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Phillips Testing Letter to Education Commissioner

Phillips Testing Letter to Education Commissioner

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Published by Brad Lander

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Published by: Brad Lander on Apr 20, 2012
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04/23/2012

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P.S. 321
lphilli@schools.nyc.gov 
 
180 Seventh Avenue • Brooklyn, New York 11215
 
718-499-2412
FAX: 718-965-9605
Elizabeth Phillips, Principal
Beth Handman, Assistant Principal
Elizabeth Garraway, Assistant Principal
Ryan Bourke, Assistant Principal
April 19, 2012Dr. John B. King Jr.New York State Education CommissionerNew York State Education Department89 Washington AvenueAlbany, New York 12234Dear Commissioner King:
I urge you to carefully review this year’s state
ELA exams. I have been principal for 13 yearsand have read the tests each year. Although there are always issues with selected questions,generally i
t is only one or two per test that the assistant principals and I can’
t quite agree on.I am genuinely shocked that with the increased importance of state testing, there are somany more flawed questions than ever before. I wish I could go into detail here, but itviolates test security for me to discuss the content of the tests or the questions, which iswhy I feel so strongly that it is important that you see these tests for yourselves.In particular, I would recommend that you carefully read through day one of the fifth gradeELA. The reading passages themselves are not too challenging
surprising since the passagesin the 4
th
grade test were not particularly easy and the Common Core Standards call for morerigor. However, the questions were nothing short of ridiculous. Several of them were
ambiguous and seemed designed only to trick children (and adults….the answers were not
clear to many of us). Overall, the questions did not serve to determine whether or notchildren had good reading comprehension skills. You could have excellent comprehensionskills and miss many questions. Although to me the fifth grade was the most outrageous ofthe elementary school exams, there were problems with the other exams too. It is puzzlingto me that in 2012 in New York State, a testing company that won the lucrative contract todevelop these exams did not think it was important, on day one (the most heavily weightedday) of the 4
th
grade exam, to include any selections that were in urban settings. Childrenwho spend a lot of time outdoors and in rural or suburban settings definitely will find
friendlier
” texts, both fiction and nonfiction.
Take a look so you can see what I mean.Fortunately, day two is better in this regard.I would also urge you to actually do the listening section of grade 3 (first part of day 2).Have someone read aloud this incredibly thin, brief passage two times as required and thensee if you can answer the questions, including the short and extended responses, withoutlooking at the text (since kids are not permitted to look at this text). The questions are notreally ones that you can answer well from the text, even if it is sitting in front of you and youcan refer back.

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Deanna D'Onofrio added this note
Thank you Ms. Phillips, for speaking up so bravely and candidly against this flawed and corrupt testing system. Educators and parents need to unite and continue to rally against these tests, which are wasting time and money and doing a disservice to our students' education. Deanna D'Onofrio MS 447, Brooklyn
Karen Fuller added this note
Excellent letter. My 6th grader told me that his ELA teacher agreed there were two correct answers for one of the ELA questions, and he picked the "wrong" correct answer. These exams need to be made public; invalid questions should be discarded. Another issue with these exams is that they are, by all accounts, very boring. This favors those who can stick with "boring" text over those who can't.

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