April 16, 2013
As the first day of this year’s state testing period came to a close this afternoon, teachers from across the city took to Twitter to share their takes on whether the exam is shaping up to be as tough as officials have warned.
State education officials caution that discussing the contents of the tests, the first to be tied to the new Common Core standards, could be grounds for termination for teachers. But teachers offered a thorough review without getting into specifics. Many said students struggled to complete the reading test in the allotted time. Others, in multiple grades, said some questions seemed to have multiple correct answers.
Valerie Leak tweeted, ”7th[-grade] texts were manageable but Qs were v difficult. kids left guessing w 5 min left. Close reading required w not enough time.”
“Close reading” is a skill that the Common Core emphasizes, and students across the city have been practicing with it all year. But Binh Thai, an eighth-grade English teacher at University Neighborhood Middle School on the Lower East Side, told GothamSchools that the technique and others that the Common Core calls for worked against some students today.
“They maybe overused some of those skills,” he said. “In annotating every single paragraph, they just lost an enormous amount of time.”
Just after the test, Thai tweeted, ”Have MPA, MSEd, MA & I cldn’t figure definitive answers 2 some ELA test questions. Kids shdn’t experience this lvl of stress.”
Robbie Havdala shared a similar sentiment. ”I scored in the 95th percentile on the GRE verbal this year yet had trouble answering multiple 7th grade ELA test questions,” he wrote.
Mike Locker wrote, “7th/8th: Not enough time for many students; more than several questions seemed to have two valid answer choices.”
ChristinaMLuce tweeted, ”My 6th grade students took the entire 90 mins & said the reading was challenging & some questions difficult to understand.”
“Challenging for sure!” tweeted Alison Candamil, a teacher at Harlem Success Academy 4. She added, “intricate questions that required a lot of higher level thinking. Passage difficulty was fair.”
Some educators had less even-handed takes on the new tests. Rratto, who has been critical of the new standards and the State Education Department’s rollout, wrote, “5th grade question vocabulary was an unpleasant surprise.. Ex… which paragraph changed the focus?”
Earlier in the day, he had alluded to a different problem on the test, tweeting, “One should expect an example of inform text on a state test would give accurate and correct info… Not in NYS.”
Sunshinaya wrote, “The 3rd grade NYS ELA was developmentally inappropriate for 3rd graders. The questions were difficult and tricky.”
Earlier in the day, she had tweeted, “Watching students with special needs take the NYS ELA exam but not being able to do what we do in the classroom as teachers is frustrating.”
And Hadas DG wrote, “Students with SpEd extensions were working to the very end of the 135 min. Unclear policy regarding IEPs & reading Qs aloud.”
Other parents and teachers gave the tests better reviews. “My 3rd & 6th graders said test was fair. Both said teachers prepared them well & covered the material. Very promising review,” wrote Mike Reilly, a parent who sits on the Community Education Council for District 31 in Staten Island.
“The test did not in my view turn out as scary as the sample questions suggested,” Yisroel Feld, a teacher at Sinai Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn, wrote on the school’s website. “The texts were accessible, somewhat engaging. They were on average longer than in the past, but all in all appropriate. The questions were varied and, at this first glance, pretty well crafted.”
Today’s testing included only multiple-choice questions based on fiction and nonfiction passages. Over the next two days, students will complete additional portions of the test that include short-answer and essay questions. Next week, students will take math tests.