Streams

Stories Flood In from the Testing Front Line

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 03:07 PM

WNYC

One week of state testing down, one more to go, with math tests starting on Wednesday. Meanwhile, parents and teachers continue to share impressions and opinions about the tests, the first to be aligned with Common Core learning standards.

SchoolBook has an updated round-up of comments. You can add your own testing thoughts below.

One middle school teacher reacted to the use of more "authentic texts," such as articles and even poems, than in previous years' tests. She said her students were stumped by questions related to a Victorian-era poem. They were asked to explain the purpose of some of the lines; they also didn't know what a dormouse was. (It's a small mouse.)

And one listener wrote to The Brian Lehrer Show: "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."

A caller identified as Steve from Westchester echoed comments we've been hearing all week about students not having enough time to finish the tests. He said his wife teaches elementary school and three of her students put their heads down on their desks and refused to continue with the questions.

"I think the real problem with this is it's just a dramatic way in which they imposed this they didn't allow a full year of instruction with these new standards in order to then test them. It's kind of putting the cart before the horse," he said.

Regarding the length of the tests, a spokesman for the New York State Education Department said the tests included field test questions but the tests were not longer than previous years. He added that it's important to test questions during an actual exam, not just in June when additional field tests are conducted.

"Carolita from nyc" wrote in to say that anxiety about the tests confused her. "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?" She advised parents to "lighten up."

Her comment elicited a few responses, including this one, identified as a parent from Manhattan:

"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!"

New York City officials have said schools and students will not be punished if scores are lower because they will all be compared to each other, enabling the city to see which students and schools do better relative to each other. Still, many parents said that the blame for the predicted low scores, and test stress, rested with education policymakers and the publishers of the tests, Pearson.

Michael, who said he was a teacher with two master's degrees, wrote, "Here's the dirty secret in education policy: the people at the top who make the rules don't work in a classroom."

He complained that teachers were barely prepared for the tests. Besides, he added, too many children struggle with literacy which makes it hard to meet the goals of Common Core standards.

Another parent said her seventh-grade son considered the tests harder and preferred them to easier tests. "It was actually a much better experience to take this," said 'oostern from nyc.' "We're taking that as a small consolation to be found within the whole testing spectacle."

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