Around the country, students are now taking preposterously lengthy standardized tests related to the Common Core Standards Initiative.
To the chagrin of education bureaucrats, there’s a growing backlash against the test among parents—many of whom are opting their children out of the tests. (RELATED: You won’t believe what happened to this kid’s mom after she knocked Common Core)
There’s also a growing backlash against the tests among teachers and school officials at elementary and middle schools.
New York State is ground zero for this phenomenon. By the score, teachers and administrators across The Empire State have taken to the internet to vent their frustrations about the ELA, the state’s standardized test in English Language Arts which is specifically designed to align with Common Core.
A third-grade teacher writing in Slate only as Anonymous ripped the grueling multi-day test for being a useless exercise in process of elimination that cannot be expected to make sense to a typical third-grade kid.
Instead of a question like: “What caused the character to (insert action here) in the middle of the story?” (which, mind you, is hard enough for an 8-year-old to identify as it is), there were questions like: “In Line 8 of Paragraph 4, the character says … and in Line 17 of Paragraph 5, the character does … Which of the following lines from Paragraph 7 best supports the character’s actions?” This, followed by four choices of lines from Paragraph 7 that could all, arguably, show motivation for the character’s actions…
As Anonymous notes, teachers are forbidden from exposing the low-quality test material—produced, teachers say, by educational publishing behemoth Pearson.
Nevertheless, at a website called Testing Talk, teachers and administrators (and parents) have been venting about the awful quality of the ELA test.
“It is not a valid measure of students’ reading comprehension,” wrote one frustrated teacher concerning the questions and, particularly, the appalling array of answer choices.
“There were several that I did not know exactly which choice was correct and could have justified an answer for all the choices and I’m a reading specialist and have been teaching for 24 years, so how are kids supposed to do this?”
A third-grade teacher calling herself Rebecca concurred, saying, “There were questions I believed could have had two or three answers.”
Rebecca and many other teachers also criticized the test writers for their inability to ask grade-level appropriate questions. “One question seemed to have been worded for high school or college students,” she complained. “Even my strongest students (students reading at almost a 5th grade level) got stumped and frustrated by this exam. I did as well.”
A fourth-grade teacher, Megan, agreed
“Students spent so much time trying to decipher strangely worded questions, only to discover that two answer choices sort of fit what the question was sort of asking,” she said.
While the multiple-choice questions were awful, a set of “vague and unreasonably difficult” questions requiring written responses caused even more misery.
A teacher named Scott criticized a question asking students “to explain what lesson can be learned from the passage.”
“My only hope is that the state allows a very broad interpretation of the lesson, as long as it’s supported by the text,” Scott said. “You could make arguments for several ‘lessons’ in the passage but I don’t believe the author had a message in mind when she wrote this non-fiction story.”
Another teacher, Elena, said her students felt confused and depressed.
“There were so many frustrated sighs in the room from kids who had worked so hard for so many months and were made to feel stupid as they struggled through this unfair and unreasonable test.”
Then there’s the matter of scoring the written responses (from 0 to 2). Teachers charged with scoring the responses have described the process as “grim” and grossly inconsistent.
“We are treated like inmates,” an anonymous grader wrote. “No eating, drinking, phones or talking. We are reprimanded as if we are children rather than professionals.”
Another anonymous grader detailed the bizarre scoring system.
“During the training, we were told that students who only copied a portion of the text, with no original wording, were to be given a zero,” the grader wrote. “However, the second day of scoring, we were told that if the student copied the text and the text was somehow relevant, they were to receive a 1.”
Also, the teacher objected, many questions required an “inference” for a two-point score when, in fact, there was no indication in the question that students should infer anything.
For example, if a question would ask something like (this is not a real question from the text): “How did the family improve their house? Use two details from the text.” One would think plausible answer would be: “They painted the roof. They also painted the walls.” Not so! You need an inference! Something like: “They improved their house by making some parts of it better looking. They painted the roof. They painted the walls.”
The saddest part about the whole Common Core testing ordeal, though, is reading about the little grade-school kids who suffered as a result of the standardized tests.
“According to the proctor who administered the ELA test in my room, one student began hyperventilating, cried and reported that her heart ‘was pounding,'” wrote a teacher calling herself Brenda. “On day two, one of my students came in that morning telling me that she had had a nightmare about failing the test. On day three, one of my students sobbed because he couldn’t read the passage.”
In another instance, the parent of a New York City first-grader logged onto Testing Talk to reveal that she had to bring a change of clothes to school because her son had wet his pants because of the standardized test.
“When I arrived, I found him crying and soaked to his socks,” the outraged parent explained. “As I was helping him get changed, I asked him what had happened and he told me his teacher told him he couldn’t go to the bathroom. When I asked her to explain the situation, she said that she made an announcement in the morning that they would have to limit their bathroom breaks because of ‘the state tests’ and they would be expected to go during lunchtime.”
“He told me he tried to hold it but just couldn’t,” she added.
The incident is certainly not the first time a child has wet his or her pants over Common Core testing. (RELATED: Common Core again threatens to make little kids pee their pants)