Thursday, December 25, 2014

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The Call Blog: Teachers, Parents Speak Out Against State Tests

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There is no shortage of ideas on ways to improve these State tests. The only question is whether those in power will listen to the people. Sadly, it's a familiar theme in government these days on the local, state and federal levels.

In a rare sign of public dissent, some principals and teachers are speaking out against this year's standardized English exams. Outside P.S. 321 in Park Slope this morning, a rally was held to mark the end of the three-day testing period. This was the second year New York State tested students on the new Common Core learning standards. Math tests will be held at the end of the month.

Protesters claimed the English Language Arts test "had nothing to do with what students were taught in school" and included questions where "multiple answers" could have been correct. Others complained about a policy change that won't let students see their full test results. What do you say?

How did this week's standardized testing go at your school? Should students be allowed to see the results of their tests in order to know what areas need improvement? What does it say about the state of education in New York State that these tests have been met with so much protest?

Send your thoughts using the link below.

I think it's about time people protest this testing. It's terrible - it has no benefit on kids, schools or teachers. These kids have so much stress over these tests and these tests do not evaluate students correctly at all. There could be a kid who's a great testtaker but a bad student or vice versa. These tests have got to go.


NYC school teachers don't want to be held accountable in any way in contrast to what Alex says. Any measure of NYC teacher performance that is implemented , their very powerful union is against. We have to take standardized tests throughout our lives. It's important that children start at an early age to become used to and perform well on standardized tests. If teachers don't start becoming accountable for what they do instead of the UFT being a jobs program, NYC students will continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

Bay Ridge Brooklyn

I have two Masters' Degrees and had trouble figuring out the answers to some of the third grade questions. I really am not sure that third grades need to be able to analyze text structure, for example. It is hard enough to get their to enjoy reading, and this approach makes it even worse! Then the students were supposed to write an essay based on a passage about a young girl making her way in the Depression. It was a lovely story, but the passage started in the middle, and I have no idea how children were supposed to know what the setting or context was. Really! Whoever claims that this test was extensively field tested and researched is flat out lying!


My 3rd grader wants you to know that the 3rd day of the third grade test was "so hard!" many of her classmates did not finish.

She is in a gifted and talented class and she is a top reader and She did not fully understand one of the passages. How are kids in other classes supposed to do this work?

Donna in Manhattan

The testing is cruel &, unusual punishment to children. We dont need to test kids. Thats not what life is all about. The results should,NOT be used to evaluate teachers. The United States should not be in the habit of giving money to Pearson. Arne Duncan should resign. Stop teaching to tests & teach kids about critical thing,analysis & reasoning.get rid of the common core. This is disrespectful to children, families &, teachers.


I am extremely surprised at the protest. Teacher’s parents and students need to understand what a challenge is. Common Core all balls down to critical thinking skills. The problem is; students, parents and some educators are so used to-and have conformed to presentation of exams, ect. being made the easy way. No one thinks any more. The calculator does everything. If the cash register breaks down at McDonalds, I feel sorry for both the employee and the consumer. The quick answer syndrome needs to stop. Students need to learn how to critically think. Parents need to understand that education doesn’t stop after 3:00 p.m.; parents need to educate their children by going in-depth as t how to understand how they arrived at an answer. COMMON CORE EQUATES TO CRITICAL THINKING AND COMMON SENSE! If you are able to critically think, you will know your flaws.

Tami the Broker, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn.

I agree with the protests the test was horrible. I also work for DOE and I am parent too . I helped out with the test and the test was not grade appropriate I had a third grader was crying saying the test was too hard and she did not complete it. The DOE needs to go back the old way of teaching our children where they need to incorporate using punctuation spelling and vocabulary these are the skills they need to master to become good writers.


Pearson is being paid by the Koch brothers to create a terrible test because, although the grades won't count for the kids, they will count on the teachers' evaluations. Hence, ineffective teachers--you're fired! Why else is this test shrouded in so much secrecy?!

Shelley from Park Slope

I believe this test is set to fail the students. It is confusing for both the teachers and the students. Not fair.


Time Management was a big problem for my 7th grader and his whole class. 43 questions in 90 minutes, but extremely confusing questions. Very inappropriate for the grade level

Astoria NY.


Where is Michael Mulgrew hiding?

midtown east

I'm Shane.

The protesting is absolutely embarrassing for the city and state. Being from out of state, there is a reason my children will not attend a public school in NY. The following test are meant to test the bare minimum of what kids should know. The fact is that the state is developing a test that makes kids apply the concepts these NY teachers are suppose to 'teach'. There is a lot of teachers in this city avoiding accountability for doing their jobs. An example of a state that administers these tests successfully is Texas. The TAKS (their version) is given to every grade at year end and you only see your results. However, practice test are administered by teachers to prepare kids. The results directly affect teacher evaluations, state funding (more money for higher performance), and developing students.

To the publishing concern...practice tests are variations the test given, and test taken are release for practice afterwards. People speaking out against this can't accept their kids might not be bright enough to pass. Completely embarrassing.

I'm a third grade teacher and I think the test was horrible. My students worked hard all year. Many came to me below level and I have work to show growth. However the growth that "matters" is this test score. That score is not a reflection of my students ability or my teaching ability. It's one tool to assess. However, without getting a skills analysis it's not even that.

Common core is not developmentally appropriate. Five year olds cannot think critically they are very literal at that age. My third graders still struggle with it. Foundations should be taught in the early grades when there is a solid foundation you can build up to analyzing.

Anonymous in Staten Island

I am a teacher in middle school and I know how stressful and overwhelming was the test especially for students in self-contained class. Three days for three periods and plus extended period! Have the test designers ever tried to do it for themselves?! Some of my students were just melted down and didn't finished the test. I think it does not the right way to evaluate students achievements. And to evaluate teachers.


This test isn't the sort of exam that can accurately assess one's skills in the real world. In the real world, very few people spend their days mulling over the tone of a passage. And isn't the point of school meant to prepare us for what is to come, with these tests letting us know where we can improve? Denying us the ability to see the test derails the supposed point of the exam.

Middle Schooler from Manhattan

After 12 years of teaching, I've always been an advocate for higher, more transparent and uniform standards. I am in favor of the common core standards. With that being said, I was highly disturbed by the tests I administered this week as a 5th grade teacher. I was perplexed by some of the questions and had a conversation with two of my colleagues about certain questions. 3 adults with masters degrees came up with different answers to those questions!! If adults couldn't agree on the right answers, imagine how much these poor ten year olds struggled.

Please keep anonymous !

Children should not be under this type of stress. Students need to play, run, dance and actually have fun. This play and interaction teaches them more about life then a test will. The new, rigorous testing will impact this generation of children. We will see the result in years to come.


I am a 5th grade teacher in Brooklyn. It really broke my heart to watch my students who are extremely highly motivated, come to school even on Saturdays to prepare for this exam, only to feel absolutely defeated. Let us not forget the fact that NYC Public schools have a high population of English Language Learners that are held to the same standards as those born here. I had a child have an anxiety attack the day before the test, but is too young to really understand why.


I agree that Pearson should release the test results if they are suspect (although people need to realize that if that has to be done every year it will add to the cost of preparing the tests, which will ultimately fall back on the taxpayer).

However, parents are taking this personally. I've heard so many people say something to the effect of, "I didn't know the answer, so how could my kid?" My favorite was the guy who said that a third-person narrator can't have a voice.

Listen, I got straight A's all the way through school, and by the questions I've heard on air, I probably couldn't answer them correctly. But so what? I've forgotten 90% of what I learned in school, we all have. My parents couldnt' answer my questions when I was in school - that's just what happens after 30 years. Sure, they don't teach "practical skills," but don't blame that on Pearson - that's just the way primary education is done in every place other than a few select private schools.


The ELA was fairly simple, yet complicated, so it was both fun and challenging to try it out after all we learned.


I am a seventh grader so I am not new to the ELA and I think this test was the worst. The questions were designed to trick the person instead of testing reading comprehension or any of the many other skills that we have been taught. High stakes? Where I go to high school will be determined by how well I did on these tests. I'm very disappointed and I expect better.


I am an Ivy League graduate with three advanced degrees and have been tutoring at the fifth grade level for fifteen retirement years in the public system.

The problem is not with the tests, the problem is with the teaching environment and the lack of family rigor in supporting homework and a learning focus at home. Other countries are ahead because of a culture of educational excellence as a gateway to a fuller life. If we chose not to emphasize the role of education as the first step to success, we will enjoy the catastrophe that follows.


I am 74 years old, attended Catholic schools. When I attended school we did not have pre-K, we did not have kindergarten. We started in the first grade with classes 1A, 1B, 1C etc All through grammar school and high school there were at least 45 to 50 children in each class. We were taught by nuns and by what were called "lay" teachers (teachers who were not a member of a religious order). We learned, we got good grades and NO ONE FAILED. The classes were governed by a syllabus and when that book was completed before the end of the term we started on the book for the next term. I have grandchildren who now attend grammar school. I believe there may be about 20 children in the class. I was visiting my son and my grandchild said "oh dad, I forgot to tell you that I need $10.00 for school tomorrow". He asked why and was told "well, the teacher finished teaching us what is in the teachers book so we are going bowling". Bowling? Really? What about reviewing what you taught. There were no days off for teachers meetings they were held after school. When I went to school if a student needed extra help they were given help either by the teachers in the morning before classes began or after school or by those of us students who were a little brighter. We took tests EVERY WEEK to determine where extra time should be spent on a subject. I think the time has come to get back to teaching the basics, reading, writing, math, history, etc just the way we were taught in the "good old days". After graduation we were not morons, we became doctors, lawyers, nurses, judges, accountants etc. It's time the parents, teachers and students stop complaining and get back to the basics of learning. Furthermore, teachers should not be free baby sitters for parents who go to work. They are there to teach. Oh, and by the way we had homework in every subject, every night and the homework was reviewed in class every day.


Hi John

The students and parents should see all of the test results so they would know what to go over, all parents should help their kids study because the kids might need a little help kids are intelligent but they need some help. Mr Walcott said the students need to be tested in rigorous ways i agree with him because it'll help them when they apply for college and get out into the workforce. No teacher should protest any test the students have to learn have to learn that all tests are easy espically when they get into college, the students should be studying for the math exams now put away the video games and hit the books parents help your kids if they need help, if the parents can't help a family member or a knowledgeable adult should help we all have to pitch in and help the kids they're our future.


Hi John,

Like I've mentioned many times before. This administration chooses the wrong priorities with everything. The education system was in a shambles and considered to be the most important project to tackle and yet all we're hearing about is Pre-K and while parents and teachers are showing their displeasure about this same common core testing for the second year in a row. We now have another complaint in that being the students are not permitted to see their test scores. I can see no reason why they are not permitted to do so. I still would like to know just who is running the show? It has become a Circus and they had better a grip on it. This is such a large task to take on so something surely has to be done about it. It needs someone's full attention = WITHOUT A DOUBT !!!

Thank you John,
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