Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Top 3 Moments in NY State Testing

With the end of the year looming just over the horizon, there is only one obstacle left for students before summer freedom can begin – final exams. In New York, state assessments are staggered throughout the year, but the race to get through local exams got me thinking of my favorite moments in state testing. Here are my top three.

#3 - New York State English Language Arts Exam, 2005 Grade 8 Listening Section

Kids had to listen to a speech on the accomplishments of Jacques Cousteau and his impact on the conservationist movement, then write an essay. These are actual responses I had to score:

  1. Ocean conservation is very important because without water we would all drop dead of dehydration.
  2. The author who said "Cousteau is the voice of the ocean" was using personification. Oceans cannot talk, and the author knows this.
  3. A man named Francis Plann was going to dump toxic barrels in the ocean, but Cousteau stopped him (This one is humorous, because the reading talked about France's plan to dump waste...)
  4. Jacques was able to make an impact on marine life because he was a nice guy, and whales would not bite him.
  5. Even though fish can't speak, it doesn't mean they shouldn't have the right to.
  6. Jacques Cousteau was most famous for inventing the Iron Lung.

#2 - New York State English Language Arts Exam, 2006, Grade 8 Reading and Writing Section

By mid eighth grade, most kids are able to find subtle sexual innuendo in pretty much everything. In today's world, this means shouting “That's what she said!” after everything, but 2006 was a simpler time. They had to rely on state exams to get their jollies.

Take the reading passage from the 8th grade exam, for example. It was a poem called “Purple Snake.” The title along was enough to set some kids to giggling, but once they started reading, there was no stopping them. It was really about an old man creating a wood carving, but I doubt that's what my 13-year-olds were visualizing.

You can read the full poem here, or take a look at the highlights down below:

“It’s in there, sleeping,” Don Luis says and winks. He knows I want to feel the animal asleep in a piece of wood.

Slowly he strokes the wood, rough and wrinkled like his hands.

Don Luis rubs and strokes the animal.

Did the state education department think 8th graders would overlook something like this? Their teachers certainly didn't.

#1 - New York State Social Studies Exam, 2006 Grade 8 Multiple Choice

In addition to fretting over my own exam, I am also responsible for proctoring other state exams. My greatest moment in state testing comes from such an occasion.

I had a group of about 25 8th graders taking the multiple choice section of the Social Studies exam. Desks were in rows, and kids were spaced out as much as the room would allow. During the test I paced the room more to assert my presence than to look for trouble. Perhaps I should have paid closer attention.

After the test was over and I had collected the materials, a boy came up to my desk and asked me to check his bubble sheet. It was completely smeared with erasure marks. I asked him why, thinking that he had accidentally double-bubbled an answer thus throwing off all the following answers. Instead, he calmly explained that the boy next to him had been cheating off his paper. Rather than be the tattle-tale, he had purposely marked all the wrong answers, then went back and corrected them after the peeping eyes had gotten distracted elsewhere.

He got an 89% on the test, and his cheating neighbor scored somewhere in the 20s.
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