Testing woes

So testing continues today. My local newspaper, the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, reported the Capital Region did not experience any attendance issues — as some had predicted — with the English Language Arts testing yesterday. Amid the test-stress anxiety, some parents did instruct their children not to take the tests. The Albany Times Union reported a Chatham school in Columbia County expected at least 100 students to opt out. Here’s a Newsday article that 244 students, nearly one-third, of SouthSide Middle School in Rockville Centre opted out.  On Twitter, there was a report that 44 students refused to take the tests at the Springville Middle School in western New York. Dozens of students in the lower Hudson area refused to take the tests.

Here’s one report that features teachers’ feedback on the test. NYSUT has gone on record to make sure the public knows the absurd fact students are taking high-stakes standardized tests based on material they have not been taught.

Feedback I received from an extremely good friend who is a reading teacher is quite chilling. One student she knows is an excellent reader, but a glance at his test paper showed he may have marked as many as 13 out of 30 wrong. Of course, the teachers are not sure because, remember, State Ed no longer allows teachers to grade their own students’ state tests.

Most of my friends’ students struggle with reading so, naturally, they struggled with the test. “One student only answered six of the 30 questions,” she told me. This reading teacher agrees with more rigor and higher standards, but she does not think these tests are fair. She can’t give many details because the test must remain secure.

“I can tell you that third-grade students after reading selected passages then are given a statement and are asked which paragraph most supports the statement,” she said. “That means they have to go back and re-read and, for 8- and 9-year olds, I thought it was far above the level they are at developmentally.”

Coincidentally, this friend just learned she was rated as highly effective. Yet she is certain not a single one of her students will pass the English Language Arts tests. A veteran teacher, she already can see the headlines and hear the television reports when the student scores are revealed. “Not a single student passes, yet teacher is rated highly effective,” she surmised.

She is in a small, rural district so everyone will know who she is. Actually, since “everyone” knows, respects and trusts her, I’m betting she will be okay. I’m betting parents will realize the problem was the test, not the teacher. They will realize the test was unfair.

Talk about unfair. A seventh grade teacher said one of the worst aspects was reading 11 minutes worth of test directions to three special-needs kids. “They were lost before they even opened the test,” he said.

Test directions are not secure. You can find out a lot about the tests on State Ed’s website.

Rather than make you go through all that, here’s one sample of what teachers can tell students with a disability.

For Book 3, you will be doing some reading and writing. Read the passages and answer the questions.
All of your answers must be written in Book 3. If you need more space to continue or complete an answer, you may use any available blank space in Book 3.
Please make sure to clearly note and label the continuation of your answer. Also make sure that you are not
using space that has been provided for another question. Remember to write complete and thorough
answers and include details and examples from each passage.
Make sure to read the questions carefully in both Book 2 and Book 3. Start with Book 2 and when completed, continue with Book 3. Most questions will make sense only when you read the whole passage. You may read the passage more than once to answer a question.
When a question includes a quotation from a passage, be sure to keep in mind what you
learned from reading the whole passage.
You may need to review both the quotation and the passage in order to answer the question correctly. When you see the words GO ON at the bottom of a test book page, go on to the next page. When you come to the word STOP at the end of Book 3, you have reached the end of today’s test session. You may go back and check your work in both books. You must work independently, and you may not speak with each other while the test is being administered.

Are there any questions?

What did you think about the tests?



  1. Don Carlisto April 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Parents have joined the test boycott in my community as well. My seventh grader is not participating in the testing. http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/536408/Parents-opting-kids-out-of-state-tests.html?nav=5008

  2. Kathy Reiser April 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    I am writing from Buffalo, NY area. I had 8th graders in my testing room today. Out of 17 kids, 7

    did not finish. Across my grade, more than half the kids did not finish, or the final essay in ten

    minutes or less. This is not quality testing. I had several kids break down in tears. This can’t be

    good for anyone! Aside from my APPR rating, I just feel bad for what this is doing to our kids.

  3. Chris Cerrone April 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    We are looking for more testing issues from the ELA exam here: http://atthechalkface.com/2013/04/17/new-york-ela-day-2-disaster-fail-pearson-nysed/

    • Betsy Sandberg April 18, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks Chris
      After spending three hours with 152 teachers deeply pained about testing issues last night, I understand how high emotions are running. Deeply painful. So please, realize I am not trying to censor anyone. I only offer the friendly reminder that tests must remain secure. If teachers have concerns about validity of specific test questions, they should first go to their union rep. Of course, general issues with test procedures, like not having enough time, overly long or complicated directions, etc. are fair game.

  4. Tammy L April 18, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    I have a 7th grade honors class testing and during the first two days 6 out of 20 did not finish. They are worried they will not do well. It is destroying their self esteem and confidence. Some came into testing today worried they would not finish.

  5. Jennifer Field April 18, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    After two days of the ELA exam, the eighth graders have had enough, and they are the eldest of the students who are being forced to suffer through these state-wide examinations. Honestly, the high school students have a three hour Regents exam for one day. Here and now we have elementary and middle school students being subjected to three days of work… 4 ½ hours. (This doesn’t even allow for accommodations for students with IEPs who may have double time. Interestingly enough, students with IEPs usually have a shorter attention span as well.)
    Format of the test: Day 1: I ask this… isn’t it possible for the state to assess how these students are doing with half the questions and half the reading passages? Did there have to be 6 passages on day 1 with 42 questions? Was it really necessary? At least 25% of the questions had multiple answers. Is it necessary to create that kind of stress in the students? As an adult with a Masters Degree it took me 70 minutes to complete day 1 of the test, without filling in bubbles or checking over my work. That leaves 20 extra minutes for the students, of varying degrees of intelligence, to fill in bubbles and check over their work. Seriously? Day 2: Today it took me 72 minutes to do book 2 and 3, without filling in bubbles, and without writing out my constructed response and essay questions. Again, let’s do the math. That leaves 18 minutes for everything else. My students did not have enough time. They WANTED to do well, they really tried… but I had to take their tests from them. One student said, “You know Mrs. Field, that was the worst essay I have ever written in my life, and it was supposed to be my best.” How am I supposed to respond to that? The written passages were TOO LONG. If the state wants to give four books… then divide it over 4 days. Today they had 21 multiple choice questions, 3 short response and 1 extended response… in 90 minutes, along with 5 long passages to read of varying levels of reading complexity. Tomorrow they will receive 90 minutes for 5 short response questions and 1 extended response. Are you telling me that that is an equity of time? Again, seriously?
    I don’t know who is making up these tests or whose idea it is to create stress in students and teachers… but that person, or those people, has/have done a superb job. I love the fact that these tests are supposed to determine which kids are in AIS and whether or not I am an effective or ineffective teacher. After yesterday and today, and after teaching for close to 20 years, I am thinking I just may fall in the area of developing. Thanks for the boost to the ego. Thanks for letting the parents and administration of New York State think that their children are being taught by morons. Fantastic way to promote unity. I love it.
    AS A PARENT of twins in the seventh grade, who both have averages in ELA and Math above the 95 percentile, and who both have consistently received high threes or fours on each exam from third grade on through… my OWN CHILDREN are stressed. They are afraid of what this is going to do for them and the classes they will be able to take next year and in high school. They are both conscientious students and understand the importance of trying their best and working hard. The state is making them feel as if their intelligence isn’t worth a penny. These are two children who are involved in athletics, clubs, karate, musical instruments, and this year their Odyssey of the Mind team is going on to the World competition. These are not average or below average students. Yet, the state has made them feel worthless. Thank you to the state. Thanks for making it that much harder to get my children and all other children to value school.
    What are the state tests telling you? Well, some kids can rush through tests and do poorly… and some kids can take their time… and do poorly… because they didn’t finish… or had to rush at the end. Is the state test going to tell you that I, or my children’s teachers can teach them well? No, it’s not. Is the state test going to tell you that my own daughter has written many books? Is the state test going to tell you that another little girl’s father just died? Is the state test going to tell you that another young boy’s father was just diagnosed with cancer? Where is that in your statistics? Are the students who live in Brooklyn the same as the students who live in Sharon Springs or the same as the students who live in Utica, Buffalo, Binghamton, Potsdam, Verona? The experiences that each student and each teacher draws on from life are different. Yet the state assessments are making us all into robots. Wow, this is something to show to the educators from other nations. Why would anyone move to NY?
    The shift in the common core to work in more non-fiction and change some of the questioning strategies in the area of ELA is not a bad one. However, don’t you think most good teachers incorporate a mix of non-fiction and fiction in their curriculum? However, most of the non-fiction, I would bet, that teachers incorporate, have something to do with history… not with science. Why? Because if I am reading a historical fiction book about the Holocaust, that is what my pairing non-fiction will be about. If I am reading a historical fiction book the Civil Rights Movement, wouldn’t it make sense for us to read Martin Luther’s “I have a Dream Speech”? Most books that students read at these levels will tie in with history. If you want to give the kids a science test… then do so.
    Either way, the tests are not measuring anything except anxiety. Well, New York State gets a “4” for its rating of the area “anxiety-producing”. New York State gets a “0” for its rating of the area “how well our students and teachers are faring”. Where is the common sense? Where is the courtesy? Don’t we want our students to be critical thinkers? How is this test proving that? It’s not. It is proving that New York State will do anything for funding, do anything to keep the jobs at the state level, and do anything to keep the test making companies in business.
    I’m sorry, but my 22 eighth grade students worked hard yesterday and today. In my book, they all get 4’s for effort. In my book, they all get 4’s for having a positive attitude. In my book, they all get 4’s for voicing their opinion. Unfortunately, in New York State’s book, that means I, their teacher, get a “1”.
    Jennifer Field
    ELA Teacher of Grades 8, 10, 12,
    Parent of Twins in 7th Grade
    And a whole variety of other involvements that I won’t bore you with

    • Betsy Sandberg April 18, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      Jennifer. Thank you for telling it like it is. Frankly, there is no number high enough to rate you.

  6. Jennifer Field April 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Here is a direct quote from the NYSED website on the Implementation of the Common Core Standards: “Instead, the results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school. ” Is the department of education telling me that these state tests are going to tell me whether or not my child is performing at a level, or learning enough (with rigor) to be able to attend college? I think as a parent, I will be able to assess that in a way that is much more accurate than a test. Are these tests going to reflect all of the other factors that are important in being able to handle college besides their academics? Are these tests given to students ages 8-14 really going to explain developmentally whether a child is ready for college or a career? Every child develops psychologically at different times in their lives. So, if my child gets a “2” and is “not meeting the standards” does that mean that he/she is destined to work in a job making minimum wage? So, this realistic picture, so to speak, is a fantastic way to tell a child…”Yay, you’re a genius, you passed the test of the common core… you are ready for college….”… or “Nope, sorry, you don’t qualify for college, you didn’t receive a score high enough to show you are ready for college…” Good luck!

  7. Richele Mollica April 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    I agree with Jen whole-heartedly. I work in the district her children attend. They are bright as are many many of our children. Critical thinking comes with many things, nonfiction is only a very small part of that. This testing is too too much in my opinion. The Regents exam is not too bad, having previously given the 7th grade test, I am familiar with the changes and I believe it is extreme. The smartest children will have a difficult time sitting that long over that many days, and on top of that, that is only ELA. When are the math exams? Ugh!!!

  8. Tracy Richmond April 20, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    It amazes me that NYSED actually expects 8-11 year old children to be able to remain focused for over 70 minutes. I teach 3rd grade and my students barely finished the tests on Day 1 with little or no time to go back and check their answers. Day 2 was a COMPLETE nightmare. Between 15 minutes of directions, then having to read 4 stories and answer multiple choice questions, short response questions and an extended response, my students were fried. I had more than 5 kids crying by the end because they didn’t finish the test and didn’t want to “fail”. My brightest student didn’t finish the test because she was so concerned with planning for her extended response and highlighting the information in the text that she didn’t have the time to actually write her essay. What amazes me even more is that we give students with special needs extended time to complete the test, BUT we take away all the accomodations that they are use to receiving while in the classroom. How about all the ESL students? We can read the directions to them, but they have to read the passages themselves and answer the questions on their own. How do we expect a 3rd grade ESL student to read a story about a blowfish and understand idioms and figurative language? Teachers spend so much time trying to help students feel confident with their abilities and good about their accomplishments, all to be taken away in a matter of 3 day-210 minutes of testing!!!!!!

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