I love the way it opens:
William Summitt and Simon Sanders said they were ready. Their fourth-grade class at the Children’s School, near Park Slope in Brooklyn, had prepared for the state reading tests by going over sample passages beforehand, including a challenging excerpt from “King Lear” in which the king asks his three daughters questions about their love for him.
King Lear for 4th graders? That's one way to get them ready.
And this question must have been a doozy:
One educator, who declined to be identified because the test questions are supposed to remain confidential, said one third-grade question seemed inappropriate for children that age. It required them to decipher a passage about a wife’s threatening to leave her spouse if he did not divulge a secret.
What? And here's what was explained about that question (shake your head or laugh - take your pick because I don't get needing to write this kind of question for young children):
The officials also defended the passage about the woman threatening to leave her husband, saying that divorce comes up often in books and television shows and that many students deal with it directly and indirectly. They noted that it was a piece of fiction that included a talking snake.
But, of course - who could get confused over a reading passage for third-graders about secrets, divorce and a talking snake?
An issue - of multiple correct answers - seems to pop up in story after story. If it is true that students have to read a passage cold and not bring in their own perspective, that needs to be clearly explained to students. I would think it might be confusing to students to teach them NOT to bring in prior knowledge.
Some multiple-choice questions do include a single correct answer next to several close ones, said Ken Wagner, a deputy state education commissioner. Students must show they understood the passage enough to pick the answer that “is correct, versus the ones that were plausible, but incorrect,” he said. “That is what we intended to happen.”
In reading the texts, “prior knowledge may or may not be relevant” to answers, Mr. Wagner said. But the point is to digest something with a perspective that might be complex, or even inaccurate, and react, “based on its own terms, not necessarily on your predispositions,” he said.
Anxiety over finishing on time also continues to crop up as an issue.
But still, students, teachers and principals quarreled with elements of this year’s tests. Some students said that, as was the case last year, they felt rushed or could not finish. (The tests last 70 or 90 minutes each day, depending on the grade.)
“I’ve had students sobbing in my arms, afraid they wouldn’t finish, afraid they wouldn’t do well enough to move on to the next grade,” said Donna Taylor, the principal of the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a highly selective school.
This could all be growing pains but it does seem to point to the fact that it will take a long time for the testing to not have this mass confusion and take roots.
Bill Gates said it could take a decade and he seems to be the Czar of Public Education these days.
Whose kids get to be in that decade?