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April 25, 2013

Sharon Springs teacher's letter goes viral

A letter from a Sharon Springs Central School English teacher complaining about new standardized state testing has drawn a lot of attention on the New York State United Teachers Facebook page.

The letter from Jennifer Field, posted April 18, details the stress of standardized testing on her children and her students. As of Wednesday afternoon, it was shared more than 1,500 times and liked 1,000 since it was posted.

The tests are given to students in grades three to eight, and will be scored at a date yet to be announced. The three days of testing covered English Language Arts last week, and are covering math this week. They’re the first exams using the common-core curriculum that started to go into effect this year. New York now uses the same curriculum as most other states.

While the exams don’t affect a student’s average, they are used to determine such things as who needs academic intervention. They’re also being used for the first time as part of teacher evaluations.

In her letter, Field talks about the frustrations she has seen by those taking the tests, as a parent and a teacher, wondering why they had to be so long. After taking the test herself, she asked: “Isn’t it possible for the state to assess how these students are doing with half the questions and half the reading passages?”

She did not return a call for comment.

Among the complaints about the tests cited in an email last week from Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, is that many students did not have enough time to complete the tests, and became frustrated.

“Generally, we hear that reading passages were fair and reasonable, but questions were difficult, even tricky, requiring students to go back and re-read passages to zero in on correct answers.” Several superintendents reported that high-performing students were frustrated by the tests, while special-needs students just gave up, he said.

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