Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NYC DOE failure to provide curriculum and training threatens city results on new state tests

Although new state tests will be rolled out this spring based on demanding Common Core national standards, almost 8 out of 10 New York City teachers surveyed said the city’s Department of Education has yet to address the new learning benchmarks, including failing to provide any curriculum or other instructional materials keyed to the new standards.

And more than half of the teachers surveyed said they had received no training to get their students ready for the tougher courses and exams, while many of those who did attend training sponsored by the DOE said the sessions were too few and too short.

The problem is particularly acute for many high-needs students. According to the survey, half the teachers who have special ed students said those students were not getting the help they needed to reach grade level, and more than four in ten teachers said their school was unable to provide the appropriate programs and mandated services to English language learners in their classes.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “For more than two years the city has known this day was coming. But little was done, and it’s starting to feel like the DOE has given up the fight to help our children learn. We face the real possibility of plummeting test scores, but Tweed has apparently decided that schools and teachers are not going to get any help in getting kids ready to meet higher standards.”

The new tests are designed to require more reasoning from students, a deeper understanding of math concepts and procedures, and more focus on non-fiction and more complex reading material. Kentucky, the first of more than 40 states to issue tests based on materials similar to the Common Core, reported a 30 percent drop in test scores in its first round.

“Everything is being made up as we go along,” said Queens elementary school teacher Marci Cooper. She said she and her colleagues are trying to re-tool their current math curriculum themselves since only about 60 percent of their current math program is still usable.

Tim Clifford, an English teacher with 24 years classroom experience, said the new reading test for 8th grade covers content that used to be taught in 10th grade, describing it as “Much more difficult. We are working with students, creating our own curriculum, but it is a big jump.”

The New York State English Language Arts test for grades 3 through 8 will be administered April 16, 17 and 18, 2013; the state math test for grades 3 through 8 will be given April 24, 25 and 26, 2013.

Here are some examples of the old state reading and math tests, along with questions similar to what students can expect on the new Common Core tests.

Old 8th grad math (2010 test)

Solve the equation below for x.

9(x – 5) = 4x – 5

A 8
B 10
C -8
D -10

Reasoning: Solve multi-step equations by combining like terms, using the distributive property, or moving variables to one side of the equation.

New 8th grade math

Which step would not be a possible first step for solving this equation algebraically?

2⁄3(2x-1) + 21⁄3 = 7 + 1⁄2x

A multiplying every term in the equation by six
B subtracting 21⁄3 from 7
C subtracting 1⁄2x from 2x
D multiplying -1 by 2⁄3

Assesses the student's ability to use the distributive property and to combine like terms when solving an equation.

[Answers below]

In ELA, the current 8th grade test asks students to read passages from short stories about animals and respond to a list of questions about how the protagonists are affected by the animals they write about.

The new 8th grade test uses excerpts from two famous biographies: “The Story of My Life,” by Helen Keller and “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” by Frederick Douglass. Students must then use details from both stories to compare and contrast the challenges that each author faced and how each addressed those challenges.

Some 7,344 teachers have responded from the 55,671 email questionnaires sent out starting in late October.

Old 8th grade math question
Answer: A

New 8th grade math question
Answer: C

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