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Thursday, April 7, 2016

3rd day of ELA testing; please add yr comments! And "impossibly improbable" reading passage found!

Thanks to eagle-eyed Fred Smith, we have now found the passage in which the phrase "impossibly improbable" used, in yesterday's 6th grade ELA exam.  In a piece called "Weed Wars: Farmers fight unwanted plants among crops" published in 2011, the article describes how weeds are developing resistance to a chemical called glyphosate, and how new strategies will have to be found to kill weeds.

In its context (see highlighted below), the phrase seems to mean impossible, because it is then contrasted with the fact that  over time, it is indeed possible for weeds to build in resistance to the weedkiller called glyphosate, but it is certainly a tricky question and who knows how exactly it was phrased? Fred gives it "half a Pineapple"; what do you think?

Aside from the fact that there are plenty of ways for food to be grown organically without the negative impact of chemical weedkillers and genetically engineered crops, a position that that the article appears to ignore. Glyphosate, also called "Round Up", is made by Monsanto and is banned in many countries for its potentially damaging effects on human health.

An excerpt follows below.  If anyone knows what which particular questions followed, and if the passage was changed in any way, please put this in the comment section below.  Also please offer any observations you have on the 3rd day of ELA testing. thanks!

Weed wars: farmers fight unwanted plants among crop

When Stanley Culpepper was a kid, he spent hours pulling weeds on his family’s farm. “We pulled and pulled and pulled,” he says.

Culpepper started weeding when he was only about 5 or 6 years old. As a teenager, he chopped big weeds down with a hatchet.

Culpepper loved working on the farm, but he didn’t like weeding. He became a scientist to figure out easier ways for farmers to control weeds. “I decided there’s got to be a better way than pulling weeds all your life,” says Culpepper, now a weed scientist at the University of Georgia in Tifton.

A lot has changed since Culpepper was a kid. About 15 years ago, many more farmers started using a chemical called glyphosate to kill weeds. It worked so well that many farmers thought their problems were solved. But recently, some weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, meaning it’s harder for the chemical to kill the unwanted plants.

Resistant weeds are a big problem. Some can grow 10 feet tall! Scientists have discovered that weeds use all kinds of tricks to fight glyphosate. If the problem gets worse, farmers might not be able to grow as many crops, or they will have to spend more money controlling weeds. Then food could become more expensive.

...In the 1990s, something big happened: Scientists made crops that couldn’t be killed by glyphosate. They changed the plants’ DNA, the genetic instructions that tell cells which molecules to make. If farmers planted these glyphosate-resistant crops, they could spray the herbicide all over the field anytime and kill weeds without harming crops.

“It became very simple,” says Steve Duke, a plant scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Oxford, Miss. “Just spray once or twice, kill everything [but your crops].”

Farmers loved those glyphosate-resistant crops. They started planting more and more of them and using more and more glyphosate.

Winning the lottery

Some people thought glyphosate would work forever. But the weeds were evolving. That means their DNA was changing.

Once in a while, changes to a weed’s DNA would allow that weed to survive the glyphosate. The chances of changes like this were very, very small. But when farmers used glyphosate year after year on millions of hectares of crops, “what seems almost impossibly improbable becomes more probable,” Duke says.

Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University in Ames, compares the process to a lottery. If one person buys a lottery ticket, his or her chances of winning are tiny. But when millions of people play, chances are good that at least one person will pick the winning combination of numbers. As weeds were sprayed with glyphosate every year, it was like billions of plants were buying lottery tickets over and over, trying to “win” resistance to glyphosate. Eventually, some weeds were going to hit the jackpot.

It didn’t take long for that to happen. In 1996, Australian scientists found a weed called rigid ryegrass that couldn’t be killed with normal levels of glyphosate. In 2001, a researcher in the United States reported another resistant weed, called horseweed. Now at least 21 weed species have evolved glyphosate resistance.....If farmers can’t control weeds and insects, they can’t grow as much food. And if they grow less food, food prices could go up.


Anonymous said...

The 8th grade test had a passage with a typo - there was a missing period. This interfered with the meaning of the sentence and could have confused students.

James Lane said...


OMG!! I have rarely been more horrified than I am at reading this! Not only is it problematic due to
the reading level and very poor writing, but it is basically a promotional advertisement for one of the most
dangerous chemicals on the planet!!!

Glyphosate is made by Monsanto and is one of the most cancer causing chemicals known to humankind.
Every environmental group has exposed and condemned this chemical and its use. It is known to be the cause of
birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, cancer, and on and on......Many groups are working on banning this and
most of Europe already has.

The way they talk about Glyphosate (and they use the name an unbelievable amount of times!) in this piece is as if its as
healthy as spinach! In addition, when they say: "

"Scientists made crops that couldn’t be killed by glyphosate. They changed the plants’ DNA, the genetic instructions that tell cells which molecules to make. If farmers planted these glyphosate-resistant crops, they could spray the herbicide all over the field anytime and kill weeds without harming crops"

They are basically talking about genetically modified organisms (GMO's). Again, no mention of any controversy about that process.

This entire piece is like a commercial for the most controversial, corporate, and dangerous farming methods known! Yet they talk about it all as if its just nice farmers and scientists doing their jobs! Its as if executives and lobbyists for Monsanto wrote this damn thing! And then they are passing it off as if its just all about "modern farming science".

This is nothing but one corporation shilling for another and using children as their guinea pigs!

I didn't think anything new about these tests could make me more outraged than I already was, but this REALLY takes the cake!

Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

This is worse than the pineapple passage!

Anonymous said...

It was published by Society and Science for the Public, a non-profit that also sponsors the Intel Science Talent Search

Anonymous said...

More about glyphosate--

Anonymous said...

I find this appalling. Is there a big agriculture corporate sponsor behind the tests? Send it to Alice Waters for critique by children on the Edible Schoolyard project. Aren't there groups here in NYC that are involved in getting healthy food into school cafeterias? I'm sure they'd love to hear about this.

Oh, and I've also seen better writing, too.

Anonymous said...

Sponsored by Monsanto Company

MrsDarts said...

I just asked my 3Rd grade son about references to glyphosate and he looked at me like I was crazy. Do all 3rd graders take the same test?

MrsDarts said...

I just asked my 3Rd grade son about references to glyphosate and he looked at me like I was crazy. Do all 3rd graders take the same test?

Anonymous said...

6th grade test- "read the article. Then ARTICLE QUESTION 48"
How does one 'article' a question???
Yes, these tests were reviewed by at least 22 educators.

Anonymous said...

AP in my middle school sent out an email that the test was taking longer than expected so they were going to have extend the time to another 30 minutes.

And yes, this reading passage is horrible. I hope this becomes the new Pineapple-Gate scandal.

Anonymous said...

"6th grade test- "read the article. Then ARTICLE QUESTION 48"
How does one 'article' a question???
Yes, these tests were reviewed by at least 22 educators."

Not making excuses because - you know that whole "reviewed by at least 22 educators" thing, but that was a typo. A memo went out earlier in the week warning teachers to have the children make the correction on Day 3. It's not my grade, but I recall they had to change ARTICLE to ANSWER.

Anonymous said...

Gr5 test took some of our brightest students over 3 hours to complete. Gr. 4 day 2 made reference to two texts for the last essay question but only required one text. Passages extremely long & complex in 3rd grade text day 3

Anonymous said...

My 6th grader who took the test today said the test (there was a typo) said "please read this article. Please article question 48."

Before they started his teacher had him cross out the word article and replace it with "answer."

Does the Mutli million dollar contract not include proofreaders?

Anonymous said...

6th grader followed up to "learn" what impossibly improbable means by asking his wonderful English teacher today what would that mean and she said she thought it means it is not possible but what is not possible? Genetic changes or killing weeds? I'm confused myself. And isn't it a double negative? Super not clear.

Julie Szczublewski said...

3rd day of testing. 6th grade test.

Anonymous said...

Out of all the possible readings out there, why pick THIS?

Anonymous said...

Are 6th graders aware of what a "hectare" is? Was that a supplied vocab word? I agree, of all things they could read....

Anonymous said...

In the original text, it appears as "almost impossibly improbable." That "almost" makes the meaning more clear as "very, very improbable." Doed anyone know if the question about this phrase included the "almost?"

Anonymous said...

Most of our 5th graders took close to 3 hours to complete this assessment. Some took longer.

Leonie Haimson said...

from an anonymous post on FB:

"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 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.

Leonie Haimson said...

from Mark Naison's blog:
FYI, yesterdays 7th Grade test had reading passages with the following product placement: Riddell, the helmet manufacturer, Skittles, Stonyfield yogurt, and Doritos. Today, the last two reading passages were about children who did not have mothers or fathers because of death or seperation. Very appropriate - NOT. Lastly the final essay asked to compare the last two stories, mentioning the story teller in the first story by name. Only problem is that since he was the narrator of the story, his name never appeared in the reading selection, only in the intro. Kids were confused

Anonymous said...

The weed passage was definitely on the grade 6 test-day 2. I wouldn't be too concerned about the controversial content of the article as most sixth graders couldn't really comprehend the text! It was somewhat similar to the talking leaves passage last year. One would need to be a botany doctoral candidate to fully understand the text!

carrie said...

The mere fact that this article"weed wars" was on there made my blood boil. I read it several times and was speechless, especially by the topic, and the title AND towards the end it had the word bully in there, so hmmmm as 11 & 12 year olds we know war is bad and bullying is bad so this herbicide must be good?!?! Wth is happening??

i want this passage and others out there so everyone can see the propoganda. Other teachers were all talking about the almost impossibly improbable qtn and i agreed thats a confusing qtn but hello did you all read this article. Then i started thinking hmmm did they think we would just get hung up on certain qtns and not the topic. Im sure this so called scientist was paid well by Mondanto- 🕸 So disgusted im ready to retire early!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Technical comment about the web interface. The printing is too small and zooming is disabled making difficult to read on small screens. Web designers need to remember we all don't have large monitors ans d 20/20 eyesight.

Anonymous said...

I am a third grade teacher and watching the kids take the test was torture! I felt so bad for my students. The day 2 and day 3 questions were way beyond my students. Many of them do not speak English at home and are not read to. They come from homes where parents work late and are not watching the news or reading newspapers, never mind discussing the news with their kids. The essay on the last day asked eight and nine year old children to explain the historical importance of an event. Seriously???

Francine said...

Every year of every assessment test ,many of the same comments have been made. All assessments have drawbacks. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The concept of analytical thinking that is the root of common core should be kept. Rote worksheet assignments teach nothing. Teach kids to think and be able to apply knowledge to new situations,and then tweak the test to reflect that teaching. Modify special ed students' tests to reflect the modifications that they are given in the classroom. Common Core education simply allows a student in a mobile society to keep up no matter where his family locates. We educators need to offer constructive solutions to problems that arise from a basically sound education philosophy rather than throwing up our hands and crying woe is me!

Anonymous said...

What was common traits between 2 stories for 5th grader
My kid said it was hard
others said was easy ????