Last week students in grades 3-8 sat for state standardized reading exams that were longer and harder than in previous years and, for the first time, aligned with the Common Core reform. Some students even ended up in tears, teachers said. This week, the same students are bracing for three days of math exams: Wednesday-Friday. An 8th-grader (who wishes to remain anonymous) from the Center School in Manhattan reflects on his testing experience last week and gives it -- and his performance -- low marks. Here's his report.
Because our principal has so much faith in her students, we all approach standardized tests without worry. I went into this one thinking it would be just like all the others I have taken -- not too hard. It turned out, on the whole, to be harder than it has been. It wasn't unbearable for me, even though I barely had enough time to complete some sections. The stories were quite long. Many were two pages, some three. I had to constantly look back, to reread several times, and that took time. A lot of the answers seemed to be equally valid and [based on] somebody's opinion, not fact.
The second day was the worst. There was definitely not enough time. There were two different testing booklets crammed into one day. In the multiple choice section, stories were "twisty" and it was hard to catch on to the main idea of the passage. Confusing vocabulary was defined at the bottom of the page. However, if you stop to read the definitions you lose the gist of the story. In the essay part, there was definitely not enough time. There were two articles. The first one took the majority of my time, although I suspect it was just a pilot study. It was based on a story about a son and his clumsy father. It was almost impossible to understand the main idea, let alone small details. All the written questions in this section (and the third part) were based on backing up a statement with evidence from the text. There was no time to absorb the information and details of the stories. The last question was an essay. I only had ten minutes to write it.
The third day was calmer, easier, nicer. Articles were more interesting and topics were easier to grasp. I read one article on artifacts in Arizona, and two on the incredible intelligence of crows. I had plenty of time in which to write the essay in this section. But by the end of the three days I felt completely exhausted.
Overall, while everything, including the third part, demanded a very high standard, the skills required are like a formula: opinion=two proofs. There was no deeper thinking and no opportunity to relate to the passage or question it. It is unfair that kids should be rated on this specific test. I think I did horribly and I think lots of kids around the city likewise did not do well.