLATís writing rubrics on the writing subtest in order to maintain continuity of rating?

      A.  The rubrics for prior NYSESLAT tests cannot be used in place of the rubrics developed for the 2005 NYSESLAT.  To use the prior rubrics would be a misadministration of the test.    Harcourtís psychometric staff will equate the 2005 NYSESLAT to the prior NYSESLAT tests.

            Q.  Do we need teachers to score K-1 Writing?

A.  No.   Since all of the K-1 writing test is multiple choice, teachers are not needed to score those tests.

            Q.  What type of writing form is provided for 2-4. 5-6, 7-8, and 9-12?

A. There are 3 writing parts in the 2-12 tests.   The Writing Conventions section is multiple-choice.  The Prewriting and Writing sections contain open-ended items, which must be teacher scored.  The Test Samplers on the OSA website at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/nyseslat/samplers.htm have examples of the types of writing questions. 

Additional question under Writing Subtest added 4/12/05

Q.  Since there are no examples of prewriting in the Test Samplers, please describe what the prewriting questions will look like.

A.  There is a picture stimulus, followed by three questions.     Each question is framed in a text box with four lines to write the answer.  

Q.  How will the length of time that students were given for the extended writing response affect the scoring of those responses?

 Additional question under Writing Subtest added 5/25/05

A.  It appears that there may be some confusion regarding how long the response time should be for the NYSESLAT extended writing response. NYSESLAT, including the Writing subtest, is an untimed test, as has been explained during training and in publications. As long as students are working productively during the Writing subtest, they should be permitted to continue.

In the Directions for Administering (DFA), we provided a suggested response time of five minutes. The suggested time in the DFA was provided as guidance only, for two purposes:  1) to provide schools and teachers with estimated times in order to plan a test administration schedule and 2) to provide students with a general idea of the writing expectations. It is important that English language learners have some parameters within which to write. Without any guidance, the scope of the writing task  - a few sentences, some paragraphs, or several pages - can be unclear to students.

The concern has been expressed that some students had an unfair advantage during the administration of the Writing subtest because their teachers allowed them as much time as they needed while other teachers adhered to the time suggested in the DFA. We believe that the Writing rubric should help to address this concern, since it does not emphasize the length of the response.  "Sufficient length" is only one element in the rubric, which also addresses structure, mechanics and spelling, complexity, and vocabulary. We believe that, with careful application of the rubric, a studentís writing ability can be accurately determined.

Speaking Subtest

Q.  In the Speaking subtest, "storytelling" relevancy is not addressed in the rubric.  What if the response is a well-told, complete story but it is not relevant to the picture prompt?  How would this be scored? 

A. In the case of such a response, it should be scored according to the rubric, i.e. "appropriate information" is only one element considered within the holistic rubric, and in relation to the other elements it reflects only a certain percent of the whole score, approximately 25% at the most. The goal of the Speaking test is to determine whether students can make themselves easily understood to native speakers, especially their teachers and their peers.

Q. To get a complete score on the "Sentence Completion" section, does the student have to repeat the beginning of the sentence?

      A.  No.   The student does not have to repeat the beginning of the sentence to get a complete score.       


Q.  How can there be separate cut scores for students in grades 9-12 when the students are placed by English Proficiency level not by grade?   Are you scoring based on a student's age?

A. Separate cut scores for each grade level will be established by the standards-setting committees.  It is anticipated that the grade-to-grade differences in cut scores will be minimal for grades 9-12.  Scoring will not be based on student age.

Q. Will the NYSESLAT have a cumulative score or will it be reported as a combined score for Listening/Speaking & Reading/Writing? 

      A.  A student's score will be reported as a combined score for Listening & Speaking and Reading & Writing as in previous years.

     Q. If a student scores "Proficient" on the Listening/Speaking and "Beginning" on the Reading/Writing, will they be considered a "Beginning" student like on the previous two NYSESLATís?

      A.   Yes.     

      Q.  What is the purpose of using the abbreviated rubric for speaking and writing scoring?

      A.   The abbreviated rubrics are provided as a tool for scoring on the score sheet.  The comprehensive rubrics should be reviewed and internalized prior to the scoring of the operational tests.   The comprehensive rubrics should also be readily available to teachers during the scoring.

      Q.  How will NYSESLAT scoring be conducted?

            A.  NYSESLAT tests may be scored in schools, districts, or regionally.

      Q.  What is the timeframe for returning test results to the districts?

      A. Immediately after the scoring period is over, the RICS and Scanning Centers will scan and score the tests and return the data files to Harcourt.  Harcourt will return certified files to SED and the Scanning Centers in July.

    Additional question under Scoring added 4/28/05

  Q. When will schools receive the annotated Prewriting and Writing anchor papers for the scoring  
  of the Writing tests?

   A.  Similar to how anchor papers are provided for the Regents examinations, the
   annotated prewriting and writing scoring anchor papers will be posted on the Office 
   of State Assessmentís website (http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/nyseslat/) on May  
   23, 2005.

 Additional question under Scoring added 5/4/05

   Q.   Can the Scoring DVDís be played on a computer or can they only be played on a DVD     

    A.  The DVDs will work on DVD players such are used in homes and by many    
    schools. They will work on computers only if the proper software is installed, and
    that may differ by the computer's operating system.

    Q.  What information is provided on the DVD?

     A.  The DVD is an edited videotape of the Speaking and Writing Scoring Training
     that was conducted in Rochester on February 15.   This is the same training that
     was given in Long Island, Albany, and New York City.


 updated 5/4/05