More Insights from Common Core Testing in NYC

This is truly a fascinating article from the New York Times as they interviewed students about testing.
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.

But not far away, Abby Schneider, a sixth grader at Middle School 447 in Boerum Hill, said the tests had not been a breeze. She described passages she felt were too scientific and did not give enough information to construct an answer, like one about how sandstorms move. There were multiple-choice questions that seemed to have two correct answers.  

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? 


peonypower said…
thankfully- not my own, but I will be watching it in the classroom. It seems to be all smoke and mirrors
Anonymous said…
This is what the creators of Common Core deserve:

Ivan Weiss
Anonymous said…
Am I interpreting this reading passage correctly?

A NY education official said the state/he deliberately chose misleading or incorrect factual texts in order to see if kids could disregard outside (correct) knowledge and choose an answer based solely on the factually incorrect reading passage?

That man should not be involved with the replacement for the Tappan Zee bridge. He should not inspect gas lines in Manhattan. He should not write a news story. He should not design software, be a judge, be a police officer, be a doctor, be a dentist - nothing that requires applying prior CORRECT outside knowledge to a problem presented in order to spot and discard mistakes and find important solutions.

If that man does anything other than demand money back from the testing company that supplied factually incorrect questions, discard all answers -- right and wrong -- to that question -- and apologize for his idiotic statement that NY WANTED to test if children could choose an answer based upon an incorrect reading passage -- if he does anything less than all of the above, he should be fired.

Either he actually did deliberately decide an incorrect question was appropriate, or he is covering up for letting one slip through with the most bizarre fail of an explanation I can imagine.

Either way, he should be fired by the governor of New York.

That is completely unacceptable in every other job. A 19 year old Marine cannot say "I deliberately loaded the wrong calibre in the 50 cal to see if the others could tell."

How do people who would think like this end up with this level of responsibility? I really don't understand. Has no performance evaluation ever in their life been honest?

Signed: Math Counts.

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