Feedback on the NYS ELA Exams

The information within the site linked here is perhaps some of the most troublesome I’ve read to date regarding the new NYS ELA exams. Kudos to Lucy Calkins the Robinson Professor of Literacy, Teachers College of Columbia, for setting up the site and opening it up to educator and parent feedback. She is also the Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Here’s the link to the full list of comments.

Here’s a brief sampling of some of the comments. I picked out only a few of the comments found on the Grade 3 page since my son is currently in that grade. This is reform, right? This will help America “catch up” to the top school systems of Finland, Singapore, Japan, and elsewhere, right? ‘Cause that’s how they do it there, right?


Subject: Observations Grade: 3

“My students have sought me out often in the weeks before and during the test. Their anxiousness is visible on their face. I walked them through their strengths, but the responses I received were worrisome. The children felt that this was not a test for what they had achieved but a test to trick and deceive them.

This is the exact opposite of what good education means. It is absolutely fine to assess growth and achievement, but when students find a test to be an obstacle and a “trick” that looks to foul them up, one has to wonder about the purpose and impact on our children.

Later, on Thursday I was approached by students of mine that are now in 4th grade. They were dismal about the whole experience. They felt so prepared as good readers and writers and believed the test was designed to fail them. I tried to reassure them, that this was an assessment of learning and achievement, but I worried that this was not the case.

As a teacher, I believe that if the students feels so usurped by the actual test, than there is something wrong here. Most of the children who reached out to me are very strong students, and they were concerned that they might not achieve a 3 never mind a 4. The anxiety grew when the students saw the first day of testing. I believe that if testing is grade appropriate, the children should recognize that they can achieve well. Since all our grade levels are teaching to the standards, it is unreal that our students would feel that the test is out of sync with their learning. So instead of having a publishing company prepare the test, why not have teachers who know, truly know and teach the CCS prepare the test, so that it matches the expectations. In my mind, it’s abusive to create a test that puts off high achieving students and makes them feel threatened and at a loss.”
Anne Terese Colao – Teacher
Subject: Observations Grade: 3

“I alway try to remain positive in times of change. I saw some positives on day one on the the third grade exam as that was the grade I taught for many years before I became an administrator. Some of the inferential questions were excellent. The rereading that the test questions demanded was great. The reading selections were wonderful. The only question I have is it is reasonable to expect that average third graders can think at this level? If they can, then by all means, let us go for it as this will be a fun way to teach. However, if they are still more concrete thinkers then let’s hold off. My recollection as a third grade teacher is that my really bright students could think in this way but maybe that was because I wasn’t teaching them in the right way. Many questions are out there still for me as far as what we can expects and what we should push for? Day two had lots of figurative language and metaphor and again what can we expect from 8 and 9 year olds? There is no doubt in my mind that the test are too long and I believe they should be scaled back to two days, at least for the third graders. But the million dollar question is what is the appropriate amount of rigor which is reasonable to expect from a certain grade level, in particular third grade? I am not sure we know. I am not opposed to the common core or increased rigor…just please make it reasonable for the age level and please don’t make them cry.”
Molly Marcinelli – Principal
Subject: Observations Grade: 3

“My students were taught to read CLOSELY and analyze the text while reading. Given the length of the passages,the text complexity,and the number of passages within each session, my students were unable to apply the skills they were taught AND complete the test within the time given. The state shortened the time allotted for sessions, while lengthening the requirements the students had to fulfill within each session. How does this measure accurately what the students can do?”
Dawn O’Donnell – Teacher
Subject: Observations Grade: 3

“It is inexcusable to ask a child with a disability to sit for a 70+ minute reading test for three days in a row. Based on methodically taken data, teachers know well before the administration of the ELA the strengths and weaknesses of their students.
Although the long term emotional and educational damage may not been evident until these children are adults, I can confidently say that feeling like a failure never has served any child well.”
Anonymous – Teacher
Subject: Observations Grade: 3

“Most of my above grade level readers could not finish day 2 or 3 because they have internalized the close reading strategies so well they didn’t have time to finish. I had several students not even have enough time to start the extended response question! What a way to knock down a student’s confidence by giving a test that most educated adults could barely finish in that amount of time!!!!!”
Anonymous – Teacher

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