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)


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?”


LI Education Forum Summary: The King Is Still Not Listening

Topic: NYS Education Regents Reform Agenda, blah, blah, blah
In attendance: NYS Education Commissioner, John King, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch (not this one, the real one), State Senator John Flanagan, and lots of special interest groups.

I have to say, tonight was powerful. The passion, energy, commitment, and dedication of our Long Island parents and educators was palpable in Ward Melville High School tonight. Tomorrow it is your turn Mineola area!

Last spring, before my wife and I made our final decision to have our son refuse the NYS assessments, I attended a parent/educator meeting in Mt. Sinai. The meeting was very well attended on just a week’s notice. Again, I thank Jeanette Deutermann for her tireless efforts to both raise awareness of the misguided NY educational reform agenda and for inviting me to that forum. I left that forum feeling inspired, educated, and determined. I vividly recall coming home that night and saying to my wife: “Dear, we just found ourselves a cause around which we can rally.” Actually, I don’t think I said it that nicely as a result of drinking a beer, or two, at the time. That was my first “no turning back” moment. Tonight was my second.

For starters I missed my fellow green lacers from the Lace to the Top group and my fellow district parent advocates from SCAPE outside. I arrived later than planned (but did make nearly 17 traffic lights in a row all the way from the south shore to Old Town Rd – all green lights) and wanted to rush inside since a friend was holding a seat. Thank you, Jane St. Pierre, for attending. It really means so much to me and my family to have your support, insight, and expertise. So I missed all of you “cool kids” hanging out stirring up trouble literlaly on the corner. Mark, Kevin, Jeanette, Sara, Janet … next time. I did arrive with 12 22″ green glow-stick-necklaces, proudly wore mine inside, and drove home will all of them in my windshield. I also did go out to look for you a little after the mid point, but then returned to sit with the overflow crowd in the cafeteria. Out of guilt for missing everyone, I came home and forced myself to have a bowl of green ice cream. It was terrible. I did spot the educational rockstar, Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joseph Rella literally standing in the back the entire time after coming in from hanging out with the cool kids.

The crowd. What can I say. Were they loud? Yes. Were they sometimes rude? Yes. Did the Commissioner expect anything else? No. The way these “public” forums are setup, the organizers left themselves open for these types of passionate outbursts. That and the fact that Commissioner King refused, yet again, to address any questions presented to him in these forums. He literally opened his first talking segment with, “Let me tell you why 45 states adopted the Common Core…” When you see someone like Commack Superintendent Dr. James cut off after a measly two minutes you ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Of course, every speaker went over time. The holding up of the time warning signs right in the field of vision for the speakers was a little much in my opinion. Here we have years of frustration all boiling over and you are supposed to package it up nicely into a nice 2 minute box. Not going to happen.

Speaking of packaging things up nicely … have you seen the video of PJSTA President Beth Dimino presenting her case at the forum? She was one of the first few to speak and it was shocking that she did not have that much to say. I mean she only had 50 letters, and mailed 300 others, asking for Commissioner King’s resignation. Maybe that just wasn’t enough letters? I bet we can drum up a few more. She had her red on for public ed and her green lace around her neck. Standing ovation #1.

My view of Beth’s powerful message is here.

I don’t have a list of speakers, but up to the point I left, they were all really good. Even the ones I may not have agreed with 100% were still making an effective case for their message. These were all points we could sit down at the table and discuss with the NYSED officials and the Board of Regents, but you see, that will just never happen. This is clearly a dog-and-pony show, smoke-and-mirrors, or whatever other over-staged phrase you want to use (feel free to comment below with some good ones.)  This King is still not listening.

I was proud to listen to Sachem Schools Wenonah elementary principal, Christine DiPaola speak. She made very powerful comments about every educational reform item that concerns me as a Sachem parent. If I can find her video or transcript, I will repost it here. I am sorry to have missed the other two Sachem speakers. Principal DiPaola was standing ovation #2.

As the speaker is called from the Smithtown school district, I am thinking, “I wonder what she will say considering I saw some resistance last spring from Smithtown with regards to the parent refuse movement.” I have to say, Smithtown parents and educators your Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Bradshaw spoke very eloquently about this current mess. I sense some support there and hope it was genuine. I believe she was standing ovation #3.

There was another star tonight and that was Eric Gustafson from the Three Village School District. Watch for yourself and you’ll see why he received standing ovation #4.

There were some quotes and quick moments that stood out.

– “The Mommies in NY don’t abuse their children.” –Beth Dimino
– Paraphrasing this one: Please explain to me Mr. King why I was rated 19/20 last year and only 11/20 this year. I am the same person. I lead my students the same. –Longwood Middle School Principal, Dr. Levi McIntyre
– “What has happened to the common sense of the Common Core? If this intiative does fail it will be due to pilot error with you and the state at the controls.” –Sachem Schools Wenonah Principal, Christine DiPaola
– “What about the kids? What about the kids?” -Yelled by a special interest group member from the back of the auditorium

And my favorite one-liner of all: “We agree more than we disagree about these points.” – John King

Is that so?

One of the things that really struck me while I listened to Commissioner King provide a “timed” response three different times was exactly what others online have said about him, and his speeches: he did not once mention the students. Hours of thoughtful, passionate pleas from these many educators and parents who see what all these new education reforms are doing to these kids presented before him and he doesn’t once mention the students, the children. Every single reform buzz word/phrase was used. He barely, I mean barley, remotely referred to anything the speakers mentioned. He picked up on a keyword or phrase like “professional development” if someone mentioned that. Then he’d go on and on that he’d help and he’ll get more money, but it never addressed the point the speaker was making about professional development, or whatever else the topic might have been. He has failed his Common Core listening skills module.

And here’s a few online comments I just discovered:
– ” Tonight I heard such articulate speakers ask very intelligent questions and Commissioner King did not answer any if them.” -LM
– “So proud of all the amazing people who spoke on behalf of the children tonight and ALL the green laces that were inside and out! Bad news…. King is STILL NOT LISTENING….” -JR
– “If there is a better parent organizer than New York Ed Commissioner John King, I have yet to meet him! He has single handedly turned thousands of parents in New York State into education activists!!!” -MN

A common comment from the audience during a lull, was: You’ve rallied the mommies. Something of that sort. My response … don’t forget about the daddies, too! So, that’s all I can recall from memory from tonight.  I urge all New York residents to get out and attend one of these meetings. Don’t sit there and complain all day about teacher pay, standards, testing, your taxes paid to the schools. Listen to these people. Hear their message and understand the concerns. Don’t be like Commissioner King and pretend to listen knowing full well your mind is already made up.

Here’s some local media coverage of the event.

Patchogue Patch:  State Ed Commish Slammed in Common Core Forum
Port Jefferson Patch:  Realtime Live Updates (now archived)
Newsday:  Hundreds attend East Setauket forum about state testing
News12 Long Island: LI Residents Gets Heated at Common Core Forum
Times Beacon Record North Shore of LI: State Education Commissioner Faces Heated Criticism

Note: I edited the text above to include the name of my “friend” who held my seat after receiving her permission to do so. The original wording when first posted kept her anonymous. That is no longer needed.

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