Thursday, April 3, 2014

Today's ELA Test: Parents Beware!

Today is the last day for testing students in English Language Arts (ELA) - one of the required 3-8 NYS tests to determine...
1. Student improvement/growth
2. Teacher performance
3. Impact of Common Core State Standards

Here is one of the three essay questions for grade 3:

"...the passage is organized by an introduction of a central problem and then its solution. How do paragraphs 8 through 10 contribute to this organization?"  

Does that seem like age-appropriate language for a 3rd grader? A friend said to me, "A large percentage of Americans cannot name the vice-president but Pearson (the test makers) thinks third graders should understand that question."

If Pearson had given an age-appropriate version of the passage above, they could have presented the following:

What is the central problem in the story and how was it solved? 

A central problem with these tests (tied to the Common Core Standards) is not the content but the multi-leveled questioning. If the question is not understood by students, how can they give their best answers?

In addition, in one story (in today's 3rd grade ELA), there was an essay question about why a "chronometer" is helpful. Throughout the story there were repeated references to "time," "clocks,"to being in a "sailboat," and to "sailors." In the last sentence of the story, the word "chronometer" was introduced. It read: "We now call marine timekeepers chronometers." Students were exposed to the words "timekeeper" (instead of clock) and "marine" (instead of sailing) both without a single context clue.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that many (maybe most) students are stressed and frustrated with such questions. Some teachers may be wondering if the test maker is purposely aiming to confuse students. Just who is charged with determining if these tests are valid? If the tests are not valid (as many believe), how can they be used to evaluate teacher performance and student learning?

The only winner here is Pearson. It is time to stop diverting extraordinary sums of taxpayer money (intended for education) to private companies only to have Pearson craft tests that many would characterize as invalid and unreliable. Opting out  of these tests sounds more and more appealing and one of the few ways parents' voices can be heard.

No comments:

Post a Comment