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Teachers: What's it Like Scoring the State Tests?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - 04:00 AM

WNYC

We've heard a lot this spring about how different this year's state exams were, mostly because they integrated the new Common Core learning standards. SchoolBook readers reported the English and math tests felt more challenging. But what's it like for the teachers who are now scoring the state exams?

Elementary and middle school teachers are allowed to score grade levels they don't teach. One elementary school teacher, who is currently grading sixth grade English exams, told SchoolBook: "I am not at all familiar with the expectations of this age group."

The teacher, who did not want to be identified, said there is a "very complicated and lengthy rubric we were given to help us score."

The rubric spells out the different expectations a student is expected to meet for each answer. For example, a short written answer could be scored anywhere from a zero through two, depending on whether the student provides an inference plus some details; a child who does both gets a two, but doing neither earns a zero.

But another teacher, who also did not want to be identified, noted that teachers are trained for a few hours before they start scoring. She said city teachers should be used to the new Common Core rubrics, because schools have been using them all year in various assignments, not just on the state exams. She also said that scoring an exam is not as difficult as grading a paper. Teachers are instructed to score written answers holistically, so they don't weigh one criteria more than the others.

Some teachers told us the standards or rubrics can be inconsistent. And this can lead to some pretty lively discussions around the scoring table.

"I have worked with several groups and I have gone very quickly with one group and then labored over the same exact question with other groups," said Keith Christiansen, who teaches eighth-grade English at M.S. 88 in Brooklyn.

"The rubrics surrounding these things are ridiculous," he added. "All of this seems like the kind of accountability that is more of a checked box than an effective way of measuring the test."

Teachers: share your thoughts about scoring state exams here. How's it going? Join the conversation!

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