Just Say Nay to the ELA

Carrying signs that read “Transparency Now!” and “Kids are not a score,” children from Manhattan’s P.S. 87 joined a growing citywide protest last Friday against the new Common Core-aligned English tests that students took last week.

Early on April 11, more than 150 teachers, parents, and students marched in front of the well-heeled Upper West Side elementary school, demanding a better test and more transparency when it comes to the questions. Around the city, similar protests surrounding the English Language Arts exams were staged in front of nearly 40 schools

Bubbles Sign

Parents and teachers at P.S. 87 argued that the test questions were too challenging and ambiguous to accurately gauge student progress. They are also concerned that once the test is over, parents—in the effort of knowing how their child could have done better—do not have access to the test questions.

“Parents come to ask what their child had a hard time with, but we can’t show them,” said Monica Berry, principal of P.S. 87, an Upper West Side school for 915 students. Berry marched with her students before school on Friday.

Rachel Laiserin said she was able to see only portions of her son’s third-grade exam after some trouble.  Laiserin filled out two forms—including one the school didn’t even know existed. After signing a contract indicating that she would not divulge any information about the exam, she was taken to a room with a school employee present. There she was shown her son’s bubble answer sheet, but not any of the test questions.

“I don’t get who’s behind all of this,” Laiserin said. “Of real teachers, real principals, real parents, who is saying, ‘This test is awesome?’”

Laiserin isn’t confident the protest will spur much change. “John King said that he is moving full steam ahead,” she said, shaking her head.

On Thursday, New York State Education Commissioner King fiercely defended the exams, insisting that the tests accurately reflect Common Core standards. “We teach our children to meet failure and challenge with renewed effort. Adults must do the same,” he said.

Child on Lamppost

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