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.