Day 1 – 2014 NYS/Pearson Common Core ELA exam


Photograph courtesy of CBS New York: “Uptown parents announce their kids are opting out of upcoming Common Core tests (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)”

Today I administered DAY ONE of the 2014 New York State/Pearson Common Core English-language arts (ELA) assessment to grade 5 English-language learners (ELLs) and former ELLs. Because they are entitled to extended time on state assessments, my 5th graders sat in the testing room for a total of 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes). They all finished in that allotted time, however half would not have completed the exam had they not been given time and a half.

Today’s ELA test booklet was 27-pages long and contained a total of 42 multiple choice questions. There were six reading passages, divided equally between fiction and non-fiction. The reading passages were dense and the questions were highly analytical.  From what I saw, neither the length nor the content of the 5th grade test was developmentally appropriate.  Why was today’s test so lengthy, especially considering there are TWO more days of ELA testing? Was it because Pearson field test questions are embedded in the exams? 

Here are some student and teacher reactions to the DAY ONE ELA test:

1.) A few third graders fell asleep during the exam. One very capable student lamented, “It’s just too much.”

2.) A student confessed to his teacher that he “just sees the passages and chooses an answer.” He doesn’t actually read them.

3.) 5th graders complained that the reading passages were boring and uninspiring.  As a result, comprehension was a struggle and they had to re-read the lengthy passages in order to answer the multiple choice questions.

4.) In one 5th grade class that received 90 minutes to take the test, six to 10 students either didn’t finish or rushed to finish.  In this class, over half of the students received a score of 3 or 4 on the 2013 test.

5.) A 5th grader quit reading the test after finishing the first passage.  He randomly bubbled his answer grid while muttering “F*$k this sh*#!”

6.) Some students remarked that test prep and the previously administered benchmark assessment prepared them for today’s test.  They knew what was expected of them.  Tragically, these students have come equate academic success with satisfactory performance on these state assessments.  Unlike their teachers, these students aren’t seeing the larger picture and give less weight to classroom work.  I believe that this is due, in large part, to the message they are getting from their parents and as a result of the test-driven culture that exists in today’s public schools.  Some 5th graders expect and even demand test prep.  A teacher noted that they like the thrill – the instant gratification – of answering a question correctly.

I wish every student in New York State had refused the test.  It is unconscionable that we are subjecting our children – as young as eight years old – to developmentally inappropriate and meaningless assessments.  




9 thoughts on “Day 1 – 2014 NYS/Pearson Common Core ELA exam

  1. First of all I would like to thank you for being a teacher especially in these times where it seems you have no say in what you feel should be taught. Second I would like to thank you again for being honest on how this is affecting the children. Most parents feel the same as you and we live with these kids who are choosing to give up rather than learn. They lost the spark in their eyes, the will to learn and their self esteem. I am one of those parents who are proud to say I have your back and we all are fighting for you the teachers and our children. I opted my son out of these tests because I feel these tests are only making my child hate school more and he plain out told me the something one of your students did. My son told me that he was just going to fill in any old answer just to be done with it. This test in no way should be any deciding factor on how a child or teacher is doing. A good teacher can tell you which child needs more help without a test and a good parent can tell if a teacher is good or not based on their communication with each other and the teacher’s willingness to help more if the child needs it.

  2. Pingback: MORE members take action against over-testing! « Movement of Rank and File Educators

  3. This is partially true but these assessments really do help our kids. The problem isn’t the test itself it’s the bizarre questions and the age the kids are taking it. Think about it and think of the solutions.

  4. I agree with BB Jayz. But over all I understand where your coming from Katie. Good job for speaking your mind. I’m glad to see these good people have your back on the insane questions.

  5. Fifth grade assessment 90 mins, 6 passages with 7 corresponding questions. That’s about 15 mins each. I ask how many teachers would accept work that students completed in 15 mins as their “best effort”? FOr the 3rd and 4th grade assessments the time allowed per passage/question is even less.
    This is day 1 observations.

  6. I took the test and I was like I have colorful words for the state and the testmakers. Like I was stressed out and then our teachers are really proud that we atleast did our best even if we fail or not.

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