Vol. 10, Issue 3, March 2010

Jennifer Scully

Tips for Administering the NYSESLAT

Jennifer Scully
Jennifer Scully

A neophyte is someone who is new at something—like teaching ESL K-12.  No matter how many years we have under our belt now, each one of us began as a neophyte.

I began my career by teaching adults. After five years of teaching experience, I felt I was finally ready to take on elementary school.  I came home my first day and cried for an hour.  I kept at it and managed to feel better by March.  By the end of the year, I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. When I earned my doctorate in 2007, I was asked to work with New York City Teaching Fellows in their first year of teaching.  This work is so rewarding because it is like coming full circle. 

When I began training first year ESL teachers, I was stunned to learn that some were either serving as ESL coordinators or were sole providers at their schools!  Here is an outline for Year 1 teachers of the broad strokes of administering this examination on one’s own. 

My overarching advice is to be organizedMake yourself aware of deadlines and rules.  You do not want your students’ scores to be invalidated due to your inadvertent administrative error!

First, create a schedule.  The test must be administered to all K-12 ELLs, scored and received by your local Scan Center, in most cases, before June 3, 2010.  Work with your testing coordinator or principal to eliminate conflicts.  Once your schedule is approved, disseminate it to all faculty members. 

Create a roster that includes all ELLs in your school if you haven’t done so already.  There may be some students floating around who should take the exam but are not currently receiving services; speak with your principal to rectify this.  A NYSESLAT roster is a grid with names, grades and classes; by each of the four sections on the exam, check them off as exams are completed. 

Send parent letters with test dates.  You might include informational parent brochures.

Package the exams for administration, including sharpened pencils and gum erasers as well as an extra student test for the proctor, mostly likely, you.
Administer the exam.  Follow guidelines on proctoring an exam; this usually includes putting a “Testing in Progress” sign on the door, and arranging desks in rows with space between the desks.  Actively monitor students by walking around the room; do not conduct personal business while proctoring.   Use your roster to double check that you have collected all completed tests before releasing students.
Grade the exams by following required procedures.  Get “normed” first by viewing the DVD enclosed in the package.  We do not want students to end ESL services before they are prepared to successfully manage grade-level work without assistance.  Your principal may want you to photocopy each answer sheet for school records in the event of loss or a contested grade.   

Package the exams for return by following the packaging directions to the letter.  The most important thing is to return all three answer documents, completed completely and accurately.  Check that all exams have been completed and packaged by working against your rosters, and ask your testing coordinator to double check your work. 

Plan for next year by budgeting for test prep materials like Empire State NYSESLAT (see http://www.continentalpress.com/pages/products/220.html) or Attanasio’s Getting Ready for the NYSESLAT and Beyond (see http://www.attanasioandassociates.com/attanasio_nyseslat.html).  Such texts can provide exposure to test item types and testing conditions so they can show what they know on the exam itself.  You can make such test prep more meaningful and authentic by using the same types of exercises with authentic texts for listening and reading and with daily student journaling.   

The good news is that the NYSESLAT exams will be a piece of cake to administer next year, especially if you are organized and keep notes on improvements to implement in 2011!  

Helpful websites:


Elementary and Intermediate Level Testing Schedule for the 2009-2010 School Year

Translated Parent Brochures

English language Parent Brochure

In this column, I hope to address such issues as classroom management, lesson planning, improving students’ literacy skills, making content comprehensible, individualizing instruction, and addressing potential cognitive or educational issues, and developing a professional persona.  I also hope that first year teachers will write in with their questions and share helpful advice or resources that I can pass along in my work with neophytes. You can contact me at dialogue@nystesol.org.

Jennifer Scully started teaching ESL in 1992 and has worked with students from kindergarten to college.  She works with New York City Teaching Fellows, graduate students in TESOL, and mainstream teachers to improve their practice with ELLs.  She provides professional development in various settings but still works with elementary school ELLs to stay current.