Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This year's NYS/Pearson ELA exams: an Epic Fail

UPDATE from 3rd day: Pearson Always Learning But Never Getting it Right; turns out they made big errors on scoring Gifted and Talented exams which were only found because parents were allowed to examine the tests and identified the mistakes themselves.  See the Pearson press release, and DOE's here.  Of course, the state is refusing to let parents examine the Pearson ELA or math exams -- so there's no way we will know just how many errors are embedded in them as well.

As for the third day of the ELA:
Even some of those kids who had managed the first two days, decomposed and fell apart the 3rd day of testing. Some vomited, cried, and got asthma all because of unfair, overly long and highly flawed exams that are being used for invalid purposes.  There are reports of even more product placements, added to the long list below, including Nike shoes and iPods.  I am quoted in the Daily News and the NY Post about how passages  pulled straight from Pearson textbooks used elsewhere in the state disadvantaged NYC children, and s the Commissioner to invalidate those items, as he did with the Pineapple section last year.  Let's see what he does. His email is jking@mail.nysed.gov.

UPDATE: The reviews are in, and the consensus among parents, students and teachers is that this year's NYS/Pearson ELA exams were even worse than expected.  

The tests were too long, the questions confusing even for teachers, and many students ended up in tears.  See just a sample of observations below.  Is this what Chancellor Walcott meant when he said, "It's time to rip the Band-Aid off" , or Regents head Merryl Tisch, when she explained, “We have to just jump into the deep end"?

In addition, the fact that passages in some of the forms given some children at multiple grade levels most likely disadvantaged those 3rd or 4th graders who had to struggle with inappropriately difficult material -- and these passages apparently appeared at the beginning of the exam (see comment below) .

According to the NY Post, the tests were also replete with corporate logos and commercial product names, like Mug Root Beer, the LEGO game Mindstorms, IBM, the soccer league FIFA, and the comic book and TV show “Teen Titans” – though the state insists that these companies did not pay for that privilege. The NYSED spokesperson explained instead that this occurred because the passages were drawn from "authentic texts." Not to mention that they fell under the category of "informational text" as prescribed by David Coleman, the primary author of the Common Core standards -- or should we call this infomercial text instead?


To make things worse, it appears that passages in both the 6th and 8th grade exams were taken straight from Pearson textbooks in the same grades. Perhaps this is a clever move of Pearson's to persuade districts to buy their products,  but it represents an unfair advantage to those students who had already been assigned these passages.  (See also the comment from a  teacher that a reading passage on the 5th grade exam was taken from a Ready New York CCLS review book published by Curriculum Associates.)

One cannot escape that perhaps conservative Rick Hess is right; that the Common Core is really a political strategy, not an educational one, designed to "shine a harsh light on the quality of suburban schools, shocking those families and voters into action,"  and "scare" them into embracing the "reform" agenda, including more charter schools and the outsourcing of education into corporate hands. Please post your comments below.

     If you have children or students in grades 3-8 they are now in the midst of three days of state ELA standardized testing.  Last year, the ELA exams were full of errors and confusing and ambiguous questions, including the infamous Pineapple passage, which we first reported on our blog. This year, we have heard from teachers and principals that the reading passages were difficult and the questions extremely tricky.  Some  said they could not figure out the answers themselves.
In addition, several passages and questions were repeated at several different grade levels.  Reportedly, one of the four forms of the test had the same passage in grades 3,4, and 5.  So many principals and teachers thought this was a mistake that the state posted a memo, calling this "vertical linking" and claiming that repeating the same items in adjacent grades is one of the"typical testing processes." Yet a principal told me that in her twenty years as a NY educator, she’s never seen this before on a state standardized exam.

As a parent, student, or educator, if you have comments or observations about the exams this year, please email me directly at leonie@classsizematters.org or post them on our blog below.  Your name and/or school will be held in strict confidence if that's what you prefer.  thanks!

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

I overheard several teachers at a school I work with comment that the test was "vague". Wondering what they meant by that I later talked to both my 5th and 8th graders at home and asked them what they thought of the test. Both said that several questions had more than one possible correct answer in the multiple choice. And it was confusing.

Anonymous said...

Can you post my feedback regarding tests so that I can remain anonymous?

-directions were educationally in appropriate for 3rd grade. The directions for book 2 and book 3 were given simultaneously even though book 3 could not be started until book 2 is completed. That means that a student must store the directions for book 3 in their working memory until they get to it much later.

Anonymous said...

-3rd and 4th grade tests had the exact same reading passage and associated questions.
Our students are indeed guinea pigs.
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The questions required 3rd graders to constantly flip back and forth between the questions and the text on an earlier page. Questions were worded as "Which paragraph best illustrates the theme in paragraph 2? Paragraph 4, paragraph 9, paragraph 3 or paragraph 11?" This is devastating for students with special needs, motor planning issues and attentional issues.

Anonymous said...

A few observations from the trenches:

1. Had to look at a most intelligent reader and writer in the eye and tell him he had no more time to write. After 90 minutes of working so hard there was no time left to write the essay -- worth the bulk of the points. Will this "poor performance" indicate my poor teaching and/or his poor learning?

2. Pearson, the writer of the test, used content from its very own basal reader series that it sells to districts on one of the exams this year. This places purchasers of its series at an advantage. If students were familiar with that content before the test (as many were), we do not have all students starting at the same point. Is this measuring reading comprehension or prior knowledge? Or a district's ability to buy textbooks?

3. Last, an essay asked students, at the conclusion of reading two pieces, to write about "the story" without naming it. Kids had to go back and see subtle nuances in the introductions to determine which piece they had to discuss. Several students became angry that a question would be written in this manner. They felt defeated before they began.

This is not about stress and anxiety as much as this is about parents and teachers doing right by our kids. Tests should be fair. The writers of the test should not be using materials from their products on tests in order to serve as incentives for districts to buy their products.

So happy my own children are not participating in this game.

Anonymous said...

seeing my little girl not able to pull herself emotionally together, after leaving the test room has my blood boiling! She's a child that doesn't really struggle with academics but the way these exams are given and written are very stressful for even the average child. I can't imagine how it is for the children who are more challenged by academics. I really dread next weeks math exams. Math seems to frustrate her and I am scared it will actually make her sick.

Leonie Haimson said...

From parent:

Pre-test:

4th grader who does well in school, usually a very confident, relaxed boy, had several hysterical crying fits because he was sure that "I'm going to fail the ELA, this will be the worst summer of my life, I will have to go to summer school and probably repeat 4th grade because I write so slow I will never finish in time." For what Benchmark's are worth, he got a 100% on multiple choice. (I told him if he was in danger of being withheld I would pull him from public school so he has nothing to worry about, the tests are hardly a measure of what he knows.)

7th grader who also does well in school but typically an anxious worrier, seems to basically have tuned out, will not talk about tests, did not do well on Benchmarks and seems to have disconnected himself from the whole process.

Day 1

4th grader came out smiling. Said he liked the passages, was able to describe them in detail (an Indian myth about the sun, why people get brainfreeze, non-fiction about beaver kits, story about cowboy trying to tame horse), and thought he did well on the multiple choice questions.

7th grader came out and said it was easy. Then later said he had trouble keeping his focus during the passages. His friend said there were a bunch of questions that seemed like 2 of the answer choices could be correct, and then my son confirmed that yes, that was true and test wasn't as easy as he first said. Seemed okay about it, though.

Leonie Haimson said...

from parent above re Day 2:

4th grader came out smiling again, even though he didn't get to finish the test. He said he had gotten through the body of his essay and still had to write the conclusion, but he was very happy he had gotten that far. Again, he liked the passages (wombat, weaver birds, how to make a candle) and could recall a lot of details from them and about what he had written.

7th grader came out looking shell-shocked and ready to cry. Said that he didn't get to finish one short response and only put one of two details for it, ended in the middle of the sentence and had to go quickly to essay because there were only 10 minutes left. Said he wrote so fast he felt like his hand was on fire. He said a few kids in his class (superintendent's program) were crying before the test was over and many didn't finish. He said the teacher had to pry the test from one kid's hand (kid is super-smart and capable) and that he just kept writing and crying until teacher took paper away. For their class, I think Day 2 was disastrous and it looked like almost all the kids felt that way.
the parent of a 4th and 7th grader (the "test matters" grades). You can share my comments anonymously if you'd like.

Anonymous said...

Proctored fifth grade test for students who got time-and-a-half. Half of the students used more than the regular time, which I have never seen before. Directions were confusing and wordy, and the need for two books for Day 2 was confusing. Today proctoring took 3 hours; spending 2 hrs 15 minutes each day. The amount of focus required is causing students to lose it afterward -- lots of injuries in the schoolyard at recess as kids try to get all their energy out. Serious ones, too - stitches, etc. The stress level among kids and adults in the building is incredible -- we all just sit afterward. No learning is taking place on the testing days.

Anonymous said...

In the fifteen years that I have been proctoring and preparing students for the ELA, I have never experienced what I did today. The majority of the students did not have enough time to complete today's test. Furthermore, the majority of the students barely wrote their extended responses in both grades 7 and 8. I'm horrified as a parent and teacher.

Anonymous said...

Half of my son's 4th grade class did not have time to finish the Day 2 essay. Nearly that many said they finished the test on Day 1 but went right to the allotted time. A few boys did seem to enjoy some of the reading passages today - they mentioned ones on the Wright Brothers and BMX racing.

Anonymous said...

The children did not have enough time to answer the questions to the level that was demanded. The children had to look up virtually every answer because not even the best readers can recall which of an enumerated list of paragraphs best supported the passage's theme. I resent the embedded pilot questions. They do not count toward the child's score--but they sure do take up just as much time. The pilot questions should be done separately. Leaving 7-11 year olds to manage their own time for book two and book three resulted in the majority of my students not even getting to the essay. I am slated to score this mess regionally at BOCES and I don't even want to go. Of course it's EVEN MORE time taken from my classroom besides just turning into a crying/whining session where the BOCES admin will just start tearing into us. I send my own children to an affordable private school that refused to adopt the Common Core. They recognize it for what it is--developmentally inappropriate for the majority of children.

Leonie Haimson said...

from a teacher's eamil: I got a chance to view the 3-8 tests.
In regards to Book 2: Those mc questions were unnecessary!

Two books to juggle is hard,
In regards to Book 3:

Grade 3 seemed fair yet challenging Ellis Island how the feelings change tricky?

Grade 4 Unclear questions How is the article organized?

Grade 5 Too much reading Extended Response: only required two paragraphs: strange

Grades 6 and 8: Too long, confusing and not enough time given

Grade 7 Too much reading and not enough time

Anonymous said...

My 7th grader was barely able to finish the test even with extra time - let alone go back over her answers. Makes me wonder if they are testing student's on their speed-reading skills rather than their academic progress. So distressing for the children and the schools. My daughter said it was very confusing, and several answers were ambiguous. Additionally, I am concerned for the children in grades 4 and 7 whose middle and high school placements rely so heavily on these test. What a waste of time, energy and money!

Anonymous said...

The majority of our top students did not get to the essay, so who is penalized and how will this skew the overall grades? They knew the material and would have scored well had these top conscientious students had sufficient time to finish!

Anonymous said...

My 8th grader made Stuy and Townsend yet the test yesterday was unfair because on almost every question there were two sensible answers leaving the "best" response a subjective decision in the hands of Pearson. Who can ever epic heck them when the tests are secured for destruction afterwards and no one can ever see the questions and answer keys? Every multiple choice question is graphed on a spreadsheet and given a proficiency rating where a correct anger isn't necessarily a "4", it could be fit, but not right enough, so the student doesn't get full credit. In real life this doesn't happen. If we are preparing them for college and job readiness, then Pearson needs to spend some morew time in the workplace!

Anonymous said...

There were many students (grades 6-8) that did not finish the test today in their allotted time. Even regents classes where there are gifted students struggled to finish. What is the point of this anxiety and pressure placed on children? Thee is no employer that wants shoddy work done at top speed... How is is this useful training? It left them feeling defeated.

Leonie Haimson said...

from another email: I am a third grade teacher in NY and I have administered these tests since they started giving them to third graders, about ten years ago. I have never seen anything like this. Usually the bubble sheets look pretty uniform when I stack them up and alphabetize them to hand in.

There were no patterns to the bubbles on Tuesday - everyone's sheet looked different. Reading over the test, I could not figure out the correct answer to several questions. I am quite sure I would not score well on this test. Many questions seemed to have two good answers, and I had a hard time figuring out which was better. The questions are dry, often asking students to compare paragraphs.

One question used the word "central" instead of main idea, which I am sure threw many of my kids that could identify the main idea easily. There was no opportunity for students to add feeling or voice to their writing today, it was just retelling how a character changed, using evidence from the story.

On the first day, one of my third graders had a panic attack during the test. He started hyperventilating, coughing, and turned red. The TA in my room walked him out, brought him to a window where he could breathe fresh air. He stayed with the nurse for 15 min before returning to finish the test.

He is a diabetic, and his blood sugar has been off since the testing started on Tuesday. There is another little girl that keeps complaining of a terrible stomach ache during the test; she is so sweet and bright, but she struggles with reading and the material is just too difficult for her. It is heartbreaking to watch her suffer. The only student who has been at peace in my room is the little boy whose parents opted out - he reads quietly in the back of the room.

I also have a third grader at a different school, and his district is not allowing reading. After educating him a bit, and hearing his thoughts, we asked him how he felt about opting out. My son decided to refuse the test, and my brave little guy has sat in silence for the past two days. He is proud of himself - he says that he hopes by doing this, the commissioner will listen and maybe next year he will have more time to read instead of just practice taking tests all the time. I am proud of him, proud of this movement and I hope this madness will end. There is so much potential learning time lost these weeks.

I am so hopeful that our voices are heard. Thank you for all that you do to educate, too - I have learned much from you and have shared about inBloom with many. I am so hopeful we someday get our classrooms back. I am hopeful for curriculum that supports true learning, not just the standards that are most likely to be on the test. I love my profession, I love working with the kids, yet this year has been more frustrating than ever before. This stems from the tests, the pressure of evaluations, and so much added pressure from state mandates. We hardly have time to teach. It has taken a serious toll on my time with my family and my health.

Thank you for listening, and for keeping it anonymous!

Leonie Haimson said...

from another teacher:

I was told the passages that we the same on the 3-5 tests and 4-5 tests yesterday were not last but towards the front of the test.

This is immensely unfair because students could potentially get hung up, frustrated, or waste time on these passages that did not count and lose precious time on the ones that did count after. Several teachers reported kids not having enough time (not that there should be more time- it was already too long).

Anonymous said...

My daughter , an 8th grader who got into one of the top high schools for September...said she felt awful during the test when she realized that if she didn't speed up she may not finish. She actually said the stories were boring, long and drawn out and there always seemed to be two answers.
This is a travesty! Our children are being treated as guinea pigs.

Anonymous said...

8th grader going to Stuy in the fall felt awful because didn't finish the essay. Said the multiple choice questions frequently had two possible answers. ELA teacher went over the questions in class discussion and in many cases agreed that there were two equally valid answers.

Honestly, this test makes me love the SHSAT, which at least is adequately field-tested. (And no, the kid didn't prep for years for the SHSAT.)

What does this state-sanctioned child abuse say about us as a society?

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add: short answers on the 8th grade test asked for two quotes; my 8th grader said that to adequately contextualize them took up half a page and questioned whether they were, in fact, short answers.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add: short answers on the 8th grade test asked for two quotes; my 8th grader said that to adequately contextualize them took up half a page and questioned whether they were, in fact, short answers.

Anonymous said...

To Education Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents:

Ok. I have to say it bluntly. Your hubris, MT JK and Co., will be your downfall.

Do not kid yourself. I proctored this exam and it was unfair. I feel as though the test was designed for the children to fail. I know I am right because you have admitted it in memos to us, the teachers, in saying that our APPR will not be damaged this year by falling test scores.

So, you know the tests were designed for children to fail. YES, I said CHILDREN.

Do not fool yourselves. This was not rigor. This was impossibility. The thorough readers who employed the tactics you paid for Expeditionary Learning to push down our throats (for free!) did not work on this exam. It was LITERALLY (yes, I know what it means) impossible for a grade-level reader (130 wpm or so) to read the passages and answer the questions.

In my class, the BEST readers did the fewest questions because the attacked the test with diligence. Diligence that handcuffed them and is forcing their failure.

SHAME ON YOU, STATE ED! SHAME!

Stop the lies. This is not Common Core. This is YOU, MT JK and State ED, declaring WAR on the children, families, and teachers of our great state! Worst of all? You admit it! You put it in writing.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it is Pearson who has blinded you with their wealth and chicanery. Maybe you didn't even see the test or take it yourself.

We know Pearson reviles engageny because it is free and cuts their profits. Maybe it is not you, but they who have prevailed with your heads being lobbed off.

In any case, come down off the ivory tower. Your misguided, misconstrued and ill-willed attempts at educational reform will go down in the history books as a DEBACLE.

kiki couture said...

I'm an 8th grade student taking the state exams. So far, the ELA exams are extremely difficult, making me question if I was prepared enough for the questions. Also, the state gave FOUR booklets for the ELA, and im pretty sure it's the same for the math. This strategy is ludicrous. And another problem is time. They gave the students 90 minutes to complete two booklets today; booklet 2&3, and many of my Peres complained that they didn't even finish. I hope the state will ease up on the scoring, because I and other kids are uncertain of what I accomplished through all the booklets.

Anonymous said...

I pro gored the 7th grade ELA exam today in my school . Only two students were able to finish. In my 12 years of teaching and proctoring, I've never had more than one or two kids fail to finish the test. Everyone appeared shell-shocked at the end of the test and many were in tears. "We needed more time" was the consensus -- they were frustrated especially that they were expected to complete two test books in one sitting. Students wanted to know if everyone in the state does poorly on the test, will the test makers give them more time next year? I agree that it's unfair to expect 12 year olds to juggle two test books in 90 minutes, including five passages and with the most cognitively demanding task (writing an essay on a rather vaguely-worded prompt ) at the end of the 90 minute session. One child closed her test book and did not even attempt writing the essay.

Anonymous said...

One student took out a novel and began reading it. When asked, she said, "Oh, I gave up. I'm just going to fail anyway."

Hey. At least she was reading for pleasure!

Anonymous said...

I am also a third grade teacher and agree with the other third grade teacher about the inconsistencies across the bubble sheets. As teachers we could not with certainty say which was a correct answer to some of those convoluted questions and answers. This test had nothing to do with common core. Parents should demand to see this test and judge for themselves.

Pre school said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

How about if we make the mayor, chancellor, commissioner, and regents spend 6 days every year being tested on subjects which they haven't been taught and scoring it on a scale of 1 to 4. Anyone who gets a 2 or lower loses his or her job, has to pay the taxpayers back for his or her salary, pension, and benefits, and redo the last year of their lives.

Anonymous said...

We decided to move to New Jersey. I never thought I would leave the city.

Anonymous said...

My 3rd grader, who reads and writes above grade level, couldn't finish in the time allotted and woke up at midnight last night having an anxiety attack about finishing the test today. We've struggled with math this year and I'm dreading next week.

Leonie Haimson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leonie Haimson said...

from a parent:
I am shocked after reading the posts on the blogs. Shocked and angry at myself for letting my son sit for this exam. He is a third grade student who does fairly well in school. He came out, after Day 1, and said the test was, "Ok." He looked tired and worn out and just wanted to move on, to not discuss it further. I pried out of him that it took him 50 minutes to finish the exam, this from a child who flies through tests. He said at least he got to finish, which leads me to believe that some classmates did not.

I asked his teacher her thoughts and she said the test was ridiculous. Of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade ELA exams being administered, third grade was the hardest. The questions were not developmentally appropriate for an 8/9 year old. She said she had told the principal that she bet if the test was given to the teachers in the school, not one of them would score a 100%. She said that some questions seemed to have more than one answer. Lastly, she reiterated that it just was not a viable test that was appropriate for third graders. And she left questioning that she did not know how Day 2 was going to go, because there were two test booklets to be completed that day but she couldn't remind the kids to go from Book 2 to Book 3. Why this added stress on the students?

Day 2 for my son seemed to go better. He said he finished with enough time to check his work. He said there was a more interesting passage.... His happy thoughts for last night and this morning: only one more day of ELA testing and it was done!!

Leonie Haimson said...

from a parent:

I am a parent of 4th and 8th grade boys. I asked my 4th grade child what he would do if he had a choice to take the test or refuse what he would do. He immediately replied, “ I would definitely take it.” I asked him why and he said, “because it will affect my future of getting into a good college”. He is a 9 year old child who is already panicked about how this testing will affect the rest of his life. He came home yesterday and was almost in tears because he finished the test with one minute to spare. He said that he had to write similarities and differences and was freaking out because he couldn’t find a similarity. He said that his brain hurt so much because he had to think soooo hard and finally found one similarity. My 4th grader has an IQ just shy of genius and he struggled to get through the test. My 8th grade son who has special needs gets extra time. Thank goodness for that. He finished the test but his anxiety level was through the roof and his behavior this week has been more than difficult.

I am also a speech-language pathologist working in an elementary school. It is heartbreaking to watch my students with a variety of disabilities including Autism sit and try to read and interpret what they are expected to do.

I am proctoring the 5th grade ELA and attempted to answer questions in Book 1. For some of the questions I was able to eliminate two of the four choices and then was stuck on which one to choose as the correct answer. I actually closed the book and gave up. My heart was in my throat thinking that my own children and students didn’t have a choice at that point.

Why is the state not seeing the emotional stress this test is causing to our children, parents, and teachers?


Signed,
anonymous

Anonymous said...

My 5th grader said it was, "SOOOO hard." She said many of the answers were not given in the text. She went back and re-read the passages several times and still could not find the answers. One passage she mentioned was about the Wright Brothers' and the question asked about obstacles they had to overcome. She was not able to find mention of those in the passage.

Anonymous said...

The person who said that the test is DESIGNED for students to fail--That's right; and the children are being used as pawns. There is big money to be made: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/marketplacek12/2012/08/as_assessments_change_and_scores_drop_business_opportunities_arise.html

Anonymous said...

I have a 4th grader very bright and the first day she struggled said she wasn't going to finish so she had to fill in circles because she was told not to leave any blank. The second day she said was a little easier & finished in time. I have a friend who has a honors student in 8th grade and she came home crying yesterday said she couldn't finish the essays & said questions were very confusing she didn't know how to answer some of them. Not sure how today went yet.

Nancy said...

I am a parent who is active in the opt-out movement, yet my own 6th grade son chose to take the ELA test (he'll "refuse" next week's math test). He is a good reader and strong writer and felt confident about taking the test. He came home on the first day and said the test was no more challenging that usual; he also said he was the first to finish (he reported that there were 42 multiple choice Qs). But yesterday was completely different. He said there were 22 multiple choice, 4 short responses and 1 essay. He ran out of time and didn't get to the essay! That means he spent valuable time answering field test questions yet will get 0 points for the essay, where he would usually do quite well. Fortunately, because he is well educated about high-stakes testing and knows about the problems this year with the transition to Common Core, he wasn't nearly as upset as he would have been otherwise. But I could still see that it shook his confidence (of which he doesn't have any to spare!). I am beyond angry but am thankful he will not be taking next week's math test. Parents, there's still time to #ChooseToRefuse! Check out changethestakes.org

Anonymous said...

There was not enough time for my 8th graders to confidently complete Day two's ridiculous 2-book challenge.

Four books? Four days, please. OR, be satisfied with the six-passage day-one reading comprehension and let the kids do justice to the writing in book 3.

Anonymous said...

Day 2 many 6-8th graders did not finish. We are not talking average students. We are talking about 8th graders that have 97 and above overall averages and accepted to the top HS's in NYC. Where does the 'average' student fall in if the top students can't even finish? Why won't the State produce the test AND answer key? They already have several tests, they don't need to use the sme ones next year. My 8th grader had students in the same room with Forms A and C. Multiple different tests were distributed yet the State says they must "secure" the test for future use. This is a sick experiment played upon children. This is NYC - you have steep competition for spots in HS. The State needs to stop playing with our kids' futures and offer up some accountability on what they are being tested on and how it is scored.

Anonymous said...

All this hoop-de-doo on the new test and it's "integrity" and how American students "need common core"... Yet not only were materials not provided to teach the common core sufficiently, the scoring of short and extended responses is done largely by any teacher that would like some per session money. A supervisor at the scoring site once told me about kindergarten teachers not knowing how to do the math they were scoring... About how they need to be policed because they will rush through your child's test to get to lunch.... They call them "per-session whores". So while the State is so worried about how the kids will do, why not send the test preparers to grade the tests accurately since there is no way for a parent to audit their child's test?

Anonymous said...

I am a middle school teacher and proctored the 6th and 8th grade exams over these past 3 days. I have never seen so many children become physically ill, asthma attacks, full panic attacks, vomiting during the exam and generalized anxiety throughout the exams. Many children had to be removed from the classroom sent to the nurse or sent home.

I am disgusted at what is unfolding before us. This level of stress does not encourage children to develop a love for learning, instead it has made them feel, in their words, "stupid, dumb, what's the point we'll fail anyway" Nice job David Coleman, Commissioner King, et al.

So happy with my decision as a parent of a 5th grader to opt out of the NYS exams. More educators and parents need to be informed about choices they have and make their voices heard. Students can also take the initiative and speak out against taking the NYS exams and opting out. Speak up about opting out! You have a choice! Use it and make a change about the ridiculousness of unfair and developmentally inappropriate NYS exams.

Anonymous said...

My 4th grader had a complete meltdown during the tests and called us from school sobbing and begging to be brought home. She is so discouraged and anxious because of the emphasis on these tests. I hate seeing the love of school being diminished in my bright and curious child.

Leonie Haimson said...

from an email:
As an itinerant school guidance counselor, I have worked at over 50 schools since the mid 1990's. My children went through the NYC school system.

The degree of anxiety that staff and students face with high stakes testing has increased astronomically.

Astoundingly, the number of hours that teachers "teach to the test" is blocking out time for discovering the love of lifetime learning through reading, discussion, creativity, and field trips to cultural institutions.

Our American culture needs to teach families to turn around and value education, the backbone of our economy and the future of humankind.

Anonymous said...

My twin 7th grade boys did not have enough time to complete the ELA test on the first two days of the exam. As though the tests weren't bad enough to begin with, when did this become a speed contest? Why the 90 minute time limit? Isn't this supposed to be about comprehension and skill? This is the year that counts for 7th graders applying to NYC public high school next year, and the inability to finish this ridiculous test automatically gives them a lower score. My children (and my husband and I) are very upset about this. It's hard to understand how the U.S. Dept. of Education, as well as the NYC Dept. of Education can be so short-sighted about standardized testing. There are so many things wrong that's it's hard to even know where to begin.

Anonymous said...

My first grader came home today saying her class can only use the bathroom if it is a DIRE emergency because it's too noisy having kids in the hallway. She also mentioned that she HATES testing days. This doesn't bode well.

June said...



Daughter in 6th grade. Said the test was very boring and that it wasn't possible to know which answer they wanted since more than one seemed correct. She said the passages were very badly written and, again, boring.

Anonymous said...

My fourth-grader said of Day 3 that there were two questions for two different passages that asked the exact same thing: "What is the importance of the setting?" In one case, the story was about a father and son going owling and the setting was the woods at night. My kid thought it was pretty obvious why the setting was important and that there wasn't much to say beyond: "That's when and where you find owls."

Gus Wynn said...

Surprised to hear Pearson may be recycling passages - how is that fair if some kids studied them already? A Godawful idea some are calling the "Pearson Advantage", coaxing schools to buy their materials to get an edge.

In fact, my school is adopting a math curriculum package for next year, consisting of booklets produced by Pearson. The math teachers were dismayed to hear the whole-year curriculum will be taken out of their hands as corporate influence sinks it's hooks deeper.

I could not answer some of these test questions for the life of me, after narrowing to two choices. Maybe the "unanswerable" questions are the hidden field questions, with Pearson using our kids as uncompensated child-labor?

Yes, the test was a mess, the instructions were long, the kids are more stressed than ever - we saw misbehavior before and after, with even the best students complaining about the difficulty and lack of time.

I noted product placement in the 6th grade tests, mentioning iPods, for example, but I even sensed a subtle anti-climate change feeling to the passage about the glacier that required kids to select an answer saying nature always continues to regenerate ice forever...

I am sorry I couldn't convince my spouse to opt our kids out, but after this, she should be convinced to opt out of the math.

Full article on this here:
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Learning-the-Hard-Way-The-by-Gustav-Wynn-130415-700.html

Anonymous said...

I am elated that so many parents and teachers have come forth and conveyed what they have seen these past, horrid three days. My own fourth grade boy, a very smart and hard-working child, was so distraught and brought to tears yesterday and today at not having enough time in finishing up. He went as far as to ask if me and my husband would still love him if he failed. And hearing these other stories, especially the one from a proctor that claimed she had never seen so many children get so physically ill is just too disturbing for words. I enrolled my child in school to learn and become a well-functioning individual of society. These tests demean the type of person I want him to grow up into. Don't let the higher-ups get away with it this year! Our children are not laboratory rats!

Anonymous said...

My 6th graders told me that more than a few kids did not get to finish the test and they barely finished themselves. Some kids just gave up. Teachers were frustrated about the test but their hands are tied. There was more than one correct answer,many of the questions were confusing, and the passages are too long. My kids were drained!

Teachers have asked that parents contact the Department of Education, Governor, etc. to voice your concerns and let them know what this experience has been like for your kids! Please take that extra step and do it.

Anonymous said...


TEACHERS ARE ASKING PARENTS TO CONTACT THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, GOVERNOR, etc. TO VOICE YOUR CONCERNS AND LET THEM KNOW WHAT THIS EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN LIKE FOR YOUR CHILDREN!

Anonymous said...

To contact Governor Cuomo:

http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php


New York Education Commissioner John B. King's address:

New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234



NYC Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott:

http://schools.nyc.gov/ContactDOE/ChancellorMessage.htm

Tweed Courthouse
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Greg Richards said...

This Reuters article about a one-day conference in New York City on private equity and the education industry is as alarming as it is enraging. Public schools, as prisons were before them, are now viewed as a unexploited investment opportunity that "could get really, really big." http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/usa-education-investment-idINL2E8J15FR20120802

------------------------
The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.

Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they're as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They'll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.

"You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up," said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. "It could get really, really big."

Anonymous said...

Several of the 8th grade students at my school were in tears because they could not finish the exam in the allotted time.

Anonymous said...

My son who has a 97 average and is a fast reader did not finish the essay on day two. He had to constelly go back to the story . Just very conflicting.

Anonymous said...

Agreed

Anonymous said...

Because Pearson embedded the field test questions in the test, every child lost 12-15 minutes of time. Moreover, if those test questions were in the beginning or middle of the test and the child spent too long on them, he or she may not have been able to answer questions that actually COUNTED.

Anonymous said...

I own a small tutoring business in a mixed neighborhood in Brooklyn. This past two months have been nearly entirely dedicated to preparing students for these tests. I have seen students experience high amounts of anxiety, fits of crying, hatred of school, self-hate, loss of sleep, illness, headaches, more crying. (and the parents are worse!!) FOR WHAT? Nothing. This test MEANS NOTHING! I Have prepared them to do their best, using workbooks and sample tests that are full of typos and errors, and that are not aligned with what students have been taught. I try to talk the students down from their anxieties, I explain that this test is a travesty that will undoubtedly be thrown out, I try to assure them that they will NOT be held back based upon their score on this test (no matter what they are hearing). I read newspaper articles to them (the ones that are old enough) about NYC officials saying that they expect most students to fail. These are children. They are 7 years old, 8 years old, 9 years old, 10 years old, 11 years old and 12 years old. WHO WOULD DO THIS TO CHILDREN??? Who COULD do this to children??? How do they sleep at night?

Anonymous said...

My 3rd grader just informed me that the ELA test included a passage from the book Donovan's Word Jar. The book is published by HarperCollins (a subsidiary of News Corp.)

Anonymous said...

My fourth-grader described a passage from Day 1 of the ELA that I recognized from a test prep package he was given last year in third grade. So it seems as if Pearson is definitely recycling material.

Anonymous said...

The test seemed fair. If a child wasn't able to read grade-level material and think critically, then the child would not pass. That makes sense, though, because they aren't working on grade-level and that should be reflective in the test results. At the same time, the 4th grade test was ony 70 minutes long, which was not enough time for many children who read and write on grade-level. It's not fair that so many children ran out of time and this is not reflective of the child's actual ability.

angel mar murillo said...
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Anonymous said...

Really interested to hear feedback on day one of the math assessment tests. 6th grade Son majorly stressed over these tests. Only thing his teacher has done in math class since before Spring break is test prep and hours of math test prep homework every night, and 76 multi level question packet over spring break . She told the kids to study hard last night. I told him don't bother the test doesn't count, just do your best. the purpose of the test is to see what you know so that you can be taught more effectively next year.

D Lew said...

Great post! My daughter was always bad at those standardized test. Part of the reason is that she attends an overcrowded, fund strapped inner city public school. These conditions make it very hard for her to perform well. Therefore, I'm looking into online high school diploma programs for her.

Anonymous said...

NYS has sucked the life out of children and teaching. There is no time for creativity or fun in education. Without those elements, we are doomed. What is a world without creative minds? Not everything can come from a textbook. "But the person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, perseverance."
William Julius Wilson

Anonymous said...

I am shocked at many of the messages posted in regards to test difficulty.
Our 8 year old son took the NY State Exams over the last 2 weeks. After all the hype about how this years test would be more difficult, he felt that the test was VERY DUMBED DOWN. Especially the math! I think Pearson felt all the pressure from NY about the test, and created a test that any simpleton could do well on. This in order to keep the state and schools happy. So, the schools will continue to have their false high rankings with falsely high test scores, and they will continue to graduate numbskulls.

Also want to mention that our son told us that the teacher was “helping” the students who are weak in math during the test. She walked around to them and was looking at their answers and saying things like, “You should look at that problem again”. Why are teachers allowed to administer these tests to their own students? The tests should be administered by someone who does not know the children and has no stake in the outcome of their tests. I can only imagine the amount of cheating that went on in classrooms around the state.

Anonymous said...

Well I think it has to do with the principal of the school I can safely say my child's principal prepared them for what was coming she worked us parent too at the end I know it will be worth it after each day of the ELA exams my daughter came out smiling and said to me mommy it was so easy and I had time left to go back and check my work over, she even said I am sad it's over know after the 3rd day thank god for our awesome principal&my daughter had work and persistent.

Anonymous said...

My seveth grader in Marktwain nevr even got to finish the ELA NY State Book 2 essay - he was only up to the second paragraph when the proctor called time. And a few of his fellow classmates also had the same problem. There was definetely alot of long readings. I also heard that Bay Academy got a harder booklet and almost half of the seventh grade didn't finish; if they did, they were not confident in their responses. This State Test was definetely a failure in my opinion.

abdul matin said...
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Anonymous said...

In my kids school PS3 Staten Island for the 1st 2 months of school my child was not given any material because the school did not have the new common core material for the state exams. Then after 2 months the kids were hit with all the material at once and had to cram in all the material for the tests. This only confused the children and did not give them a chance to learn. The teachers kept moving on to the new material as fast as they could. I am very disappointed with the public school system and at the end of this school year I am taking all 3 of my kids out of ps3 and moving them to Private school.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of my sons school ! He didn't meet the promotional standards for the ELA exam . Teachers dont teach him , he's autistic I feel like I'm doing it all. This summer I'm keeping him home from School , teach him myself ! Instead of wasting his time in summer school

Anonymous said...

My bright 8th grader failed the Math ELA!!! We are completely devasted over the thought that she could be potentially held back. Yet, there are children at her school who did not perform well at all the entire school year but happened to pass the exam and will be allowed to move forward ( no summer school, no testing)!!! This system is a crock of ca-ca and had I been informed about the option of the opt- out, she would NOT have taken the test. How do I rebuild her confidence? What effects will this have on her during any future test taking sessions? Hell, how do I even know that she actually failed, and it wasn't their error??? Why can't we see the test?? I'm plagued by so many questions and not enough answers. Can't imagine how many families that may be going through this right now.

Anonymous said...

My son also failed the ELA exam. Anybody knows when is the exact date of test for retake this summer. Thanks

zain ul abidin kk said...
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Anonymous said...

I was a 7th grader in 2013's school year. Even being in the enriched program at my school I had a hard time. The questions in book 1 were way too hard and long. Book 2 I didn't even finish because I had to compare 2 passages that had little to do with each other and made no sense. Then book 3 was too difficult and confusing. If me being in the enriched class and having a problem is bad, what about the intensive and regular classes that took the same test as me? Please the test should not be that hard!

Alvin said...

This is cool!

Anonymous said...

According to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents,we can no longer wait and "have to just jump into the deep end” in giving the new NY State tests(NY Times, April 14, 2013). After seeing the devastation on my child's face today, who has a 99.33 average in a NYC honors school, I say to you do you, Ms. Tisch,do you want to see these children "go off the deep end"all together because of the stress and torment these tests are causing? To not prepare teachers and to include sections in a test that are not even taught in the curriculum yet is an unconscionable thing to do to children and highly trained teachers.This strategy only teaches our children that they cannot trust their own schools to help them prepare for serious exams, that are used as guides for applying to middle and high schools, nor can they trust their own skills to successfully complete these state tests. A ruined morale with self doubt does not a scholar make.

Anonymous said...

Hey I took the 6th grade test and I got a good grade. I thought it was fair so stop hating on the testing program.
P.S. I'm 12 in 2013

Anonymous said...

I am a wonderful Kindergarten teacher who had to give NYS testto 4-5-6 year olds last year. The kids came to school barely knowing their letters and sounds, couldn't write their names let alone hold a pencil correctly and some began the year with little to no English. My Kindergartenrs left as readers and writers. The majority of the class went from being an "A" level reader to at least a "D" and were writing in full sentences with spaces and punctuation. They hardly ever got center time to play... I am a highly requested teacher, my students come back too visit me and guess what? Their tests (which made several kids cry, stress out and get tummy aches ) were so confusing to them that they bombed them. The questions were tricky, the illustrations not clear and the passages weren't relevant to our community. The worst part? Their progress made me look like an ineffective teacher. A SLAP in the face! Kids who couldn't read, write or do math left doing those things and excelling in them because of my GREAT teaching yet the test scores say otherwise. All I have to say is...REALLY?

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Anonymous said...

No!!! Online schools are a part of the problem. No real oversight, and it's just another corporate reform effort to capitalize on vulnerable students and families. Many of their teachers are not experienced, or so overworked, they aren't as thorough. These places churn kids out. The quicker, the more money. Ponza schemes according to Doane Ravitch.

Anonymous said...

One of the many problems with the 7th and 8th grades tests was that students had to flip back and forth between passages and lined answer sheets. Book 3 required an extended response that students needed evidence from two passages...how difficult it was for them not to have the readings separate from where they needed to write their responses. Also, a major problem was that there was not an expectation indicated in the questions for how students were to organize their writing, as is the case with the NYS English exams. Even though this was the case, students will be scored on organization. Finally, between the 3 days of proctoring for my 7th and 8th grade students, 1 day of make up testing, and 2 additional days of scoring these tests, I will miss 6 days of instructional time! At the end of the month, I will miss an additonal 3 days with my students when they are taking math exams and science to follow for 8th graders. And so, I ask...How much am I truly valued as their teacher? They need me and I need them...this testing is hardly the quality that makes this loss of time even close to being worth it!

SUSAN DAN said...

Although the state insists that these companies did not pay for that privilege.