Today’s NY Times e focuses on a just-released question on last spring's 3rd grade ELA exam about a talking African snake that more than half of 3rd graders couldn’t answer and even stumped the author of the passage, Saviour Pirotta. The story is called "Secrets are Hard to Keep."
Peter Afflerbach, a professor of education, also couldn't figure out the "right" answer. Dennis Tompkins, spokesperson from the NY State Education Department, responded to the reporter this way, "The fact that nearly half the test takers got the two more difficult questions right... showed that “apparently they could handle this.”
"I looked quickly at the 7th grade exam: the percent answered correct on the questions is really bad. If I have those type of results I toss out the question and give all my students credit because either the question is crap, or I did not teach the material well. Wonder what the embargoed questions looked like..."
Clearly, the NY state tests are an illegitimate way to evaluate kids, schools and teachers – as shown by the fact that the author of the relevant passage on the 3rd grade exam had a hard time answering the questions. These tests are designed to make it look like the vast majority of the state's students and schools are failing, when they are not. Until the state comes out with better exams – and a teacher evaluation system not linked to them – parents will continue to opt out in growing numbers.