Teachers and Principals’ critique the tests.

In 2014, 557 New York State principals signed a letter delineating problems with the tests.  Here are a couple of points they made, but you can read the whole letter here.

  • “Ambiguous Questions Appeared throughout the Exams: We know that many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers to ambiguous questions in both ELA and Math.”
  • “State Measures are Contradictory… Across New York, many accelerated eighth-graders scored below proficiency on the eighth grade test only to go on and excel on the Regents examination one month later. One district reports that 58% of the students who scored below proficiency on the NYS Math 8 examination earned a mastery score on the Integrated Algebra Regents.”

Liz Philips, the principal of PS 321 in Brooklyn (one of the most highly regarded elementary schools in the city), sent out a letter to parents following the state ELA exams in 2014:

“[We PS 321] teachers and administration are truly devastated by what a terrible test it was and how little it will tell us about our students… We have never seen an ELA exam that does a worse job of testing reading comprehension. There was inappropriate content, many highly ambiguous questions, and a focus on structure rather than meaning of passages. Our teachers and administrators feel that this test is an insult to the profession of teaching and that students’ scores on it will not correlate with their reading ability.” (See Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 9/29/2015)

According to a Brooklyn New School teacher, the best reader in her class and the worst reader got the same score on the ELA test last year.

Another English teacher, writing in the Washington Post (5/1/2015), argues that the writing portion of the ELA test actually makes students worse writers. In order to ace the open-ended portion of the exam, students must be taught to pile on empty words and phrases and disregard leaps in logic or common sense. Rather than building critical thinking, she writes, these tests dull it.