These Teacher Confessions About Standardized Testing Will Make Your Head Explode

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 

Teachers are speaking out anonymously about the various issues with New York’s 2016 standardized testing

For the last two weeks, students in New York have been sitting for the state-mandated standardized Common Core tests. Last week was English Language Arts and this week is math. From the start, there have been murmurings of issues with the tests, ranging from errors in the test booklets themselves to reports of them containing material far beyond the grade levels of the children taking them.

One educator aggregated comments from teachers telling the truth about these tests. Anonymously, of course, because the teachers are under a gag order not to talk about them. Seems legit, right?

Brian Wasson, a Long Island-based teacher, is the voice behind The “999”ers: Something Is Not Right. The blog is dedicated to education and state testing. His most recent post is a series of comments he found on various social media channels from teachers regarding the total shitshow that is NY state testing. The comments are pretty upsetting, even if you don’t live there, because these kinds of tests are happening in most states across the country.

“I just proctored the 3 grade test in NYC. The first question from the passage about the ” sniff” was impossible to answer. It made no sense. I asked four other teachers and they all had no clue. Many of the questions were tricky and I believe there was no correct answer!!!!! Nothing has changed. Thank god my 3 grader doesn’t sit through this torture. Some kids still testing from 9 am.”

“In 6th grade there was a poem from the 17th century that the teachers in our building read in COLLEGE. 11th grade level.”

“6th graders struggled with book 2 and 3. Some worked for almost 3 hours. :(”

“Five of my fourth grade students spent three hours on book 2… They missed snack and their special… I feel so bad for these young children.”

“3rd grade test: I saw that there was an excerpt from a biography of Neil deGrasse Tyson, which was written at a Lexile Level of 780 – definitely above the 3rd grade reading level. In my opinion, that Lexile level sits at a sweet spot between 5th and 6th grade.”

“There are children in the [school name removed] middle school who spent FOUR HOURS TAKING THE TEST. Omg. Those poor kids.”

“I had a child work until 2:30 today!! She ended up missing a math lesson on a new concept that will surely be on next weeks math test!”

Hours and hours of sitting in a chair, banging out written responses to questions that feel like riddles. Many of them far above their level of understanding. Does that sound like something kids between third and seventh grade should be subjected to?

New York English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teacher Katie Lapham doesn’t think so. In an essay from the blog Critical Classrooms, Critical Kids, she calls the third grade ELA test “developmentally inappropriate, confusing and tricky.”

She explains that although she’s barred from discussing the content of the actual test, “in no way will I refrain from broadcasting to the world how outraged I continue to be – year after year – over New York’s testing regime.” To that effect, she explains in detail everything she finds wrong with the testing as it’s been since 2013.

She says the tests are far too long, as supported by the many comments from teachers on Wasson’s blog about students sitting for hours and still not being finished. Lapham explains that the content is far above grade level. “Whoever chose them did a poor job of selecting and contextualizing the excerpts in the student test booklets.” She gives an example of a passage from the third grade test being from an article aimed at middle schoolers. For eight and nine year old kids.

Can we just say, enough already? Why aren’t teachers being listened to and trusted when it comes to these tests and their effect on the kids they teach? These comments are only the icing on the cake — the blog lists several more and they’re all saying the same thing. These tests are developmentally inappropriate. Confusing. Difficult. Badly written. Too long. Remember that it’s teachers saying this, not parents. And that should concern us greatly.

As the mother of a third grader sitting for the New York state math test as we speak, it’s very upsetting to know that many teachers don’t think she should be subjected to something this stressful and poorly executed. Yet, it continues.

Sure, I had the choice to opt her out of the tests, but my daughter pleaded with me to take them. Because she’s been convinced that they’re very important. And why wouldn’t she be? Her teacher is being judged and evaluated based on how her students perform. Of course, she’s had to get the kids on board with trying their best.

Fortunately, my daughter isn’t terribly worried about the outcome because my husband and I have told her all year that we don’t care how she does on the tests. That we know how bright she is and that it won’t hurt her report card or stop her from moving on to fourth grade and that she’s so much more than a test score.

But she’s not every kid. There are some in her class who can’t handle the stress of hours in a seat being forced to focus and concentrate and spit out answers. I may not be an educator, but I know this isn’t appropriate for kids her age. Something needs to be done.

When she gets home from her second day of math testing today, I’ll talk to her. I’ll casually ask how the test went and if she got stuck on any answers. That’s when I’ll find out if she took my advice of writing out Taylor Swift lyrics if she couldn’t answer a problem instead of worrying over it for 20 minutes.

Because if the state we live in won’t treat her like the 8-year-old she is, someone has to.

H/T: The Washington Post

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