Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Another Missive From the Real World Outside the Beltway

Accountable Talk:

Accordingly, one would think that any assessment of students aligned to the Common Core would focus on these things, as well. It makes sense that a CC test would afford students time to reflect on what they have read and to construct cogent arguments based on thorough analysis.

So that, of course, is the exact opposite of how students are actually assessed.

Rather than giving kids the time they need to savor and digest text, as they are instructed to do all year, the NYS Common Core tests crams copious amounts of complex text deeply down their throats and asks them respond in a rapid fire fashion.

The 8th grade test is the one I administered, so I'll show what I mean using that. The test takes three days, but the most egregious part is day two. On that day, students were asked to read three passages and answer 21 multiple choice questions. Following that, they were asked to do a second booklet that contained two different passages and required them to write three complete paragraphs and a full length essay.

The total time allotted for this amount of work? 90 minutes. So much for deep reading.

I taught some very bright kids this year, and my biggest challenge was not to get them to think deeply, but to get them to write quickly. Smart kids like to be thorough and original in their writing, and when I gave them a practice test of similar length prior to the real thing, I immediately noticed that not one of them finished it. Not one. Using that as my "data" I set about teaching them how to write quickly. As a result, on Day 2 of the actual test, 31 of 32 students finished the exam. In some other classes, virtually no one finished. So did I do my students a favor? I have no idea. I'm sure they passed, but I'm not sure I taught them much in April other than how to game the test.

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