Reviewed OER Library

<< Return to resource list

On Behalf of Others

NYC Dept. of Education

View Resource

Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2013 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.


This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2013. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
The New York City Department of Education has developed Common Core-aligned tasks embedded in units of study to support schools in implementing the standards. Though there is no clear licensing on the materials, there is clear instruction on the website that educators may adopt these resources in their entirety or adapt the materials to best address students' diverse needs.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Quality of Text: 2.0, Quality of Questions and Tasks: 2.38, Writing: 2.0.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Needs Revision (2.0)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 2.5, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 2.0, Instructional Supports: 2.25, Assessment: 2.5.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 2.5, Interactivity: 0.5, Exercises: 2.25, Deeper Learning: 2.75.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Moderate (1.75)

“On behalf of others” is an 11-12th grade unit developed by New York City Department of Education and focuses on how we see and depict others, especially those who cannot or do not speak for themselves. The unit illuminates the tension between the journalist’s charge to document or portray a situation honestly, as well as exploring ethical and practical questions about respecting the privacy and rights of the people portrayed. Throughout the unit students are prompted to ask such fundamental questions as, “What is important and what can be dangerous?” The unit is closely and transparently aligned with the CCSS, clearly designed and executed to meet the spirit and letter of the standards. Materials within the unit are grade-appropriate and rigorous, focused on an open-ended topic that will endure as a discussion topic in the students’ lives. Texts include videos, essays, and photo collections. In addition to a wide variety of texts, the offerings also span different time periods, offering another layer of analysis. The texts include an interview with from the NY Times series One in Eight Million about a high school senior who is a member of the Crips, has been to jail for selling drugs, and is back in school expecting to graduate on time. Students also study the photography of Dorothea Lange from the Dust Bowl of 1930s Oklahoma, a video about a world-wide project for common people to create their own images of themselves and post them publicly, and readings selected by the teacher. The unit provides questions, writing assignments, and discussion topics to guide the students through the texts and build their understanding. In terms of student engagement, they are asked to conduct research, read, write, discuss, debate, analyze, compare and gradually build deep understanding in preparation for the final paper. The writing focuses on teaching the argument with supporting evidence, clearly meeting the intention of Common Core. There are also modifications for students with differing learning needs. The unit includes scaffolding for students to be able to grasp the important concepts in a graduated and paced manner. There are specific teaching instructions, rubrics for scoring, handouts, and graphic organizers. Graphic organizers help students analyze and compare texts, offering students superb practice for performance assessments asking them to analyze, evaluate, and compare two texts or two approaches to a topic. On a practical note, the unit also offered options for the teacher to spend two weeks or six or more. On the down side, the link to the NY Times did not work on some computers. Other than that, the unit was an amazing collection of ideas, thorough, complete and ready to go. Two thumbs up and maybe a toe or two.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Strongly Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

In this unit, students are invited to examine how documentarians present their subjects, and make arguments about how an author’s “selections” and “deflections” convey messages about a subject. Students also have the opportunity to write routinely and form an argument on the validity of doing documentary work "on behalf of others". Does this unit align with the CCSS? Yes and no. The unit asks students to analyze evidence from multimedia sources (including photos, audio, and video) in forming their opinions. While multimedia sources can be considered "texts", and students do have the opportunity to "analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact," the unit shies away from significant engagement with written fiction or non-fiction in the 11-CCR text complexity band. The unit suggests, but does not support, optional independent reading of written texts by authors such as Steven Crane, George Orwell, Studs Turkel, and Jonathan Kozol. The unit could be brought into greater alignment if some of the texts on the independent reading list were required, and if specific reading instruction were provided to students. A moderate amount of work would be required to design activities and high-quality text-dependent question sequences for some of the texts on the independent reading list. The unit focuses somewhat on student experience; a greater shift of focus onto texts would better align the unit to the CCSS. One of the best features of this unit is extensive detail about how to support English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Overall, this unit is a coherent, engaging unit that requires moderate revision to meet the rigor of the CCSS.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

I thought this was a really nice unit with an interesting slant to it. I loved the fact that it was centered around doing works for others but also showed the moral dilemmas that could result. It was good that it led in with CCSS work. I liked that it included Big Ideas, Universal Design and Essential questions. It was clear that this unit was the result of a lot of work over time to work out the kinks. I liked that it had a listening speaking reading writing component. I liked the way the assignments could go whole class or individual. I liked that it was intentional about noisy vs reflective arguments. I thought it was really good to incorporate oral debate. It definitely had very nice scaffolding for ELL and SPED with good use of graphic organizers ,comparison charts and alternative work.

I liked that it was not too text dense with the lead ins. Some was visual and some was in video form.

I thought the distinction between selection and deflection was a good one especially when looking at pictures such as Migrant Mother.

I liked the supports of Individual Micro-reports on events that the students have witnessed.

There was so much nice scaffolding in this unit with rubrics and instructional supports.

And there were so many ways to make the unit personal.

I did feel that the unit could have included more contemporary text to evaluate “On Behalf Of Others.” It was not entirely clear to me whether using these texts would be enough to get a “final position on Agee and posing three questions.” To me this was kind of a reach. I personally would have liked to have gone back to the initial text (and picture) study and create their own presentations. The last part seemed a little jagged to me. Too many balls, being juggled for students to pull it all together. The feeling that it left in my mouth was that doing things for others can be problematic. The overall mood seemed a little cynical. But I am sure that is just me. What it did well was use standards, thoughtful materials and pull together interesting activities. I might use this with a more optimistic focus to the latter part of the study. Couldn’t you use some Tracy Kidder and his work on Paul Farmer.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

This is a 2 or 3 week unit that limits its focus to non-fiction reading and writing arguments, coupled with speaking and listening designed to enhance text comprehension as well as the nature of argument. To that end, the instructions are clear. A variety of assessment tools (formative and summative) are provided. There are also specific supporting materials for ELL students and students with disabilities.

The standards addressed are these: RI.11-12.1, RI.11-12.10, W.11-12.1, W.11-12.4, SL.11-12.1, and SL.11-12.4.

One of my concerns is that in order to do all of the lessons included, teachers are asked to find a wide variety of high quality complex text for students to read as part of the “research” component of the lesson. That requires time for the teacher to read and evaluate a large number resources. Another concern is the topic of the unit. This unit is designed to lead students to an understanding of the ethical questions involved with journalistic reporting, especially in regards to reporting on those who are disadvantaged. While an interesting topic, such a lesson may not fit in the typical 11th grade Language Arts class. However, the various activities, assessment opportunities, and rubrics could be modified for another unit that may fit better with the current curriculum.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.