Untimed State Tests – Utter Failure

This year, rather than post any information about the content, structure or deployment of the spring NYS ELA exams, I’ve chosen to focus on one topic that appeared most frequently online: the amount of time students are using to complete these tests each day.

Below are unedited comments that I’ve sourced from social media this week. Some were left attached to a person’s real name. Others were not. I’ve chosen to delist names from all of them.

So, what do you think of the state’s continuation of the untimed testing policy? Can anyone explain to me why kids are taking all day to complete an exam that apparently doesn’t count for anything?

ELA Day 1

– 3 hours average
– Grade 5 some as long as 3 hours
– I had two at 5 hours and I teach special Ed
– 6 hours here and still going for some
– I teach a general education 6th grade in the city. Of my 30 students, only 5 finished in the rec. 80 minutes minimum. All but 2 were finished in 120 minutes or less. 2 worked for an additional 20 minutes or so.
– Grade 3- most done at 1.5 hours… 2 students 3+hours
– Just over 2 hours for my 3rd graders…this test was ridiculous.
– Third grade about 2 hrs for 24 multiple choice questions.
– 3 hours for 3rd grade!!!
– class went from 9-2 with a 50 mins lunch in between 3rd graders
– I know of one student that took over 5 hours
– And a few until 3:00 p.m.
– About 2.5 hours for my 7th graders
– 2 hours for my 4th grade.
– 5th grade- average of 1.5 hours. Some took 2 hours. The longest was almost 3 hours.
– proctored outside the classroom for ELLs: One hour for one, 1 hour 45 minutes for the other. One cried.
– 4 hours in and dozens are still working (middle school). We had a 2 hour testing block.
– I have been testing students all day and we still have multiple students across grade levels not done! Entering hour 5 of testing and they haven’t even eaten lunch yet.

ELA Day 2

– 12:20 pm in the Bronx, students in grades 3 and 5 at my school are still testing…several are crying. they are testing during their lunch period.
– mine didn’t want to stop. I made her stop and go to lunch. She’s 8.
– Yep…still testing over here in BK as well. Watching them eat lunch now. 32 3rd graders not finished 10 5th graders.
– They tested through lunch at my school also. That’s not fair to those poor kids
– 10 kids in 5th finished at 2pm. Started at 9 am. Stopped for a 50 minute lunch.
– Same in _____ Queens, had a 3rd grader go all the way to 2:10 and he told me he still didn’t finish
– I’m a 3rd grade teacher in Queens. Students were still testing up until dismissal
– 4 students tested until the end of the school day.
– 8th grade in Queens…students tested until the very last moment.
– My class started at 9:30 a.m … were still going (posted at 1:22 p.m.)
– It is disgusting. 2 and Half hours plus for 8 year old
– students at my school started testing at 8:30 …there are still students in grades 3 and 5 who are still taking the test as of 12:40…and are no where near finished…there are a few who are crying.
– 3h 10m. Grade 3
– Today (Part 2)…we still have 3rd graders taking it at 2:00. These poor babies started at 9:20.
– 8th grade 5 hours and it wasn’t enough
– Some 3rd and 4th graders still testing at 2:45 – started at 9:30
– 6th grade 3 hrs 45 minutes came up in tears
– There were many students still testing at 1:30- started at 8:30
– We still have about ~10 kids still testing. 6 hours– not including lunch and three breaks
– Because they tried to fit a 3 day exam in 2 days the kids are simply unable to finish. I have tons of kids who are still taking the exam. They started at 8:30 and they have not eaten lunch yet! The school is a mess and trying to figure out where to even put all these kids and yet still have classrooms for the rest of the classes the rest of the day.
– I can tell you that kids in my building started at 8 and at least one in my proctoring room didn’t finish until 2:40 No lunch break for him either.
– One of my special needs 5th grader took 5.5 hours.


It’s Spring Testing Season Again – Here’s Why We Still Refuse

It has been a while. So…

NY state testing begins this week for all in grades 3-8. To show you how absurd these tests are at this point here’s some details about where we are right now and some highlights of what the opt out *cough/refusal*movement has been able to accomplish:

1. There are zero ramifications for anyone (parent or child) who refuses to take the exams. That alone should immediately make you wonder why we waste millions of dollars to administer them.
2. It is still very much unclear what the exam results are used for. The state has put a temporary hold on coupling the exam results to teacher performance. It can’t be used to grade or judge a student, school or district, and the teachers and admin I have spoken with indicated they don’t use the scores for any purpose. The 3rd graders take the exams and move to 4th grade regardless of results. They are with a new teacher, classmates and curriculum. No adjustments are made to teaching style, methods, content, etc. However, this may not be the case everywhere.
3. At the start of this movement, state testing was two separate 3-day windows (ELA 3 days, Math 3 days). As a result of this movement, not only was the window downsized to two days for each subject, but the number of questions was decreased. That would not have occurred without the movement. It is still too many, especially the longer window for computer based testing.
4. The tests will again be untimed. That must be brutal on the children struggle with time management (who doesn’t!) or those who stress and ponder over their answers. How do you tell them to stop? “The bus is coming so you must end the exam.”
5. What’s being tested here? The kids? The teachers? The curriculum? The standards? I’ve STILL not heard NYSED officials clearly state WHY we have these exams. A test this significant can only have one purpose. Having multiple purposes dilutes the outcome.
6. The standards used to guide these tests, and the creation of them, are completely unproven and were in fact an experiment tied to federal funding. No other nation tests this aggressively. No other nation rolls out new standards and tests on them in such a high stakes manner as we did several years back when this movement really gained steam. New standards that teachers hadn’t fully learned about nor prepared for.
7. I think the below statement from the NYSUT is about as accurate as it gets.

“Student performance on the state grade 3–8 tests is contrary to the vast academic successes at the high school level. 60% of grades 3‐8 students are identified as not proficient on the state 3‐8 ELA and Math exams. Statewide proficiency rates that hover around 40% are wholly inconsistent with the excellent performance levels on Regents exams and with rising graduation rates.

It would be reasonable to assume that if students were not proficient on their 3‐8 state exams that they would not be prepared to successfully pass Regents exams. However, this is not the case; for example, in 2016 24% of the 8th grade students that took the 8th Grade Math assessment were identified as proficient, but one year later when most of these students took the Algebra I Regents exam 74% passed. Similarly in 2013, only 31% of 7th graders were proficient on the state ELA exam and four years later in 11th grade, when most of those 7th graders took the ELA common Core Regents exam, the Regents passage rate was 84%. What is wrong with these assessments? They are clearly not measuring student performance and proficiency levels in an accurate manner.”

(As quoted from https://www.nysutorg/news/2018/april/open-letter-on-proficiency-rates)

8. “Over the past three years, Commissioner Elia has listened to the concerns of parents and teachers and made significant changes to the exams as a result,” said Emily DeSantis, spokeswoman for the state Education Department. “It’s up to parents to decide if their children should take the tests, and we want them to have all the facts so they can make an informed decision.” That’s an acknowledgement that we’ve not yet heard. Yes, it is up to parents. Not the school, state or the feds. Finally granting parents, dare I say it, control over their child’s education.

(As quoted from https://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/ela-math-opt-out-test-refusals-1.17901520)

9. The overall cost of these assessments is still unknown, at both the state level and within every individual district. All I see is a guess at costs. My home district is, in my opinion, in major financial trouble. Rising costs of nearly everything, including these tests, and lower enrollment year after year spell a disaster in the making. Tally up the cost for subs alone and you’ll be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide.

That said, the main thought I keep coming back to is this: To date, my eighth grade honors student has yet to take ANY state assessments. There have been zero repercussions. He goes from grade to grade, year to year, subject to subject (now prepping for high school) and there is zero impact of him missing the exams. I ask myself over and over … so what is the point? If he can go this far and do this well, why are we giving these assessments AT ALL? Why can’t all the kids bypass the exams and just be kids, not a data point.

Enough of the global competition for high scores and comparison. We aren’t Finland, nor Singapore, nor Japan.

Bring back the California Achievement Tests (CATs) in grades 4 and 8!!! (Yes, I am that old and I’m partially kidding. No, not really.)

Side note: Look at the picture of the kids sitting at the computer taking the assessments in this Newsday post (here). Adult size keyboards, no room to use the mouse, wrong eye to monitor height, wrong brightness level and room lighting, etc. An awful setup for such a high stakes exam, don’t you think?

Spring 2016 NYS ELA Testing Update – The Feedback

The first week of 2016 New York State ELA testing is complete. The stories of the test takers and those who administer the exams are trickling in via various social media sites, pages and posts. The comments below were posted publicly across many different social sites without names because teachers are under a gag order to not speak about the exams. Fight Club like restrictions. Read it and weep while keeping these words in mind as we prepare for the next round of 2016 NYS testing: Math.

Here we go…

“That several English Language Learner students in a district with intense pressure to test well due to Receivership status sat for 6 hours of testing today. When the tests were taken away from them at dismissal they were still working. These are children. How can anyone support this?”

“I just proctored the 3 grade test in NYC. The first question from the passage about the ” sniff” was impossible to answer. It made no sense. I asked four other teachers and they all had no clue. Many of the questions were tricky and I believe there was no correct answer!!!!! Nothing has changed. Thank god my 3 grader doesn’t sit through this torture. Some kids still testing from 9 am.”

“Here we are again. Another year and the same mess. Attaching book from third grade test. The excerpt is a guided reading level U. Absolutely NOT a grade 3 level.”
[Note: The attachment was missing from the post.]

“In 6th grade there was a poem from the 17th century that the teachers in our building read in COLLEGE. 11th grade level.”

“The 7th grade ELA had a passage that required the students to “read/view” a picture of a tiny ear implant placed inside the ears of guinea pigs. They had to explain in a short response question how the picture contributed to their understanding of the article. The image was ridiculously small and difficult to look at because it was so small…not bigger than 2 inches. It was terrible. Not to mention the unlabeled planning pages for the essay, which are not used for grading, but if the kids needed more room, they could go onto the pages that were supposed to be used for planning. It was a mess.”

“Today’s 4th grade passages is the same thing. I found “The Kite Fighters” by Linda Sue Park – grade equivalent 6.3″

“On the 4th grade test today there were intentionally misleading questions. One involved a quote about ‘a light over your head’ and the answers for what that means included ‘having a good idea’ and something about understanding what’s going on. Either of those could be true. Really difficult especially for my ESL kids who don’t have that colloquial language. Don’t forget that one of the readings involved Mesopotamia. A 6th grade subject.”

“4th grade extended response question was inaccurate. Asked how the character’s feelings toward SHEEP changed in the story. Was supposed to ask how their feelings about sheep HERDING changed. Character’s feeling about sheep was that they smelled badly, that feeling NEVER changed. Feelings about the job of sheep herding changed though, which were excited, nervous, etc. Tests were much harder, longer, and not even close to developmentally appropriate. People still making alot of money off them though! Poor kids”

“6th graders struggled with book 2 and 3. Some worked for almost 3 hours. :(”

“4th grade short response did ask how the the map contribute to the understanding of the content. I had several kids ask me what that meant, and of course I couldn’t help them. I also had the resource room teacher tell me that my ESL student she was working with struggled with that same question. There was also the word “ewe” in one of the passages. Another ESL student raised his hand to ask me what a E – WE was. 4th grade – 3 blank pages in back of book after the word STOP. During middle of test had to interrupt kids to tell them to use the blank pages for planning. 3rd and 5th no blank pages.”

“Five of my fourth grade students spent three hours on book 2… They missed snack and their special… I feel so bad for these young children.”

“Form F 4th grade had that jack border collie passage too. Story told from Jack’s perspective. Jack is a dog but it was hard to figure out. Very challenging, confusing story for a 4th grader. It was an excerpt from Sheep by Valerie Hobbs and you had to read the 1-2 sentence summary at the beginning to figure out who the characters were. If you didn’t know what a border collie was, you would not know that the story was told from a dog’s point of view. The summary did not explicitly state that, you had to figure it out. And the text was confusing. Lots of inferencing required. Again, it’s just an excerpt, decontextualized. The word haughty was used in the passage. And students had to write about how Jack’s feelings about the sheep changed. When did the feelings change and why.  Also very detailed about herding sheep. Used a lot of vocabulary about sheep herding. Kids not familiar with that at all.”

“3rd grade test: I saw that there was an excerpt from a biography of Neil deGrasse Tyson, which was written at a Lexile Level of 780 – definitely above the 3rd grade reading level. In my opinion, that Lexile level sits at a sweet spot between 5th and 6th grade.”

“One question on the 6th grade ELA asks students to read through 60 lines of text to tell which of the chosen 60 lines help you understand the difference between evening and night. Talk about obscure! The written examples aren’t even in the answer choices. They have to look between lines x through x for 4 different choices.”

“Changes to the test???? Two of the passages on today’s 6th grade test were used on last year’s 6th grade test.”

“I’m in a middle school. The kids work till they finish and then are allowed to eat. 9 am to 1 pm for those using extra time. Lunch periods end before that. Not hot lunch for them. Just sandwiches. And no bathroom breaks when they move to the next room to finish.”

“3rd grader threw up at start. Went home, is opting out of rest of tests.”

“Some classes had students still taking the test until 12:30. Kids way late to lunch. Starting time 9:00.”

“6th Grade reading selections were An excerpt from Kathleen the Celtic Knot, A Famous Secret Valley ( Jerry Miller) an excerpt from The Heart of A Samurai ( Margi Presus ?) a poem titled Twilgiht & Calm ( Christine Rossetti) and an article Getting Lost in a Good Book Can Keep You Healthy. Authors not 100% sure if last name is correct. Still need to search them up for lexile levels.”

“Daughter in 5th grade reported that test had a passage and questions that were identical to a passage from last year’s test that her school used as a test prep question (Yasmeen’s Turn). A friend in 6th grade reported the same issue.”

“Tweet NYSED and demand they invalidate the 3rd & 5th grade tests because no planning pages for extended responses are provided.”

“Millions of dollars spent on these tests and they still mess up the directions. We just got an amendment from NYSED fixing their directions…unbelievable. I even questioned it with my class, because it’s something I taught them but wasn’t included in their booklet, even though the directions said it was”

“The 6th grade ELA test was ridiculous. The vocabulary was way above the grade level by at least 2-3 years. Just cruel.”

“We had students testing for almost the whole school day. One of my own 6th graders worked for 4 hours. These tests are ridiculous.”

“A 6th grader told me he/she was still testing into lunch period because so many of the questions had two similar answers and he/she spent a lot of time agonizing over which answer to choose.”

“There are children in the [school name removed] middle school who spent FOUR HOURS TAKING THE TEST. Omg. Those poor kids.”

“A reading passage on todays 4th grade ELA is from “The Kite Fighters”. Grade level equivalent…6.3!! Guided reading level, W!!!Talk about abusive and unfair to test any 4th grade student on this level, let alone Spec Ed and ELL learners. Deplorable. Just absolutely deplorable.”

“Day 2 6th grade…same thing. No planning page. Test started at 8:10 and BOCES called at 9:30 to tell our building there was no planning page. Our admin got on the PA at 8:15 and told the kids there was no planning page for 6th graders, they should use the front cover…hardly any room for anything…ridiculous. About 6 blank pages at the back. Why couldn’t someone freaking proofread a copy of this exam before it prints. REALLY???? Also…in the teacher instruction manual…it says to bubble clearly and if you make a mistake to erase. The scan trons and directions we have tell kids not to erase but to X out and re-bubble. Seriously? Get your shit together people.”

“I just found out from someone that the fourth grade test yesterday had a passage The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. I looked it up and that has a 6th grade reading level!”

“I teach a special population. I teach mostly ELLS. In April and May, I will be pulled out for over TWELVE school days of instruction to administer NY State Exams (6 Days), The NYSESLAT Speaking Test (3 Days), NYSESLAT Listening, Reading, and Writing (3 Days). After one year in the US, these students survive the shell-shock of a new culture, language, school, etc. only to be battered by testing. It’s appalling!”

“Reading selections included: an article titled The Silver Dream Machine by Jan Greenburg and Sandra Gordon. It had a couple ambiguous questions and I had to flip back and forth to review the test to answer what I thought was the “best” answer. Also was an excerpt from “Stranger From the Tonto” by Zane Grey, written in 1956. Cannot verify a lexile level other than AD or “Adult Directed” Had to look up what a crag was afterwards. Vocab words provided were burro, labyrinth, verdure, perturbation and austerity. One question asked was poorly placed as the lines that were baing asked about fell on pages you had to flip to look at. Lastly was Winter Hibiscus by Minfong Ho. Found it on a Maryland website used as a 12th grade resource in 2008. Students had to make connections of symbolism for different characters in the excerpt.”

“One 3rd grader had to sit in the library until 3 pm because he had not completed the writen responses. He was given a lunch break.”

“My 8th grader confirmed that there were no planning pages. She said that the directions said you couldn’t use loose leaf paper so she just didn’t plan. Again the children suffer because of incompetence.”

“I had a child work until 2:30 today!! She ended up missing a math lesson on a new concept that will surely be on next weeks math test!”

“For anyone who thinks this wasn’t a big deal, one of my students left out the entire extended response essay because he thought “that was the planning page that wasn’t going to be graded”. The tests should be thrown out.”

“I would like to add that I am a special education co-teacher for grades 1 and 2. Year after year I am pulled from my teaching assignment to administer these tests. My at risk students need daily instruction. They miss out on 6 days of instruction because I am pulled. There is a substitute crisis across the nation, so no subs are available even if my school would get one for me. I just don’t get to teach and my younger kids suffer.”

“My students noticed at 8:50 am that 7th grade Book 2 had no planning page. Administrators were told. Nothing was done for over an hour. Meanwhile, students eat breakfast between 7-8 am. Some are working till 1 pm or later on the exam. Lunch is over. Not hot food for them (and we are a title 1 school) and no break. Eat and go to class. The students said the proctors were complaining they were hungry and wanted lunch. Really? What about the kids?”

“I administered the 4th grade ELA today. It SUCKED. The last passage was a first person point of view of a sheep dog. They barely explained that in the little explanation above the text, I had to go back myself to confirm that. I tested a small group of children with disabilities. 1 boy from a self contained setting refused to answer the 2 short responses. He was unproductive for 30 minutes I instructed him to skip them and read the last passage and do the extended response. He did and then he sat there playing with his pencils, the gum in his mouth and he drooled on his paper and smeared it all over the test booklet. I asked a hall monitor what to do, she spoke to him. He was still unproductive, I told him, just write anything. He didn’t. He asked if he was allowed to quit. They sent an administrator up to talk to him, she told him to write anything. He played with his pencils, gum and drool some more. They came to get him for lunch which lasted 45 minutes. He is now sitting in a speech classroom, him and a proctor with that stupid, illogical test still in front of him. He is cognitively impaired, but not alternately assessed because his mom won’t let him be and he has been sitting with a test he cannot finish for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I’m sick.”

“For the last two days, I’ve proctored the 3rd grade ELA Assessment with a young Autistic girl. She has moderate speech/language delays and moderate to severe behavior issues. She is a perfectionist who fears failure. Her testing accommodations require a one-on-one testing environment (a speech teacher was present as well), and for the instructions to be read to her. On the first day of testing, she read the stories out loud and had difficulty combining words into meaningful sentences. Her self-stimulating behaviors (rocking/hand gestures) increased and it was clear that her frustration level was escalating. As always, strategies were implemented to help prevent disruptive behavior When faced with answering the multiple choice questions, she repeatedly said, ‘I don’t know”. She had an all-out meltdown. It lasted approximately 15 minutes with her kicking, screaming and hitting the desk. Once she de-escalated, she had a water break and resumed testing… for the next 2 1/2 hours! There were minor tantrums in between with many requests for water/bathroom breaks. On the second day of testing, she sat for 1 hour and 45 minutes. She read the stories out loud (again combing words into meaningless sentences). Her written response answers were, “IDK”… literally!! My stomach and heart ached for her. My answer of, ‘you’re doing a great job, just do your best’ was not the best I could do! That is why I will continue to fight alongside all of the courageous parents for our children… ALL of our children!”

“An ESL student who was only in this country a short time, but started school in September, took this ELA test. She took this test because she and her family trust her new government. This child doesn’t speak or read English yet, but the state wants to test her “reading comprehension” skills. This test was given to her in English (because the state demanded this), her teacher was not allowed to look at what she was writing, and she had unlimited time to finish this day’s test. This test could have been in mandarin for her, it would have made no difference. This sweet child sat there from early morning until the very end of the school day, almost six hours with only a break for lunch, diligently writing her answers to her test. When the teacher finally had to collect her test, she realized that this student copied every single word of the test booklet for her answers because that’s the only way she could answer the questions. This teacher was heartbroken. This test for this child became a language test, not a reading skills test. Had the state truly wanted to test her comprehension then they would have allowed this test to be in her native language. This was not the intention the state had for giving this test. Not only will this child feel like a failure, but soon, her zero will count toward 50% of her teacher’s evaluation. That is the state’s purpose of this test.”

“This afternoon I saw one of my former students still working on her ELA test at 2:45 pm. Her face was pained and she looked exhausted. She had worked on her test until dismissal for the first two days of testing as well. 18 hours. She’s 9.” (Read the full story here)

[Note: The comments above were discovered in public social sites as of April 8, 2016 and are unedited. The solution to all of this is simple: Stop it. Fix it. Scrap it. That’s the wise words of one brave superintendent, Dr. Rella. NY refuses to stop all of it while they are trying to fix it. Madness. They don’t even have enough statistical data to make ANY wise decisions now. But, they will still try to use this testing data to punish.]

Related links:
Errors, opt-outs again cast shadow over state exams (here)
More than half of eligible LI students opt out of Common Core test (here)
Thousands Refuse Common Core Testing, Calls for National Opt-Out and Washington March (here)
Please post your comments & observations about the ELA exams here! (here)
ELA exam 2nd day: major snafu – what should now happen? Leave your comments below! (here)
3rd day of ELA testing; please add yr comments! And “impossibly improbable” reading passage found! (here)
Long Island Optout Facebook Group (here)

I failed the gym test today

My 4 year old came home from her third day of kinder today (which is her third day of public schooling ever) and said: “I failed the gym test today. I didn’t know any of the answers.” She can’t read yet mind you. Fix this mess in New York!

Who do you think is getting a call on Friday morning? Followed by nasty emails to the Superintendent, our Regent, Roger Tilles, and new NYSED Commish Elia. This only strengthens my resolve to fight the madness that is NYS public elementary school testing. We fought this for the last few years to prevent this exact scenario; to prevent our youngest from being exposed to high stakes tests used to evaluate her teacher BEFORE she can even read. Now I feel like I have failed.

Make a 4 year old uneasy on her third day so much so that the first thing she says when she comes home is she failed. How does she even know what passing or failing is? Who does this? We certainly don’t talk to her about tests, and we are very careful in our home conversation about the refusal movement.

The powers that be have lost sight of the meaning of the German word kindergarten: children’s garden.

NY Governor Cuomo’s Comments on Elem Testing: He Said What?

What is going on with the powers that be in NYS government and education? The recent comments of Governor Cuomo are a striking difference from recent comments made by the Chancellor of the state Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch. Add to the mix comments by state legislators and we have the setup for a potential steel cage match in Albany’s state capitol building.

Here’s where we start.

March 31, 2014 (here): Governor Cuomo comments about delaying the impact of the new tests on teacher evaluations at an afternoon event at LIU-Post in Brookville: “I think that parents can now exhale. Students can now exhale,” Cuomo said. “The test scores don’t count.” According to the Newsday report of the event, “Under a deal approved by the Senate and Assembly, Common Core-aligned tests for students in grades 3 through 8 won’t be included on their transcripts through 2018. Further, school districts can’t use the scores as the sole way to determine student placement.”

Fast forward another year to more recent comments.

March 20, 2015 (here): Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever responds to concerns expressed by parents of children with learning disabilities and parents attending a pro-teacher rally by dismissing “…the protests as the tantrum of “special interests.”

April 2, 2015 (here): Dr. Kathleen Cashin, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, representing Brooklyn, pens a statement to Diane Ravitch and states: “As a Regent of the State of New York, I cannot endorse the use of the current state tests for teacher/principal evaluation since that was not the purpose for which they were developed.” She continues, “How can we criticize people for opting out when the tests have not been verified? We need to cease and desist in the use of these tests until such time as we can be confident of their reliability and validity. If tests do meet those criteria, the tests must be released to teachers and to the public after they are given, in the spirit of transparency and accountability.”

April 15, 2015 (here): Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch downplays the opt-out movement and paints parents as confused patsies of a labor action in a discussion with Diane Ravitch on MSNBC. Chancellor Tisch said, “The intent of the test is to give a snapshot of performance and allow parents to know where their children are at any given point in their educational career as compared to their peers.” She continued with this rebuttal to one of Ravitch’s comments: “I would say that the tests are really a diagnostic tool that is used to inform instruction and curriculum development throughout the state.” She later added, “…school districts report to us all the time that they design curriculum around the results of these tests. I would say to our parents that our kids have got caught in the labor dispute between the governor and the teacher’s union.”

April 24, 2015 (here): Governor Cuomo provides the most telling sound bite to date: “The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City. Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.”

“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count,” Cuomo said.

He said what?

Spring 2015 NYS Math Exam – An Inside View

Parents: If you are in the Long Island Opt Out Facebook group make sure you check in this week to get a sense of what the New York State Math exams for grades 3-8 were like. You can just lurk and skim without even posting. Every comment below was publicly posted in that group. No comment posted below was edited by me.

This post follows up my incredibly popular (for this blog anyway) posts that curated the public, anonymous, comments that surfaced in the same group during the week of NYS ELA testing. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.


Anonymous Post:
I’ve received word from a teacher giving the math assessment this morning that “in my 5 years of giving this test this is by far the hardest. One of my top kids in class started crying 4 minutes into the exam” I thought you might like that info as I am foreseeing some really upset children after today.

Anonymous post:
8th grade Math Exam today- linear equations [heavy] unfair distribution
If you are a student who struggles you couldn’t pass.

Anonymous post:
Do you know that children that are in the country for less than a year are exempt from ELA BUT still must take the math test. I have a kid who moved here in September. NO ENGLISH!!! Has made great progress in speaking but still struggles with reading and writing obviously. He can do math bc his parents work with him in both languages. He has to take our math test!!! There is no straight computation. All word problems with several steps involved to solve them. He had no chance. He was in distress.very upset. He will fail and I will be ineffective!!!so unfair to put a kid through this. Yesterday was difficult and today was highly challenging for 8 year old kids.

Anonymous post:
Today teachers were crying!!!! I cried! Today was unfair! Today was abuse- especially for reading disabled kids, ELLs, and even average kid. What are we doing??? As a whole- the test heavily concentrated on fractions and area. Any addition or subtraction was part of multi step problems. It did not show what a kid learned all year. Very wordy- requiring abstract thinking that’s above many kid’s heads. Very sad that kids without translators are forced to sit there for 70 minutes. A girl who has been in the country a short time has been excelling in math but came back saying that test was HORRIBLE! These government officials have no clue what’s going on in these classes!! They need to investigate
(Comment left on the above post included:  “7th grade was so bad yesterday that in addition to those who cried during yesterday’s test, I had two crying before today’s began. Another opted out of the last day after breaking down yesterday, and when we came to the question part of the directions, the only questions were what to do if they get too stressed. ..what are we doing to our children?”)

Anonymous post:
As a school nurse it so difficult watching these kids suffer through this rigorous testing. The number of kids I have seen in the past 2 weeks on test days has doubled and some days even tripled. From stomach aches, head aches, anxiety attacks to throwing up. For those parents who feel their kid needs this test so you can “see how they are doing”, please educate yourself on what these tests are truly about. It’s not about letting your child take the easy way out. Educate your child and yourselves. There is a way to explain why they won’t be taking it that sends a very positive message. From what I have seen in my office, this is no way to treat a young child. This needs to stop.

(Not an anonymous comment below, but I am posting it without a name.)
There is a lot of inferencing and math reasoning needed to be able to function at a high level on this test. Children with reading disabilities and children from foreign countries have very little chance on this math test and not because they are not good at math. I realize that if kids do well it shows they are very good and can apply skills but if it was read to some kids they could do equally as well and it’s unfair. My ELL kids are great at math but now will get a 1 or 2 and it shows they didn’t grow. The work I have seen them do shows me so much more and it’s sad

Anonymous post:
I proctored the 4th grade NYS math test this week for a group of our Special ed children. Some needed the test read to them, which already puts them behind the eight ball. It was just heartbreaking, the kids were in tears, I was in tears. I am not their teacher but I know they have a dedicated, wonderful teacher, yet almost every answer was wrong. Some of the wording was almost purposeful in trying to confuse them. Simply put, it was cruel. I felt that I should have been allowed to make copies of the test & send it home to their parents. Let the parents talk to them about it, the parents have a right to know what made their chlldren struggle and cry during the day! Our district had many children opt out, but some of the ones that didn’t teachers were telling me kids were doodling, filling in dots in patterns, etc. Such a flawed system. This is what will deem our educators “ineffective??”

(Not an anonymous comment below, but I am posting it without a name.)
I have absolutely no words to describe the grade 3 math test today. My only wish is that every parent could see these tests. In 8 years, I have never witnessed anything like this.

Anonymous post:
Fifth grade math question, Day 3, has drawing of a bin labeled 4 ft w, h, l with 3 sections drawn in it. “A recycling bin is in the shape of a cube. The bin is divided into 3 equal sections that each hold different types of paper. The school principal notices that only one-half of one section is filled with paper. What is the volume, in cubic feet, of the rest of the bin that can be filled with paper?”


Part 2: Spring 2015 NYS ELA Exam – An Inside View

The first post in this series was viewed by nearly 9,000 readers at the time of the posting of this update. So many views that I felt compelled to give my readers exactly what they wanted: more of the same. Again, the comments below are not my words. These were all publicly found in the Facebook group, Long Island Opt Out, from the morning of Friday April 17 up until today. Please feel free to comment below or share this post with others. I will also work to compile any new comments this week about the Math exams. No comment posted below was edited by me.

Heartbreaking anonymous post:
I work in a poor neighborhood. A student of mine, a little boy, lost his dad in the fall. I gather his mom either doesn’t work or doesn’t make enough money and they lost their housing situation as well, recently. They are now living in a shelter. In its infinite wisdom, NYS requires that children take the state assessments in the last school they were registered in. So this kid travels from a shelter in Brooklyn to Queens to take the ELA tests. How absolutely ridiculous. As if this kid stands even a remote chance of being successful. What’s more important here? How about some compassion?

Anonymous post:
My son said the third day of third ELA had an excerpt from a book called an American army of two. I googled it but found nothing. He said the content was hard and it had rhetorical questions in it. They were asked why they thought the author asked questions of the readers. He read at a fourth grade level in first grade. He gets 4s on reading in report card. He was so frustrated that his eyes well up with tears. The teacher said she was so sorry but couldn’t help him and he understood. He said he felt like they were not real questions?? He took the test alone with a teacher away from the rest of his class. He does have an IEP. He said a few class members that were strong readers cried that day. He had anxiety about refusing and begged us to to take it. Now we feel awful.

Anonymous post:
3rd grade tests for ela…..3 of my major issues were one reading passage entitled aurora borealis (how are they even supposed to know how to pronounce that let alone know what it is?). A constructed response on why the character was described as swaggered…..total misuse of the term….also there was a question about a shrew. …..I didn’t study the test completely, but read enough to know that I would have issues picking out the right answer bc of the ambiguity of the choices

Anonymous post:
4th grade test: Two short responses for Hattie Big Sky. The first question was describe Hattie’s personality and give two examples to support your answer. The 2nd question was “How were the chickens presented as characters in the passage. Give two examples from the text.” The second question was so abstract that none of the kids I tested were able to answer it correctly. The extended response was a written comparison of those two stories. Pure torture today.

Anonymous post:
I proctored the 5th grade. Day 1 and 3 were awful. So labor intensive. The 3rd grade post was accurate it was so hard. There was a passage about swagger. Yes, swagger. Also a part about the drive thru bank. How many city kids even know what that is? One of my co workers eyes filled with tears when her students left he room

Anonymous post:
8th grade test
Day 3 was awful. The first reading was an excerpt from Jules Verne, around the world in 80 days. There were 7 words defined in footnotes in the first two paragraphs. Generally, if there are that many words on a page that you don’t know the definition of, you should choose a different book. The words were: avaricious, taciturn, conjectures, whist, congenial, grenadier and Monsieur. There were many others that were difficult including sumptuous and valet, which they defined as manservant on Tuesday’s exam, but didn’t on Thursday. The question for this passage was about his relationship with money and how do the words straight laced, & steadfast describe the main character. The turn of phrase in the selection was so difficult that comprehension was nearly impossible. Phrases like ‘the wits of the curious were fairly puzzled’ intimate acquaintances, and itinerant singer, but the absolute best was the reference to Saville Row, as if American 13 year olds would understand that this is a fashionable street in London. There was a sentence in the passage ‘the habits of its occupant were such as to demand little from the sole domestic.’ Honestly this was for 13 year olds.

After that there were two passages (non fiction) on playground safety. Here’s the vocabulary from them:
Bowdlerized, habituation techniques, counterintuitive, common phenomenon, orthodoxy, circuitous, risk averse culture, litigious society, per se, & cognitive. I thought these were hard. Also straight laced, steadfast, scabbard.

Then there were references to a Dan Zanes concert, and these phrases:
‘Far from the tax brackets of the south street seaport’ and ‘assuage paradoxical parental anxieties’

But the kicker was this sentence:
‘Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.’

That sentence was on a test for 13 year old children. I proctored an honors class. No one finished in under an hour, most finished between around 75 -90 minutes. They were exhausted when finished. When I had their class after, I used some of the words on the test in our discussion, and a few kids raised their hands to say they didn’t know what it meant. These kids are going to a specialized NYC HS in the fall. They are bright kids. One of my special Ed students who gets double time was testing until noon. Many regular Ed students barely finished as time was called.

There was a question on the 7th grade test about ‘how does dialogue reflect the author’s purpose’ or something like that. It was awful

Anonymous post:
THE OPTOUT MOVEMENT JUST BOUGHT TEACHERS AND THEIR STUDENTS BACK A DAY OF INSTRUCTION. Instead of being pulled out for a third day of scoring tomorrow, we’ll be back together where we belong: in the classroom (fewer tests to score=fewer days to score). Awesome

Anonymous post:
I was part of the team to grade my district’s 4th grade ELA exams. The state provides sample responses at all levels (1-4) in both the training set and practice set packets for teachers to use as comparative models when grading. In all of the sample essays provided (which, I assume, are copied from real student responses on last year’s field test), there was not a single sample essay that was scored as a “4”. The state cannot even provide a sample examplary essay!

Anonymous post:
At _____ Middle School, the principal was made to read from a script to all parents who refused the test. My district is a high minority, poverty district. Many parents, after hearing “the importance” of the test let their children take the ELA exam. A few parents were yelling at their children for trying to get out of the test. Children were crying. So much for schools being bully free zones!

Public Comment Period for Proposed Changes to NY State Teacher Evaluation Process APPR

The public comment period for proposed changes to New York State’s teacher evaluation process (known as APPR) is now open. To date, I have not been able to locate a date when it closes nor find a link on NYSED’s site that explains this. Others in NY, including senators, have been posting to their social sites about it. Comments should be sent to the NYS Education Department and the Board of Regents through the following email: Eval2015@nysed.gov

On a related note, here’s a great blog post by a teacher from the spring of 2013 when NYSED also had an open window for public input. It appears they just refuse to listen. So while I am hopeful that all the new feedback they receive will have an impact, I am realistic and smart enough to know it won’t.