Supporting the NeSA-English Language Arts (ELA) Transition  

December 23, 2016

Change. The word alone can be both frightening and invigorating. For Nebraska teachers, change is on the forefront of many minds as the Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA) tests evolve to meet the needs of our students. What was previously two separate tests - the NeSA-Reading and NeSA-Writing - is now a single test: NeSA-English Language Arts (NeSA-ELA). With the merger comes new question types that reflect 2014 updated NeSA-ELA Standards supported by advancing technology. The evolution is exciting because it aligns with college and career ready standards and moves away from the designated genre form of writing (narrative, descriptive, persuasive) that does not reflect authentic types of writing. In place of the NeSA-W, the NeSA-ELA includes a text-dependent analysis question that requires students to write a response to a passage(s). Needless to say, the change has prompted much concern and several questions from teachers and administrators alike. The Teaching and Learning Department understands the importance of supporting this change with professional development opportunities that build teachers’ capacity to teach and assess skills needed for Nebraska students to be successful on the NeSA-ELA.

The transition support process began in 2015 when Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) hosted a series of NeSA-ELA Workshops where teachers and coordinators were familiarized with the new question types and wrote questions for the Check 4 Learning system. In Spring of 2016, NDE offered a voluntary pilot test of the new NeSA-ELA questions. Several Nebraska school districts took part. Over the summer, ESU 10 hosted a Close-Reading workshop, which helped lay the foundation for responding to text-dependent prompts. This fall, NDE offered another series of Text Dependent Analysis (TDA) Trainings to review the new question types, write TDA prompts, and answer questions about the changes.

To provide local support, ESU 10 transformed the Analytical Scoring of Student Writing Workshop that previously scored practice papers for the NeSA-Writing test into a scoring workshop to support the Text Dependent Analysis question on the NeSA-ELA. ESU 11 coordinator Kate Hatch and ESU 11 schools were also invited to participate. On November 3-4, 51 teachers from 27 districts attended the Analytical Scoring of Text Dependent Analysis Writing Workshop. Over the two days, teachers had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the new TDA rubric and score student practice papers to garner feedback for their own classroom instruction. In addition, ESU coordinators provided a plethora of resources to support close reading and text dependent analysis and provided time for teachers to share challenges and best practices for preparing Nebraska students for the NeSA-ELA. As one respondent noted, “We are all facing similar challenges, but I now have some additional strategies to use with my students.”

The workshop was very valuable for ESU 10 staff as we learned what teachers need and want to support the transition to the NeSA-ELA. Ninety-eight percent of the attendees said ESU should continue to hold the Analytical Scoring of TDA Writing Workshop each November. 

ESU 10 already has plans to host and/or provide the following opportunities:
• Ongoing, on-site training for schools who utilize Check 4 Learning (C4L)
• Ongoing, on-site Text Dependent Analysis training for schools
• January 13--Host NDE TDA Rangefinding Workshop
• TBD--ACT Test and Writing Support
• July 18-20--Write Tools Training

We will also use this data as we plan for additional offerings. Through these efforts, we will continue to provide support and resources as Nebraska teachers and students make the transition from NeSA-Reading and Writing to the NeSA-ELA.

-by Crystal Hurt, Teaching & Learning Coordinator