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)


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!

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

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?

NY Grade 3 Sample ELA in 2005 and 2013

From Kevin Glynn in the Lace to the Top Facebook group: “Printed side by side you would never know they are for the same grade level.”

NYS 3rd Grade Sample ELA in 2005

NYS 3rd Grade Sample ELA in 2013

The 2005 3rd graders taking that “old” ELA exam haven’t even graduated yet. There is no proof that their years of schooling were very “bad” and they aren’t “college and career ready.”


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. http://elafeedback.com/comments/view/-/-

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