Spring 2015 NYS ELA Exam – An Inside View

UPDATE: A Part 2 for this post can be found here.

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 ELA exams for grades 3-8 were like. You can just lurk and skim. Everything posted below was publicly posted in that group. No comment posted below was edited by me.

Understand as you read these comments below that it clearly shows that THESE tests are not about the students. It isn’t about how much they know, how well they write, how well they find facts, etc. Very many of the questions have multiple good answers and the little minds have to choose the best one. And quickly. Note the very high reading level necessary for the passages. Additionally some of the questions are embedded field tested questions meaning they don’t count towards the scores, but do count against their time. It is obvious to me that the tests were designed for student failure…no doubt in my mind.

This quote was posted as a comment in a different group regarding the exams themselves: “I would like to remind parents: after they are scored, you have the right to view your child’s test ELA book 2,3 and math book 3. It’s in the administrators manual page 46.” Ask your test taking friends to do that for you if you can!

Anonymous post:
“3rd grade test. 3 passages. 7 mc, 3 short response paragraphs. I extended response which is an essay. First passage why do animals play. Fair and mc was ok. Second passage about a girl coming over from China separated from her parents etx. Questions required time and thinking. Higher level. Third passage about drag racing short response was really tough kids god stuck and many siding get to finish test and last question which was ok. Not enough time and many tears again. I feel like an imbecile. Quote from smart student.” (Comment on this post included: “The China passage and questions required inferencing on an adult level. It was ridiculous! Our students are set up to fail.”)

Anonymous Post:
“One of the third grade stories today was an excerpt from a book called eating the plates. According to scholastic it has a grade level equivalent of 5.2 and a 720 lexile level which is on the high side for an 8 year old. Another reason why these tests are not fair.”

Anonymous post:
“Today’s third grade ELA had passages from Drag Racer. Grade level 5.9 and interest level 9-12th grade.”

Anonymous post:
“Today’s 4th grade assessment had a passage from “The Clay Marble” from Mingfo Ho. I googled it. Here’s the grade level: Interest Level Grades 6 – 8, Grade level Equivalent: 6.8, Lexile® Measure: 860L, DRA: 50, Guided Reading: V”

Anonymous post:
“This mornings ELA exam was pure child abuse! There were 5 passages (2 which appeared on last years assessment). Each passage was 2+ pages long. The kids had their 70 minutes to complete 30 questions. Of the 30 questions 17 required the students to look back at various paragraphs! Most of my children didn’t finish and were very upset that they might have disappointed me or their parents when in truth many adults wouldn’t have been able to look back and find the correct answers in a 70 minute time frame. The students were deflated as they tried to find the best answers when MANY of the questions had more than one possible answer to choose from. Children appealed for help but all we could do was pat them on the back and say “keep trying your hardest”. How awful we felt that we couldn’t comfort or help OUR kids on a test that was so far above their level. Of the 10 children in my room during the assessment, I had three gifted and talented students and only 2 kids who receive remediation- they all struggled! Word back from my colleagues in 4th grade was more of the same. Instead of 6 2-page passages like they had last year, students had 5 3-page passages. The vocabulary used most adults wouldn’t be able to define. Overall we had a school of deflated students. I’d also like to point out that their were TONS of grammatical errors. I’d love to share but we are under lock and key!”

Anonymous post:
“Are You Smarter Than a 4th Grader? Well, here are the words you would need to read (decode) and comprehend. Now some of these words may seem okay, but in the context of many being grouped in the same passage, it is overkill. The words with parenthesis were defined with a sidebar. But still, too much fluff! stifling, ajar, hassock (a padded footstool), erratically, frenzied, rabic, illuminated, peculiar, Canuck, plodded, “the crusty guardian”…crusty?, dour, rummaged, floundered, blithely, insurmountable, obscured, obliterated (wiped out or blocked), event horizon (the outer layer of the black hole), scrutinizing (examining or observing with great care), summoned, astounded, maneuvering, arsenal, precautions, straggle, hemp, stammers, coincidence, enormous, glimpsed, precious, whittle, triumphantly, awestruck, gunnysacks, plowshares, laden, wordlessly, encased, refuge, assurances, amulet.”

Anonymous post:
Fourth grade day 3 passages from WHICH WAY TO THE WILD WEST BY STEVE SHEINKIN Lexile 940
HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson Lexile 700 but lists interest level grades 6-8
IF WISHES WERE HORSES BY NATALIE KINSEY WARNOK Lexile 796

Anonymous post:
“5th grade test OUTRAGEOUS! Children had to read over 3,000 words and answer 42 questions that were sooooo ambiguous and such difficult language. All this in 90 min. Many gave up. Just bubbled in. Some didn’t finish. Just wrong.”

Anonymous post:
“The second reading in 6th grade exam given today was titled A Master Teacher by Helen Bledsoe. It was a story about Confucius and how he was credited with the exam system in China. Printed in bold letters on the second page was: Let exams do the ranking
It spoke about how people had to take exams and how those that did well received positions in government based on the results. We were appalled and angry that this found its was onto the exams today. To us it spoke to how little NYSED and Pearson care about parent wishes, students and the testing climate and quietly “attacked” it yet again.”

Anonymous post:
“Here is what middle school kids were subjected to today… 6 lengthy passages to read and 42 questions to answer in 90 minutes. The passages were boring and included subjects and words that the children would not know. When was the last time you used cherimoya, mirth, or bethought?”

Anonymous post:
“The grade 6 test was ridiculous. 6 lengthy passages of 2-3 pages and 6-7 questions based on each passage that required students to constantly to locate paragraph numbers to figure out answers. Within 90 minutes a student had to read all the passages and answer the questions. So that means 15 minutes per passage. Lets pretend that a student took 1 minute to read and answer each question, that would take 7 minutes per passage leaving a total of 8 minutes to read and comprehend the 2-3 page passage. My students were taught all year to annotate / jot notes in the margins. Ummm that is what they were doing as the time was ticking….tick ..tick….tick….tick. I had two students my two that are reading at a 9th grade level able to complete the entire test. The rest of my students had to play color in the bubbles because they ran out of time. They had to guess / select any answer for at least the last 12 questions. This is an adequate measure of my students reading? This is OKAY? This is developmentally appropriate? THIS MY FELLOW EDUCATORS IS RIDICULOUS, UNFAIR, ABUSE OF POWERS, WASTE OF TIME and downright SAD and SICK! My students have worked so hard all year to be treated like this? To feel “dumb” to be graded and labelled with a number? I am so fed up with the profession I so LOVED. My dream job was ROBBED from me. My students self-esteem that I have built up all year was ripped from them today.”

Anonymous Post:
“The NYS Assessments should be used in a court, as evidence of child abuse! NYS ELA Grade 6 Day 1 had a passage, written by a British author in the 1800s, with a readability/ text complexity range from Grade 9-College!”

Anonymous Post:
“6th grade test was ridiculous and frustrating to all. Some passages were readable, but the majority of the questions focused on text structure and specific lines of the text. Students were forced to continuously return to the text to analyze lines for almost every answer choice, which made it virtually impossible to finish in 90 minutes. Most of the selections were science based and a poem was two pages long and way too advanced for sixth graders.Vocabulary was so far over their heads in several passages as well. There were some questions where teachers could not determine the correct answer. It was heartbreaking to watch students struggle and give up. By the end, many were randomly bubbling just to “finish”. This test is no where close to bring an accurate measure of skills taught in any 6th grade ELA classroom!”

Anonymous Post:
Grade 6 Day 3: Open the booklet to see an article titled ” Nimbus Clouds: Mysterious, Ephemeral, and Now Indoors”. The word ephemeral was also used in the text and there was no footnote! I know several adults who could not define this word! After reading this painful article, they were then asked again how a photograph helps them understand certain lines of the text! The paired passages were both focused on the relationships between dogs and their owners. Here are more vocabulary words – paroxysm, sufferance (footnoted) clamorous, furlong, “queer throw back trait” (not footnoted). The children were very confused because people did not have names in the story, but the dogs did. The second paired passage was “That Spot” by Jack London, written in 1908. Again, very confusing with a lot of old English and extremely complex sentences. Vocabulary included “beaten curs”, “absconders of justice” (in the same sentence) surmise, “savve our cabin” , and “let’s maroon him”. Students were asked to determine how the author’s use of the word “that” repeatedly in front of the dog’s name shows the narrator’s relationship with the dog. Think of how difficult this must’ve been not just for general Ed students, but also for our ELL’s and Students with Disabilities! They were then also asked to determine the theme of a paragraph! Most English teachers will tell you that theme is the message the author is trying to convey throughout a WHOLE text. Asking the theme of one isolated paragraph is ridiculous! The essay was a comparison of the challenges of both dogs, which isn’t a poor question. However, the texts were both so difficult for the kids to understand that it made it difficult for them to organize their thoughts. Throw in the fact that they once again had a time limit of 90 minutes and you guaranteed frustration, anxiety, and many not finishing. Thank goodness this test is over!

Anonymous post:
“I’ve proctored the 7th grade ELA this morning and the test has become even more difficult then last year. In one section the students had to read a story and the only question regarding it was a writen response question that asked “how does the dialogue add to the meaning of the story? List two details to illustrate your point”. 11-12 year olds are not able to do this. It was devastating watching them try. They all had no idea what the question was asking. The multiple choice questions asked them to read stories and define difficult words using context clues. However every answer to define the words used even higher vocabulary so even if they could figure out the meaning of the word in the passage was they weren’t able to answer because the had no idea what the definitions of the words in the answer. I would compare the vocabulary in the answers to SAT words”

Anonymous post:
“Grade 7: Excerpt from Under the Lilacs by Alcott. Published in 1878. Included 10 footnoted vocabulary, some with 2 in one sentence. It also included “old” English such as “recognising”, “humourous” and “attind”. There was also Gaelic dialogue mixed in with the vocabulary to really add to students’ confusion. It was extremely difficult overall and most did not finish on time.”

Anonymous message:
I think it is safe to make an assumption that multiple versions of the ELA test are given. That being said, is it reasonable to question IF all the tests are equal? Do all districts receive tests with the SAME number of passages ? Are some students burdened with MORE READING than others to obtain the same number of answers? Are lexiles equal? Is the totality of all the words read in the passages the same for all students? How can a test be standardized if there are multiple versions? Could there be a purposeful distribution of tests so that districts continue to maintain certain standings?

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2 Comments

  1. Spring 2015 NYS Math Exam – An Inside View | The "999"ers: Something is not right.
  2. Part 2: Spring 2015 NYS ELA Exam – An Inside View | The "999"ers: Something is not right.

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