Open Phones: How did the ELA Common Core Tests Go?

Friday, April 19, 2013

high school testing students school (Frederick Florin/Getty)

Middle schoolers have just finished three days of English Language Arts testing. Teachers and parents: call in and tell us what your studentand children thought about the new Common Core-aligned exams. How did the experience compare to last year? What did they tell you or what did you see during the test? Beth Fertig, Contributing Editor for Education for WNYC Radio and, joins us to take your calls.



Beth Fertig

Comments [23]

we finally have the standard of bar raised on NYS public schools and I'm disappointed that parents are choosing the opting out option for their kids. We are competing on a global level and need to adopt to changes. Schools, parents, teachers, board of ed are finally paying more attention to our PUBLIC schools and people don't like the change. Of course the tests are going to be harder. If it means the kids have to cut out on some extra curricular activities or parents spend additional time on kids homework or teachers be held to a higher bar, then it's all good in my opinion. More kids are focused on their studies, less time on crime and activities that are really meant for grown ups. Suck it up and adopt the changes. BTY I have 2 boys in the public school system who took the test and told me it was harder than last years. I applaud them for taking the test so I know where they stand and can help better guide, motivate and push themselves to do better than what they did the year before. We need to know where our kids stand and we can't do that if we continue to boycott. Stand by the higher standards given and change yourselves along with the teachers, administration.

Apr. 01 2014 10:53 PM
Susan from North Salem, NY

I live in a small town with 1 elementary school and 1 combined middle/high school. What are they going to do if we score low on these asinine tests, shut down the district? This one-test-fits-all-districts does not work.

Apr. 19 2013 12:28 PM
Cynthia Nash from Mornigside Heights

Our school system is anything but standardized and the high costs of the "standardized" testing would be better directed toward smaller class size, teacher salaries and facility upgrades.
As a quantitative assessment of student achievement and the concurrent effectiveness of each school, the test scores are skewed.
There are students who are not only prepped for these tests during school hours but also by private tutors. There are students who have parents who can help them prep at home and students who may be lucky if their parents can read.
How can we quantify the effectiveness of our schools by state wide testing until we overcome the vast inequities that are caused by the harsh realities of class, economics and the problems that plague certain communities in which schools attempt to educate our children?
To measure performance by "standardized testing" in the midst of so many variables is ridiculous, wasteful and counter-productive.
I remember standardized tests in grade school and junior high school in the 60s and 70s. None of those tests had any bearing on what high school I would attend or how I might be tracked for honors classes. Many of our high schools set a bar for admissions based on test scores. If your child falls below the numbers posted, don't bother to apply. And if you happen to be a kid whose family can't navigate the system, you'll be lucky to get the education every child deserves. The entire system is byzantine.

Apr. 19 2013 12:24 PM
Parent from Manhattan from Manahttan

Carolita, you are mistaken when you say that the tests are "non-punitive, and purely for the purpose of measuring the overall level of academic achievement system-wide?" In NYC, student promotion to the next grade is based on the test scores. Schools with bad test scores can be labeled as failing and closed. In the rest of NY State, teachers are being evaluated on these test scores (NYC teachers were last year and will likely be next year). This is why the tests are referred to as "high stakes" and that's where all the stress is coming from. Please do not blame parents! The blame starts with the Obama administration's education policies (following Bush's)on down to Cuomo and Bloomberg. Our education policies are being made by people who know nothing about education, teaching or child development!

Apr. 19 2013 12:06 PM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Terror is coming from the top down. Change has to come from the bottom up. Tell your kids they can refuse.

Apr. 19 2013 12:01 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

Carolita, you have a point, but it isn't just parents. There is pressure that comes from the top down - superintendents to principals to teachers to students. Teachers are being told that their jobs depend on these tests, so of course they are feeling intense pressure that is almost inevitably passed on to the students. It's an insane system, and it's being perpetuated at the expense of kids' well being - both educational and emotional. In short, it stinks.

Apr. 19 2013 11:54 AM
Suman Madhu from New York

I call the Common Core Curriculum as “Common Scare Curriculum” since it's really scaring teachers, students and parents. Implementation of it is total disaster. This is scarring all since it introduces lot more difficult concepts all of a sudden and not giving enough time to prepare for tests.

Apr. 19 2013 11:52 AM
Mary from Bethpage Long Island school district

The problem with these standardized tests is that the schools will ''teach to the test'. When my now eighth grader entered the third grade, his teacher informed the parents that she will be going thru the text like 'Swiss cheese' until the state test and will fill in the gaps after the test. Rather than teach in a methodical way, the children are rushed to prepare for a useless test.

Apr. 19 2013 11:51 AM
carolita from nyc

I'm confused. Why is anyone stressing over this test, which was promoted as non-punitive, and purely for the purpose of measuring the overall level of academic achievement system-wide? What kind of parents allowed their kids to have panic attacks over this? What kind of teachers didn't make it clear?

If kids can't take tests anymore without having panic attacks, there's something wrong and it's not just with the schools. Jeez, parents, lighten up. I remember being sent home from school with stomach cramps because of tests: it was not the school that made me panic. It was my browbeating parents who stressed me out to the point I couldn't take a test without being paralyzed in fear of failure.

Apr. 19 2013 11:49 AM

My 8th grader didn't really complain about this test. On the other hand, ON HIS OWN decided he wanted to go to Bronx Science and study physics. So he systematically studied for the SHSAT for 9 months. HE asked for test prep class and HE asked for tutoring so we gave it to him. In the end I actually told him to stop studying after the test was postponed due to Sandy and he ignored me.

I really don't think this test is going to be helpful. I never ever found any of the "scores" to be nearly as important as the written comments from my son's teachers. Just more and more money spent on assessing our kids rather than teaching our kids. No one talks about the ridiculous number of "assessment" tools for the "screened" high schools.

At the "hot" Upper West Side high school -- Beacon -- there were a grand total of 8 different assessment tools, including 2 essays, interviews, letters of recommendation and the infamous portfolio. I know many parents who actually do the work for these portfolio projects for their kids -- putting kids who have parents who are working so much that they can't do the projects for their kids or the parents who don't believe in doing the work for their kids at a disadvantage. So, I don't believe portfolios are any solution.

Apr. 19 2013 11:48 AM
John from NYC

All of this is meaningless unless:

1. TEACHERS take the same test, and the results are reported (by school)

2. The tests are put online for citizens to look at. The educational establishment has lied for decades about how hard/easy/confusing the tests are.

Apr. 19 2013 11:48 AM
Kristin Emy from Brooklyn

Tests are not being made public for second year in a row. There needs to be transparency. These tests are high stakes for teachers and kids - our community promoting idea that lawmakers should be made to take tests to be more informed

Apr. 19 2013 11:47 AM

My 4th grade daughter and 6th grade son are taking the tests. Both said it was harder. Both are smart (unbiased opinion) and mellow, daughter (4th grade) had a meltdown Tuesday morning - I told her the tests don't matter, she'll go to a great middle school no matter what, she felt better. Son (6th grade) was a little freaked that he didn't finish the second test.
We have been talking about how the tests are going to be harder this year, so don't worry. Regardless, the usual "chill" atmosphere in our home has been a little more stressful. We are all looking forward to it being OVER!

Apr. 19 2013 11:46 AM
Marilyn Jones from clinton corners, ny

My friends who teach in college programs report that many so called high school "honor program" students actually are very poorly prepared. They appear to have parents who push them through classes and assist them to get good grades by pressuring teachers and even threatening to sue high schools. Here is an effort to actually provide equalizing testing and these parents are already protesting

Apr. 19 2013 11:45 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Look, if the test scores don't really COUNT until high school, then why are we testing elementary school kids in this impossible way? I might break my hip when I'm 80, I'm not going to throw myself down the stairs today to make sure I'm PREPARED for it. Let high school be high school, let today be today. Stop expecting grade school kids to act like little graduate students, it's ridiculous!

Apr. 19 2013 11:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Liberal "touchy-feely" qualitative questions more intended to test how "gay" you are rather than any quantitative substance. It's not about right or wrong, but rather how you feel that counts.

Apr. 19 2013 11:43 AM
michael from nyc

I am a teacher 2 MA degrees, etc etc

Here's the dirty secret in education policy: THE PEOPLE AT THE TOP WHO MAKE THE RULES DON'T WORK IN A CLASSROOM. So its easy for them to issues standards and decrees and pile work on top of work for all included and sound/look good in public (politics) and couldn't care less how it resolves itself on the ground.

Coomon Core is great IF all students are at a reading/liteacy level to cope BUT THEY ARE NOT AND THEY ARE NOWHERE NEAR IT.

And teachers/school were BARELY prepared, let' be honest, the top had no idea what was going on.

I am quitting my job because I can;t stand the system of education anymore.

Apr. 19 2013 11:43 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

HJS1111: a "REFUSAL" is different from an "ABSENCE". Per the testing manual, if the student is absent, they must makeup the test in the allotted makeup time. If a student is present during testing, they can REFUSE to take the test. They have to sit there and be present, but they can absolutely refuse. They are scored as 999 with a scoring administrative code of 96, and these codes are specifically for REFUSAL. ABSENT is something totally different with different codes.

I gave my children this choice, told them they could refuse and I would support them. Both chose to take it instead of sitting there bored for 2 hours, but it seemed to calm their concerns and treat the whole thing a little more lightly.

Apr. 19 2013 11:43 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

This is nuts! Tell your kids to do their best, not to stress, and forget about it. What this whole nightmare is doing to kids is deplorable. But at least the testing companies are making their profits and that's what's really important, right?

Apr. 19 2013 11:42 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Nightmare. I've heard stories about kids stressed out of their minds, having anxiety attacks, fainting, throwing up, putting their heads down on their desks and crying. The tests are BS and benefit nobody except the corporations. Everybody knows this. Everybody. It's absurd.

I told both my kids (3rd and 7th) that the tests are crap. I told them they have the right to refuse if they can deal with sitting there for the 2 hours doing nothing. But take it or not, I could not care less about the outcome, the tests are total BS and have nothing to do with them. Do not stress. This is meaningless.

Apr. 19 2013 11:38 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Actual text of sample questions, please.

Apr. 19 2013 11:37 AM

how does keeping your kids home from the test, help them take the test in the future?

Apr. 19 2013 11:36 AM
oostern from nyc

My son (12/7th grade/Salk) commented that while he was worried beforehand, and the test WAS harder than in the past, it was actually a much better experience to take this, more challenging test, than the seemingly meaningless easy ones in the past.
We're taking that as a small consolation to be found within the whole testing spectacle.
On the other hand, I've heard several kids (in NY and NJ) report that the weeks of test prep have been really unbearable.

Apr. 19 2013 11:16 AM

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