April 24, 2013
All’s quiet on the Common Core math test front, for now.
After last week’s state reading tests drew sharp criticism, anxiety ran high as students headed into the first of three days of math testing today. But educators are saying the first day was uneventful — and possibly even easier than they expected.
“There was a little bit of a sigh of relief when they started going through the test,” David Baiz, who teaches at Global Technology Preparatory Middle School, said of his eighth-grade students. “They felt like they were capable of doing it.”
Jose Vilson, who teaches at I.S. 52 in Washington Heights, tweeted just after the exam, ”My kids found the test pretty easy, and this time, I trust it.”
And a student named Jessica Lish who has tweeted her reaction to each day of the state tests so far wrote, “The first day of the math state tests was not that hard.” Last week, she said the second day of the reading tests was “confusing and hard to finish” but that the third day was “easy.”
A page set up on Reddit to collect feedback about the math test sat empty this afternoon. Its creator, the author of a blog that criticizes the state’s new math standards, told GothamSchools the page was inspired by literacy educator Lucy Calkins’ rapid accumulation of comments criticizing last week’s reading tests.
Those tests prompted teachers to complain that students were given too little time to answer all of the questions. Today, at least one complained that students had too much time. “Students completed Book 1 Math State Assessment in less than 25 min?” Cheryl Hughes, a Buffalo teacher who proctored eighth-graders today, wrote in a tweet to State Education Commissioner John King that included the hashtag “#LostLearningTime.”
Students and teachers had girded themselves for a challenging math test after months of warnings from city and state officials that the transition to new standards called the Common Core would cause scores to plummet. In math, the Common Core emphasizes greater integration of literacy, tasks that require students to work through multiple steps, and more real-world application of mathematical concepts.
But today’s tests, given to students in grades three through eight, were all multiple choice, and teachers said the questions did not all reflect the higher standards. (On Friday, students will have to provide their own answers to test questions.)
Baiz said the multiple-choice questions focused more on computation than on applying math concepts. “It’s still testing some form of knowledge, but it’s not that deeper kind of math work I was expecting from a Common Core-aligned test,” he said.
“I heard the math test was gonna be heavy with reading. First day didn’t seem too bad,” tweeted OldCoyotesAreUs, a teacher. Baiz said one question had only words and no numbers, tripping up a student who is an English language learner, but other questions required little reading.
“If you were asking me to describe it in one word, I would say it was fair. In all aspects — in terms of the content covered, in terms of the time given. I was a little surprised because I was expecting multiple standards to be assessed at once,” said Joe Negron, who teaches math at KIPP Infinity Middle School. (Negron, like Vilson, appeared on GothamSchools’ panel about Common Core math this month.)
He added, “Perhaps that’s what there’s a day two and day three for.”