Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WSJ Reveals Pearson/NYState Ed Test Follies: Is a State Ed SWAT Team at their door?

To put this kind of burden on kids as young as third grade is a form of child abuse...Ryan Bourke, principal at Manhattan’s P.S. 212 in the WSJ

Mindy Rosier, a special-education teacher at a school in Harlem who teaches science but wasn’t a proctor for this round of testing, heard from peers that the tests were ”ridiculously hard.” By midday after the test, “kids were breaking down, they were crying” from the stress, she said... WSJ
Arne Duncan calls out SWAT to stop test leaks
Go Mindy - this MOREista is all over the place.

Note below how Pearson tries to blame NY State Ed Dept for these junk science tests.

I've wanted to write about type of content on these tests but was worried about a SWAT team coming to my house to arrest me. The Change the Stakes listserve has been buzzing with sample questions and vocabulary lists from last weeks test. Some of them make the famous Pearson Pineapple ('Pineapplegate' Ignites Testing Debate - Teaching Now ...)  story look like a peanut.

Pearson, NY State Ed, etc have made it a crime for teachers to talk about the test in order to hide Pineapplegate stories from the public. 

Martin Daly left this comment on the WSJ article below:
Here is the link to a reading passage on the grade 6 ELA test last week -- appropriate for a high stakes test given to 11 year olds? BTW, there was no footnote or sidebar defining "ephemeral"
We conspiracy theorists view the entire common core/testing regime is designed to make public schools look so bad that privatized charters seem to be the only option -- turn the nation into New Orleans.

But surprise, surprise -- the Wall Street Journal is willing to go there. Read some of the comments, one of the funniest from someone who said 40% failed a hard test at MIT. I commented:
If 40% failed a test at MIT shouldn't the professor have been fired for being an ineffective teacher? After all that is what these tests are aiming at. Shouldn't MIT be considered a failing school? After all that is how public schools are branded based on these tests. We are talking about 9 year olds. As a 6th grade teacher I gave my kids harder passages to read during normal instruction, but not on tests that they are told will result in holding them back, firing their teachers and closing their schools. Sometimes we have to stop making ridiculous comparisons.
Here is the WSJ article.

New York State Tests for Fourth-Graders Included Passages Taken from Books Meant for Older Students

Excerpts came from ‘The Green Dog: A Mostly True Story,’ ‘Hattie Big Sky,’ and ‘The Clay Marble.’

Some fourth-graders tackling New York state tests in language arts last week examined passages that were taken from books deemed by several independent rating systems to be at a fifth- or sixth-grade reading level, according to a person who saw the exam.
For the past three years of new state exams aligned to the Common Core learning standards, a set of guidelines for skills children should master in each grade, critics have said some questions are too difficult and confusing for many children.
A person who saw one of the four versions of the fourth-grade language-arts test spotted excerpts from three books that are considered at a fifth- or sixth-grade reading level by several widely used rating systems of children’s literature.
The books featured on the test included: “The Green Dog: A Mostly True Story,” “Hattie Big Sky,” and “The Clay Marble.”
“ ‘Hattie Big Sky’ is not for fourth-graders,” said Pat Scales, a retired librarian living in Greenville, S.C., who wrote a teachers’ reading guide for the book, which she described as appropriate for middle-school students.
“Just because a fourth-grader can probably read that book as far as calling the words, they don’t have enough life experience or are mature enough to deal with ‘Hattie Big Sky,’ ” Ms. Scales said.
State education officials declined to confirm which excerpts were used on the exams, but they said teachers were involved in developing and reviewing questions.
“There are, of course, challenging questions on every test,” said Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the New York State Education Department.
Mr. Tompkins also pointed out that a specific excerpt used as part of the test could be rated at a different grade level than the book overall.
“Ratings of a whole book are not going to match the text complexity of a selected passage,” he said. “To compare the complexity of an excerpt to an entire book would be akin to saying Bill Buckner was a terrible baseball player based on one play in the 1986 World Series.”
A spokesman for Pearson PLC, the test vendor, said the company works with state officials to write the tests, and all tests meet the standards set by the state Education Department.
“We take steps, in line with these standards, to ensure that the testing material is right for the students taking the test,” the spokesman said.
State rules bar educators and students from disclosing what is on the state tests, but some questions have been leaked at a time of mounting opposition to standardized testing.
Parents and teachers pushing for boycotts of state tests hope airing questions will help discredit the tests. Officials at teachers unions have protested using student gains on these tests as part of teacher evaluations, especially when they believe the tests are poorly designed.
But state officials have said it is crucial for children to take the tests to show how their skills compare to their peers’, identify achievement gaps and guide instruction. The tests are mandated by federal rules.
Lucy Calkins, director of the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project at Columbia University, has reviewed previously released test questions. Having difficult reading passages, she said, wasn't the main concern.

“The biggest problem is the obscurity of the questions and the fact that well educated adults can’t agree on the answers,” she said.
Ms. Calkins said the new tests should have debuted as a pilot project before being used as part of teacher evaluations.
Carl Korn, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers, a union, said some test questions this year, as in the past, were too hard and complicated, with overly lengthy reading passages.
The third-grade test, for example, had an allusion to the Aurora Borealis, a pattern of different colored lights sometimes seen in the night sky in the northern part of the world, without a definition of the term, he said.
Further, Mr. Korn said, one language-arts question was used on both the third-grade exam and the fifth-grade one.
“Many test questions were inappropriate and served no purpose but to confuse and frustrate students,” he said.

Ryan Bourke, principal at Manhattan’s P.S. 212, said he heard of children crying after the language-arts tests last week. He couldn’t discuss the content of the test or its questions, he said, because the test is “veiled in secrecy.”
In the months and weeks preceding these exams, the anxiety builds in third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students and their parents, who go through lengths to pay for tutors and test prep, said Mr. Bourke.
“To put this kind of burden on kids as young as third grade is a form of child abuse,” he said. “The test is hard and it’s long.”
In August, the department released half of the 2014 test questions to the public, up from 25% the previous year, to help teachers understand the questions and how they aligned to expectations for students.

Mindy Rosier, a special-education teacher at a school in Harlem who teaches science but wasn’t a proctor for this round of testing, heard from peers that the tests were ”ridiculously hard.” By midday after the test, “kids were breaking down, they were crying” from the stress, she said.
Anna Allanbrook, principal at P.S. 146, the Brooklyn New School, said only 5% of students took the test, so it was a normal, anxiety-free day for her school.
“It was interesting not to feel that angst that I think is very common for educators to feel when they see that the test is way too hard for most of their kids. And that does cause kids to collapse,” she said.

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