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.

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The Furor Over the NYSED Testing Link

I tend to be a pretty level-headed person and I tend to permit people to make mistakes and learn from them. I’ve been helping educators, students, and parents learn to use technology effectively and appropriately for nearly 20 years. Here’s my take on the current NYSED “bad link” scandal rocking social media today (see a complete roundup here).

I think the NYSED link to inappropriate content is a very unfortunate mistake. Most likely no one in NYSED has reviewed all the posted resource sites since first posting. But, they are today I’m sure. I seriously doubt this has anything to do with a hack, and it has NOTHING to do with inBloom. This was human error or someone’s attempt at a joke. One is excusable and one is not.

The quiz site NYSED linked to (http://www.allthetests.com/) is a Web 2.0 tool that can change at a moments notice. I can go make a quiz there right now about anything.  Anyone can see that. This is a site where you can both find AND create tests. Anyone at any time. That’s always the downside of pointing educators to links and online resources. They have to be carefully vetted to see if there is a publicly displayed “gallery” of some kind. When I used to vet sites for K-12, those would be ones I would not have used. Like Wikipedia…you visit a page today and it can change tomorrow.

As far as the ads on the quiz site, I have several web sites and if I suddenly decided to run ads on them, I can do so and add that “feature” to my site literally overnight. I might also not be able to control content in those ads depending on which ad service I use.  Their site has been using the same ad serving service for a number of years now so that doesn’t explain the “quality of the ads” we see today. Did the ad agency change the nature of the ads? Perhaps.

Additionally, I’ll add, NYSED should have a posted disclaimer somewhere that reads something like: “We are linking you to third party sites outside the control of NYSED officials. Please be aware that content can change and sites can be removed without notice. Please proceed with caution.” That’s what I had posted on pages when I setup “web resource” pages of links for educators. That disclaimer should be clearly visible on any page of NYSED that has many links that link outside the NYSED domain. Doesn’t excuse what happened, just adding some clarification.

Find the day/time NYSED added the link to their page, find the day/time those “sexy” quizzes et. al were added to the quiz site and I would speculate that the quizzes were not there when NYSED added the link for their page. If they were, they someone simply did a terrible job at vetting the site for educator/student use. That’s the root of the issue:  what did the allthetests.com site look like at the time the NYSED official added the link to the resource section?

I don’t think this goes to the top to King, nor do I think it is the Commissioner’s responsibility to be checking links. I dislike King’s handling of education in NY as much as anyone else, but I don’t think this is something worth using to try and bring him down. I honestly think this was just a really bad decision and not something malicious, or that the NYSED site was hacked, or event that King “did it” or should know about it. Whoever added the site is in trouble and whoever is in charge of periodically reviewing links is in trouble. I am probably going to take flack for this post and my explanation for the issue. So be it. Are we not allowed to make mistakes? In my opinion, this is really a non issue and certainly doesn’t warrant media attention. I’d be fine with NYSED officials just issuing an apology and saying they have removed the links and checked all links to outside sites found within the nysed.gov domain.

Here’s my challenge to all parents and educators: I can almost guarantee everyone that if you scour your own district, school, and classroom “web resource” pages where someone has posted lots of links for parents, etc. you will find at least one site linking to inappropriate content. I’d bet my next paycheck on it. No not really, but if I could afford it I would.

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Followup: As I suspected, I really don’t think this testing site was “bad” at the time of posting to the NYSED resource page. Visit the Internet Archive and look for yourself using their Way Back Machine.   The first instance of this site containing the inappropriate links an categories, according to the archive is April 8, 2013. If the NYSED official added that link to the NYSED site before then, those nasty categories and tests did not exist. Again, this is the nature of trying to provide web resources for educators and parents and students; links change and need to be reviewed frequently.

Here is the site as of April 8, 2013 https://web.archive.org/web/20130408032437/http://www.allthetests.com/fun-tests-humor-quizzes.php

Here is the site as of March 2, 2013 https://web.archive.org/web/20130302232300/http://www.allthetests.com/fun-tests-humor-quizzes.php

The NYSED cached page that still has the direct link was last updated May 14, 2013. Any of the links on that page or the wording could have been changed that date and I am not sure how easy it is to remove a link from the cached version. I am sure that it is possible though. I can’t be bothered checking the archive for the page revisions to see exactly when the test link was added. For me, it’s been enough on this already.