Thursday, April 16, 2015



You can join LIOO here
You can get NY test refusal information here at NYSAPE
You can get National test refusal information here at United Opt Out

My district wanted me to go to scorer leader training at Boces next week, but because our district sends out the tests to be graded, Boces sent me an email explaining that I cannot be trained on how the test is graded because as a non-grader it would hurt the "integrity if the test". Obviously, this is another example of the lack of transparency that surrounds these tests, but it also is contradicting to Tisch's false point last night that teachers can build curriculum around these results. If how to score an essay for the ELA is something teachers can't even be trained for, how can we help the students who still have to take these tests. Obviously, I am passionately against these exams, have rallied against them in several locations and opted my own children out. But I am still trying to do my job.
As teachers, we keep trying to get ahead of these standards and find a way to attack these tests fairly and they keep upping the game. It's another example of their obvious lack of transparency and the "gotcha" factor that are destroying the art of teaching.
Dear Colleagues,
I regret to inform you that we will need to cancel your registration in our Scoring Leader Training for ELA (April 20-21) and/or Math (April 28-29) due to the fact that your district is sending the tests out to be scored. The state has confirmed that this training is ONLY for those involved in directly scoring the tests. This is necessary to maintain the integrity of the test. Your superintendent and assistant superintendents have been notified. We will take care of cancelling your registration here at SWBOCES.
We recognize the need for professional development around the test and the state expectations. We are committed to providing you with multiple professional development opportunities in these areas as soon as the state releases approximately 50% of the test this summer. Once this release occurs, courses will be made available in My Learning Plan for both the summer and 2015-2016 school year.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused for you, but look forward to learning together soon! Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Supervisor of Literacy and Learning
Center for Professional Development and Curriculum Support
Southern Westchester BOCES

Grade 6 Day 3: Open the booklet to see an article titled " Nimbus Clouds: Mysterious, Ephemeral, and Now Indoors". The word ephemeral was also used in the text and there was no footnote! I know several adults who could not define this word! After reading this painful article, they were then asked again how a photograph helps them understand certain lines of the text! The paired passages were both focused on the relationships between dogs and their owners. Here are more vocabulary words - paroxysm, sufferance (footnoted) clamorous, furlong, "queer throw back trait" (not footnoted). The children were very confused because people did not have names in the story, but the dogs did. The second paired passage was "That Spot" by Jack London, written in 1908. Again, very confusing with a lot of old English and extremely complex sentences. Vocabulary included "beaten curs", "absconders of justice" (in the same sentence) surmise, "savve our cabin" , and "let's maroon him". Students were asked to determine how the author's use of the word "that" repeatedly in front of the dog's name shows the narrator's relationship with the dog. Think of how difficult this must've been not just for general Ed students, but also for our ELL's and Students with Disabilities! They were then also asked to determine the theme of a paragraph! Most English teachers will tell you that theme is the message the author is trying to convey throughout a WHOLE text. Asking the theme of one isolated paragraph is ridiculous! The essay was a comparison of the challenges of both dogs, which isn't a poor question. However, the texts were both so difficult for the kids to understand that it made it difficult for them to organize their thoughts. Throw in the fact that they once again had a time limit of 90 minutes and you guaranteed frustration, anxiety, and many not finishing. Thank goodness this test is over!

Book excerpt from 4th grade test today:

I think it is safe to make an assumption that multiple versions of the ELA test are given. That being said, is it reasonable to question IF all the tests are equal? Do all districts receive tests with the SAME number of passages ? Are some students burdened with MORE READING than others to obtain the same number of answers? Are lexiles equal? Is the totality of all the words read in the passages the same for all students? How can a test be standardized if there are multiple versions? Could there be a purposeful distribution of tests so that districts continue to maintain certain standings?

Fourth grade day 3 passages from WHICH WAY TO THE WILD WEST BY STEVE SHEINKIN Lexile 940
HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson Lexile 700 but lists interest level grades 6-8

6th grade test was ridiculous and frustrating to all. Some passages were readable, but the majority of the questions focused on text structure and specific lines of the text. Students were forced to continuously return to the text to analyze lines for almost every answer choice, which made it virtually impossible to finish in 90 minutes. Most of the selections were science based and a poem was two pages long and way too advanced for sixth graders.Vocabulary was so far over their heads in several passages as well. There were some questions where teachers could not determine the correct answer. It was heartbreaking to watch students struggle and give up. By the end, many were randomly bubbling just to "finish". This test is no where close to bring an accurate measure of skills taught in any 6th grade ELA classroom!

The extended response yesterday had to do with the architectural design of roller coasters and their height and why cables are used instead of chains as they were in the past. I forget specifically what the bullet points the kids had to hit on to answer the extended response but they had to talk about how cables are better than chains, also something about how the architects work together to plan out these designs, and something else that I can't remember. It was ridiculous though and very difficult for a 4th grader. None of the kids that I tested were able to answer this hitting all of the points they asked for. They knew that the cables made the roller coaster go higher than it would with chains but could not tell how they worked together in planning and building these newly designed roller coasters for height.

Ephemerality. Transitory. Hailing. Faux. Plinth. Aerogel. Latter. Sufferance. Paroxysm. Veriest. Trifle. Merits. Furlong. Tramps. Inordinately. Prowess. tutelage. .....

4th grade test: Two short responses for Hattie Big Sky. The first question was describe Hattie's personality and give two examples to support your answer. The 2nd question was "How were the chickens presented as characters in the passage. Give two examples from the text." The second question was so abstract that none of the kids I tested were able to answer it correctly. The extended response was a written comparison of those two stories. Pure torture today.

I work in a poor neighborhood. A student of mine, a little boy, lost his dad in the fall. I gather his mom either doesn't work or doesn't make enough money and they lost their housing situation as well, recently. They are now living in a shelter. In its infinite wisdom, NYS requires that children take the state assessments in the last school they were registered in. So this kid travels from a shelter in Brooklyn to Queens to take the ELA tests. How absolutely ridiculous. As if this kid stands even a remote chance of being successful. What's more important here? How about some compassion?

My son said the third day of third ELA had an excerpt from a book called an American army of two. I googled it but found nothing

He said the content was hard and it had rhetorical questions in it. They were asked why they thought the author asked questions of the readers.  He read at a fourth grade level in first grade. He gets 4s on reading in report card.  He was so frustrated that his eyes well up with tears. The teacher said she was so sorry but couldn't help him and he understood. He said he felt like they were not real questions?? He took the test alone with a teacher away from the rest of his class. He does have an IEP.
He said a few class members that were strong readers cried that day.  He had anxiety about refusing and begged us to  take it. Now we feel awful.

When a friend of mine first expressed her resentment towards the state assessments, in the fall after the first year they were administered ( we are in the throws of our third year), my thoughts were the following, some of which I was vocal about, some of which I was not: Okay, you are very disappointed that your child didn't do well. You are upset that there's nothing you can really do about it. Kids have to take tests. That is what we did. It's part of life. My son didn't do well either, but I know these tests, in particular, don't mean anything.
I always went to a Catholic school, I have always been a rule follower. Nothing wrong with that. You trust that the powers at be know what 's best. It has always been the case for me, and it worked. However, I have also learned that not only can you be weary of those you trust, but that sometimes you have to question things a little. I understand, fully, the attitude of the parents who's child has no reservation about taking the test, and does reasonably well. I also understand not really caring one way or another, especially if it doesn't affect my life. Writing this now, I can shamefully say I have no idea about what is going on in Iraq! This particular topic hit a nerve with me. That's all.
Are we lazy as a nation? Don't we want to keep up with everyone else? Forgive me for being redundant if you've heard it, but it really is like comparing apples to oranges. We are being compared with other countries who don't have pockets of poverty like us - areas that can't afford tutors, and resources that pay for little science kits with a special tool and magnifying glass to study rocks! It should be okay if we are ranked a little lower as a country. Let's get over ourselves. It's too much of a price to pay to literally torture many kids and their families.
The test has many grammatical errors. I have a bachelor's degree, but would never consider myself qualified to write the content of a test that goes in the category of " high stakes." The applicants for these jobs don't have to have a master's degree, let alone any experience teaching or raising children. A section of the ELA portion of the test this year has had British references (honouring, recognising) , which is confusing. You have heard it - the fourth graders who took the test had to answer questions based on literature that was on a 6.8 reading level. I am in the East Williston School district, in which extra help is always available, and the teachers are phenomenal. Right now, we could hire a tutor, should the extra help my son is offered after school twice a week not be enough to prepare for a Math test. Many families in less fortunate districts, being taught by teachers who aren't as helpful, cannot afford the "extra help," (a new household term). All the extra time sitting and doing work takes away from extra curricular activities, exercise, and socializing. My son plays sports and has friends. He gets it all in. We are fine! Still, it's the principle of it.
Last year, the first year we refused the test, my son questioned ,"Why? We get gum." Clearly, his confidence was not shot by all the questions he got wrong the spring before, and would prefer, like everyone else, to be placed in the majority, with kids who are taking it, not with the few who were not. He was not biting down pencils out of nervousness, or getting stomach aches. He was fine with all of it. Again, it's for the principle of it!  The test is about eight hours in length, which is longer than the bar exam. Students with IEP"s have extended time for tests. My understanding is that schools in other parts of the country have closed down because their scores were not up to par. So, these children either get bussed, or don't go to school. The poor get poorer. Crime rate goes up. This reality doesn't change my little world in East Williston, but I can't feed a system that leads to such horrific circumstances.
More than half of the children fail. The results are mailed at the end of the summer, when they are weeks away from having a new teacher. Corrections on the test are never made, yet once the new school year begins, we will begin cracking down, spending valuable classroom time, to have the kids take a test that will be more than two to three grade levels above them, again. "It's a vicious cycle, " as I quote another supporter. That's how it goes, right? They'll just take it and move on, right? Am I trying to shield my child from a little extra work? The state tests never killed me. The tests I took were much, much shorter, and they were not used inappropriately. Parents who refuse are saving their children from the potential harmful data that can follow them right up until their first job interview. It's a different world now - all out there for everyone to see - so creepy!

I proctored the 5 th grade. Day 1 and 3 were awful. So labor intensive. The 3rd grade post was accurate it was so hard. There was a passage about swagger. Yes, swagger. Also a part about the drive thru bank. How many city kids even know what that is? One of my co-workers eyes filled with tears when her students left the room


  1. Thank you!!! I am a 6th grade ELA teacher of 17 years, and as I watched my students taking this test for the 3rd day, I felt the urge to rip it from their hands. My students gave 100%, but we're totally deflated. I don't disagree there needs to be data, testing, ect... Just make it FAIR, not 3 grade levels above and so off base to what and how I have been told to teach. There are several things wrong: too many passages, not enough time, inappropriate readability...... They set our students up to FAIL!!!!!!!