If you ask 8 year olds how two things are similar and different, most will respond in a few sentences.  When NYS asks 8 year olds how two things are similar and different they expect students to respond with a well constructed essay that includes an introduction & conclusion (among several other criteria).  

Teachers are all for teaching essay structure in their writing workshops.  When it is time for students to demonstrate their writing skills, it is the responsibility of the teacher to clearly define the expectations of the essay- especially for an 8 year old.  Teachers wouldn’t penalize students for not including something in their essay if it wasn’t in the criteria  to begin with.  Yet, that is exactly what NYS does.    


Here is the question NYSED asked third graders.  After reading the passage, most third graders could answer this question in a few sentences:

The author provides many details about how sea turtles are similar to and different

from each other. How is a leatherback sea turtle similar to a green sea turtle? How are

they different from each other? Use details from the passage to support your response.

In your response, be sure to

• explain how a leatherback sea turtle is similar to a green sea turtle

• explain how a leatherback sea turtle is different from a green sea turtle

• use details from the passage to support your response


Here is the Common Core Standard Map for the question.  Notice how the question only asks students to demonstrate one READING standard. It makes sense given the simplistic nature of the question.  

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And here is the rubric scorers are given to assign a value to student responses (o-4). Notice how student responses require multiple READING & WRITING Common Core Standards to be demonstrated in order to receive full credit (even though the question is only mapped to one reading standard and much of the criteria was not asked in the question).  


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If New York State Education Department wants students to demonstrate more in their responses, NYSED better learn how to explain what their expectations are to begin with.   


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