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Brooklyn Teachers Say Latest ELA Test Too Hard to Comprehend

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TWC News: Brooklyn Teachers Say Latest ELA Test Too Hard to Comprehend
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Staff at PS 321 in Brooklyn held a protest against the Common Core aligned English Language Arts test Friday morning, saying the exam did a poor job testing students' reading comprehension. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

City principals don't usually openly protest state education policy. But two Brooklyn principals say this week's standardized tests prompted them to act.

"We protected the children from the worst of the test. I don't think most of them were too stressed out, but I think as educators and adults we were horrified and we feel the need to speak out," said P.S. 321 Principal Liz Phillips.

Teachers also explained why.

"No one has ever seen a test that more poorly assessed the ability of their students, that it had. The test had nothing to do with the Common Core state standards, nothing to do with what students were taught in school. That they were confusing. That there were several questions where multiple answers definitely could have been the right ones," said Avni Bhatia, a P.S. 321 teacher.

This was the second year New York State tested students based on much more difficult learning standards called the Common Core.

"We are not against the Common Core standards. We believe in them, our school has been teaching to the standards and our kids are doing fine. It's just the stakes attached to the test are high," said one Brooklyn parent.

The state used to publish the full tests after students finished, but the policy has changed.
Now, educators are required to keep the content confidential.  

"I think the public would be really worried if they were able to see what we've seen these past few days," said one Brooklyn teacher.

State officials stand by the exams, saying they were developed, reviewed and edited by New York teachers and then field tested across the state.

But P.S. 321 isn't the only school pushing back. There was a similar rally Friday at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill where now-Chancellor Carmen Fariña worked as a teacher for two decades.

Some parents have been protesting the tests by asking their children not be tested at all. It's a small but growing group, estimated to be about a thousand in the city but maybe up to 30,000 across the state.

Lawmakers are starting to respond, with the city and state changing policies so test scores don't carry quite as much weight.

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