A middle school student’s version of a New York State Assessment

From Sophia in Upstate New York:

* for those who may not be aware, the young lady who created this excellent commentary used the exact look and format of the New York State ELA Assessment. (Click to enlarge the images)

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  1. http://www.barrylane.bandcamp.com Songs for the testing resistance

  2. http://www.barrylane.bancamp.com Songs for the resistance.

  3. The amount of education dollars spent on distrusting education and teachers is the real story. Thank you Sophia for using humor to show truth.

  4. Susan Crane-Sundell says:

    Thank you Sophia!
    Your name means “one who can see” and is associated with wisdom. Well congratulations on living up to your name and having more wisdom than all the sages at Pearson and their consultants. I applaud your contribution to the movement to take back our classrooms and celebrate the individualism and creativity that we used to support in our students.

  5. Andrea Simmons (SGI) says:

    Sure wish I knew last week that “opting out” was an option…..after a trip to the pediatrician I made a sick 8th grade student endure 3 days of testing while he was ill. So now what? He falls below the standard and is then forced into an entire year next year of Academic Intervention Services.

    • nyc math teacher says:

      well, if he had stayed home, there were three days of “make up testing” immediately following the first three days of actual test administration. I actually don’t mind if one of my students does this. If they are ill, I would rather them stay home and then come in on the make up days when they feel better.
      On another note, had you done the opt out, the teacher would have had to prepare a packet to support promoting the student. This is the same packet we have to prepare for a student who we believe may be in danger of not being promoted for scoring too low on the test. The packet involves one sample from the classroom portfolio and then completing a series of Math or Ela tasks, which in my opinion are little different than short and extended response questions on an actual state test, So, in essence, opting out would have placed you in the same position as scoring very low on the exam. If the whole school were to do something like that out of protest that’s one thing, but to do it as an individual, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Also keep in mind that this year, the students who score in the lowest 10% are in danger of not being promoted. If your student falls below the standards but is not in that 10% then that’s a non-issue. You might still have the AIS services or whatever but that could be a good thing. If it’s done right, the more attention, the better.

  6. Ann Carlson says:

    As a Florida teacher….this is wonderful. Thank you for writting it.

  7. The problem, IMHO, is pointed out by the common descriptor used, these are “high stakes” tests. Standardized tests are useful, but not to the degree to which they are currently relied upon.

    • “Standardized tests are useful”. How? Who benefits from them? Not me. Not the taxpayer.

      IMHO, these are, yet, another scam perpetrated on the general public. If I may illustrate by example.

      I am a graduate student. I have attended graduate school already and have a proven track record. The university I wish to attend (a few actually) are demanding that I take a GRE. What is that going to do for me? Let me tell you what it does for me and many others:

      1 – Expenditure of funds. I have to spend hundreds of dollars on books and a course to prep for the exam. Maybe even hire a tutor.

      2 – Waste of time. I have taken grad courses and have earned an A in every course.

      3- Loss of time and money. I have to take off from work and spend many hours studying for this exam.

      The test providers are the ones that win in this silly, stupid and insipid game.

      The author of the above is on the mark.

  8. I highly doubt a middle schooler would go to such great lengths to create an imitation of a test with such poignantly crafted arguments. It seems like whoever created it has an agenda behind it about performing teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores (note especially the last question talking about who has the ability to change the practice). My finger points to the teacher’s unions.

    Good PR by whoever did it, but if the authors were attempting to mislead the public by saying a student did it, then it is shameful.

  9. briguy7034 says:

    Yesterday, I took the final part of the eighth grade test. The aftermath goes as follows for a class where everyone is in at least one advanced class and gets grades usually above 90: Book 1- One student did not complete this book & a few had to rush. Personally, I had enough time to go back over about half the test. I felt a little scared for the writing part. Books 2 & 3- Two students did not finish, almost everyone else had to rush through the essay and questions for two passages. I was not satisfied with any of my last answers, as I could not review them or think in depth about them, ending up with one minute or so to spare. Book 4- Two students did not finish, a significant amount of students had to rush through the last two passages, but less than the last two books. Everything else is about the same as books two and three.

    None of the passages made me want to know more about the topics, nor did any of them make me think “Wow, that’s cool!”. The passages felt uncreative and empty, with a few about vague, absurd topics. A friend of mine in 7th grade said he had to write so hard and fast that his arm had numbed quite a bit.

    The point is, so many people in my grade feel cheated, depressed, and even enraged, and I’m no exception. In our English classes, we haven’t even gotten to complete one unit that the common core uses. Both students and teachers dislike this test, and I personally feel like there is nothing I can take from it. To the state, me and my classmates are a number from 0 to 4, nothing more.

    • I have to grade these tests on Tuesday. Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to it.

      It may not make you feel any better, but teachers will merely be a number to the state too. I don’t understand how education in NYS has come to this.

      • briguy7034 says:

        Yeah, it’s terrible that they have to be a number too, I hope that this test doesn’t get anyone fired or punished.

  10. I was a less than mediocre student, and yet I always scored in the 99 percentile on any standardized test. I got 1500 on the SATs, and yet I only had a 70 average in math. I do have an innate ability to figure things out, hence my success on standardized tests. The results do indicate something, I just don’t know what it is. People that I know who can build things and fix things, always seem to have an advantage on standardized tests.

  11. I must reply to two commenters below:
    First, in my district we have testing all morning and then an entire school day on speed for the rest of the day (all periods, but 12 minutes shorter). This is not a break. No one is happy to not have classes because we do have classes, only they aren’t long enought to really accomplish anything. Students’ morale is so low they have zero learning capability for the rest of the day. Additionally, there will be MANY more days like this between now and June. Thus, actual learning opportunities are significantly reduced.
    Second, if you think this letter is too advanced for an eighth grader to have written, then you are a living example of the failing american education system.

    • Please note, I know districts are constrained by the state, and am not blaming them for followin protocol. We all need to comply to a certain degree, so that we can keep our jobs and be there to make a difference wherever possible.

  12. Reblogged this on CSH Greenwich Middle School Faculty Blog and commented:
    One student’s perspective on standardized tests.

  13. Some people are saying to deal with it but YOU DO NOT SEE these students in a classroom or going into a school, during testing week. I would love to know where you are in life or how you got there. Especially, what the grades were when you took the exams. The State does not care how these kids feel, it is just another way to make money, with these tests.

    • AMEN!!!!!!!!!! Some of my kids were so afraid to fail that they were throwing up because they know my job depends on it.

      • Hi Karin, your job should have nothing to to with these tests. They were shoved in illegally and violate the 10th amendment. This is not how we teach our kids about freedom. We will be fighting this! Poor kids. They need to be kids still.

      • And don’t forget that NY State still demands those vomit covered tests be returned to them b/c all tests must be accounted for. I knew the testing was out of control (which is why we pulled our children in order to homeschool them 2 years ago) when my daughter had so much anxiety over the math portion of the tests that she began having nightmares that got so intense they actually woke her from her sleep b/c she was hyperventilating! She cried every day going to school and could not stop asking what would happen if she failed the tests. I couldn’t understand why she had this fear of failing, until her teacher sent home 4 packets worth of “old” state exams that the kids had been working on for the few months leading up to the tests. Yeah, this was my child’s education at public school. She was literally being taught to test. :/ When I saw the Youtube video of the teacher reporting the story of her student who had the same anxiety, but actually vomited all over his test (and then was told by the state to send it in regardless), I was so angry! The woman on the stage told this teacher that the state receives many of these types of baggies. I can’t imagine that people would still say the kids can just “get over it” if they knew these stories. From what I’ve read of the tests this year, the directions themselves took 20-30 min. just to read. An 8-14 yr. old just cannot be expected to sit for this amount of time listening to directions. An adult would even zone out. Ridiculous.

        • dolphindance says:

          I knew it was time to get out of teaching THIRD grade when the administrator had to go into the garbage to retrieve an ELA exam a child threw up on so it could be scored! OUTRAGEOUS! I then switched to Preschool, which I love. but now even these little four year olds have expectations from NYS that don’t allow them to be kids or explore/create and discover. Time to get out of teaching!!

  14. I am appalled that a child can be required to repeat a grade due to a low score on the state tests – not just once but twice!

    • I find it hard to believe that any school would make a student repeat a grade based only on the results of the ELA or Math assessments. In my experience, tests results are one small part of the decision to hold a student back. If any school is using only the results of state test, then parents should really begin to question that practice.

    • Test Hater says:

      My nephew had straight A’s in school but failed the test twice and was told that if he failed it a third time he’d have to repeat the grade. Ridiculous!

  15. Hey, Navin-

    You obviously were one of those kids who lacked creativity enough to not have an opinion on state tests. Standardized tests help you play the game of life by means of uniform intelligence- WHICH IS WRONG. There are plenty of other ways for youth to learn how to “play the game” without compromising their personalities and opinions, let alone the very way they think. And get a job at McDonald’s? Really? How ignorant of a comment is that, really? Just because a kid can’t “hack” analogy, or has views opposite than that of the right answer required on a writing piece, does NOT mean they are incompetent or unworthy of an exceptional education.

    • I have seen these students taking “the test.” I know of a student who vommitted during the test and another who did show up. These tests scare them and it is a horrible way to assess the students, ability on a certain subject area/level. Some students lack the creativity because The State does not allow you to have creativity in the classroom, anymore.

      • If a student vomits on a test, the state expects the teacher to put it in a bag and send it on to be graded like all the others. If a teacher should lose a test, her and her school will be investigated.

  16. simplystupid says:

    I agree these tests are horrible and don’t prove a thing about a persons intelligence, but I was always okay with no classes for a week. No complaining from me. I usually didn’t go to school on these days anyhow, just a way for schools to get funding. “Oh Don’t forget to come to school tomorrow, so we can get a $??? check.” at least thats how it is in my state.

  17. Navin R. Johnson says:

    Stop complaining and just deal with it, kid. Nobody said life was going to be easy. Standardized tests teach you how to play the game of life. If you can’t hack it, jet a job at McDonald’s. And there’s no way you wrote this without an adult’s help. Tell that person to get a life too.

    • No, the tests don’t prepare one for life. And if that’s the kind of life we lead, then I’m not interested. And tell me how to “jet” a job at McDonald’s. Sounds interesting.

      • Navin R. Johnson says:

        I’m not going to take up any more of your time discussing this. You’re obviously very busy complaining about the system on Twitter and poking fun at your readers for making typos. Good luck to you on your mini-crusade against the man.

      • Sally Parton says:

        I hope you don’t work at McDonald’s!! Sounds like you belong at Wendys
        in Georgia!

    • You are an idiot.

    • Really? You clearly haven’t been round many young folks that age if you think them incapable of this clever a piece. The problem is, it is very “spot on” — how does that get fixed (see last question above)?

    • Standardized tests teach kids how to take standardized tests. Not the most important job skill. The real problem i we keep putting more and more empasis on these tests, far beyond the their limited value. And of course an 8th grader could do this.

      • I agree! Absolutely an 8th grader could do that. My 6th graders could make that up. People underestimate kids! They are intelligent, but they are kids. The kids in my school were crying after the test because they didn’t have time to finish their test and now they are scared of what’s going to happen to them AND what’s going to happen to their teachers. Kids shouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to their teacher if they perform bad on a test. So sad, especially since the kids try so hard to do so well.

        • This young lady is an example that a few students from the NCLB/RTTT generation will survive. As a 16 year middle school teacher I can tell everyone than number is shrinking.

    • Elaborate— how do standardized tests prepare one for life? Please do explain.

      • Concerned Parent says:

        It’s not about how they “prepare one for life”, the goal of these tests is to show that you have the minimum level education to allow you have even the slightest chance of opportunity to go on to better things when you get out of the public school system. We act like these tests limit students ability to achieve, when in reality, they simply show where the system is failing them.

        • These tests actually set these children up for failure! They aren’t even designed or written by educators. Do you think 3rd graders having to read a passage and answer questions on Tolstoy shows a minimum level of education?? I’m not sure if I would even succeed on these tests and I have a college degree! It’s not that these tests limit their ability to achieve; there is just no good reason to have standardized testing whatsoever. That’s all the teachers can focus on in their class curriculum. That’s so unfortunate for our children these days.

        • Test Hater says:

          To “Concerned Parent”:
          It’s not a measurement of how successful they will be past their public school education. For example, my nephew had straight A’s in school, but failed the test so many times that he was going to have to be held back. His teachers and mother were then teaching him how to take the test so he could pass. Bc of his upbringing and lack of support, he believed he could not do any better in life….so he never went on to college. Example two: I also failed the test one year. I had great support from my parents who taught me that passing or failing did not determine my future. So, I came to my own conclusion that I just needed to finish the test and do my best. As a result, I never cared much for studying to prepare for even the SATs or ACTs. My test scores were horrible according to the test administrators….but that didn’t bother me. I still went on to go to a university and study what I had always wanted to be.So, where in those two scenarios does the result of those tests show how successful children can be?

    • Laurie Figary says:

      So when you hear the quote “America–love it or leave it” you don’t think there’s a third option–“change it”? How would that have worked in our history? I’d like to think we’re a nation of doers–“if you don’t believe things can be changed, don’t interrupt the people who are actually doing it.”

    • They actually do NOTHING but stress people out. High schools don’t even look at the grades. When I took the 2nd part of the test today- 21 multiple choice AND 3 short responses along with an essay- it was completely useless. People were crying today that they never finished the essay, and that rarely happens in my school. This test just caused everyone anxiety.

      • Many of my students had the same problem. The State says that these tests are necessary to get an idea of the students’ abilities and educational growth. How can you get an accurate assessment of that when students are not given enough time to do a thorough job and are rushing just to try to write something down? Or they have to leave questions blank because they ran out of time?!!

    • Obviously you are a little ignorant about standardized tests. They don’t teach you to think. This satire does exactly what teachers want their kids to do– think.

    • Navin, You yourself have be able to spell before you can tell a student to just go get a job at Mc Donald’s. The problem is that we are teaching the students how to test not the basic’s (what they really need to know). So do I want my children and students to be able to take a test, but more so to learn the basic’s over how to take a test.

    • Take a JET to China Navin….Kids learn by doing. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Creative thinking is at a big time low in this country! Students are afraid of expressing themselves in different ways. Creative thinkers are the creators, inventors, making the impossible possible! I teach 6 and 7th grade art, and let me tell you …to get a creative idea out of these kids is like pulling teeth out of a lion! They need to follow rules, directions….they cannot find an imaginary idea…unless you put it in front of their face …like a test that you bubble in…..how mindless is that! We need to promote the arts. The Arts develop creative synapses gathering ideas seemingly out of nowhere that inspire and provoke further thoughts. Creating a web of synapses that maybe someone will come across one day and say, wow. there’s so much joy in creativity. That single moment where it. just. clicks. Food for Thought!

      • You are so right! It is like pulling teeth to get them to be creative. They are so afraid to make a mistake and I agree you learn from mistakes. Noone can dispute that!

    • schoolgal says:

      Filling in a circle does not prepare you for life. Teaching life skills does. And teaching higher-order thinking skills and different approaches to problem solving does. And teaching someone to be open and creative and think outside of the box does. Teaching to the test will only find you behind the counter of a fast food restaurant. btw, teachers have no problems with assessments. They are a very important tool. But one test to make or break a student or teacher is utterly wrong.

    • Navin, you are performing admirably as the simplistic cog in the great machine of cookie-cutter lookalike American society that you learned to be! Keep at it! Strive for mediocrity! Continue “playing the game” or whatever it is you think you’re doing.

    • Tyler S. Branson says:

      Listen to Navin. Accept things the way they are. Never advocate for change. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and even if it is, that’s just life. The present version of the world is the only one that matters, and until someone else changes something, then we’ll adapt to that. Navin gives us words to live by.

    • Listen to Navin. His advice is apt: Accept things the way they are. Never advocate for change. If you feel an injustice you are probably just whining. And whenever things do change, then we will adapt to that new reality and try not to complain. Nothing is fair, and we should never really have a say about how we make and understand the world. We will let others do that for us.

    • Siri Narayan Fuda says:

      Navin…Too bad you can’t spell…or at maybe proof reading is the problem…

    • Navin, the author of that piece represents students and teachers all over the state. I wish you could see what the state expects third graders to do. Do you really think creating low morale, discouragement, and
      feeling like a failure is what you want to instill in students. Welcome to standardized testing.

  18. I have to share this with my wife, who doesn’t truly understand what we pedagogues deal with regarding these irrelevant assessments. Also, my brother-in-law and future sister-in-law who both teach elementary school in NYC.

  19. Concerned Parent says:

    When the state wants to make sure that students are learning at a basic level, that will allow them to meet the education demands of today’s world, a big, standardized system isn’t the best way to educate kids. When the idea of expanding charter schools or offering vouchers for private schools is presented, it’s fought tooth and nail by the same people who are arguing that a big, standardized system isn’t the best way to educate kids.

    I’m not defending the standardized test system, I’m simply asking that NYSUT recognize that they are lobbying to shut down so many other chances for students to have an education geared towards their “creativity and individuality” through their other efforts.

    • Theobromine says:

      Really? If you still have any illusions that the goals of education are to encourage “creativity and individuality” through a federally designed and instituted standardized test you are “concerned” about the wrong issues. Our new education initiatives are about funneling children into indoctrination centers and not wasting money on those that will be trained as slaves to the 1%. The only international competitiveness they are worried about is the competition to create conforming human bots as fast as Communist nations. They don’t want the people to actually be able to think, reason or question the wisdom of the state and federal dictates.

  20. tiredteacher says:

    I am a teacher in Connecticut and we have the ever ridiculous Connecticut Mastery Test. Sophia, you are amazing and my hero. Thank you for being the voice of so many teachers and students!

  21. Love this. I have hated standardized tests all my life, even though I always scored in the really high percentiles. They do not test learning, only test-taking.

    • thank you for pointing that out. i always felt terribly about classmates that i knew – even in college – were very bright but just not good test takers! its also worth noting that the “real world” markers of school success, like say GRADUATING (!) have been steadily dropping, despite (or in some way exacerbated by?) more and more standardized testing..

  22. Patricia says:

    Excellent. Only one comment needed, this is not an 8th grade reading sample. According to the common core, this test would be given to a first grader.

    • That’s not really the point, Patricia. The point is that these tests are useless and are no measure of what a child knows. I had students who have 80-90 in my class and I am a hard grader. Those very same kids got 2 on the test last year. The point is that we are assessing both students and teachers based on ONE test. It’s ridiculous to say that we are preparing EIGHT year olds for college. Kids that age are not equipped to deal with that level of stress. No way should a child that age be so stressed out that they are throwing up. Not to mention the fact, that after looking at the 7th grade exam, there were SEVERAL questions based on EIGHTH grade standards and passages that were repeated on different grade level tests.

  23. Sophia, you are amazing and talented. Your skill and essence far exceed any attempts NY could mount to measure your ability to learn. You are already far wiser than the decision makers in the NYSDOE! Go forth and continue to be your incredible self:-)

  24. Blahblah blahblah says:

    Individualized instruction, or standardized testing? Pick one…you can’t have both.

  25. This is excellent my 10 year old 5th grade daughter has ADHD…. She is a great student and has to work extra hard just to pass her classes…. She now has severe anxiety and is so afraid that she will fail these tests…. Disappoint us ( her parents) her teachers…. and miss out on graduation, she is terrified, she cries almost every night. I pray that she does pass these ridiculous tests so all of her hard work does is not in vain…. Good luck to all of the children that has to take this test and us as parents should try to boycott these tests and come up with another way?!

  26. Good for her! These test are a waste of time! My Childs score has nothing to do with how smart she is!

    • My daughter had dyslexia and scored poorly on standardized tests. She was Clemson University’s outstanding Organic Chemistry student in her sophomore year and is currently a scientist with an international company. She is very creative and a great problem solver, none of which is tested by darkening a circle on a test.

  27. Awesome! Bravo! You get a “4”!!

  28. What a clever young lady! I hope that as future generations of students become more aware of WHY standardized testing is wrong we can begin to see some change. Kids are the future, and we know how she will shape it if she can!

  29. I especially love her first question. All teachers spend an entire year planning and carrying out lesson plans that are differentiated for all the different learners. Yet one book fits all students, setting kids up to fail makes me sick.

  30. Bravo! I am sharing this with my (10th grade) kids, tomorrow.

  31. iamsuperman says:

    King, Walcott et al, will never read this because it has been blocked on the DOE website by their censors.

  32. I love that she threw in the pineapple comment, from the test last year. If that doesn’t convince them that these tests are stupid, I don’t know what will.

    • Kristina says:

      That was an ACTUAL ANSWER on the exam last year?? Oh, the humanity.

    • Agreed! The pineapple thing was outrageous! I can’t believe stuff like that was on a state test. I mean, we should absolutely measure our kids based on a response about a pineapple’s arms!

  33. Congratulations to a bright young lady and to her teachers, who likely encouraged her creativity in spite of all the testing.

  34. Leta us not forget how NYC callously threw away careers over the last faulty VAM, publishing names and their scores as if it was baseball and a reality. I cannot forgive our state leaders for this travesty of educational reform and its trickle down to our precious students.

  35. Yea but did she meet any of the SLOs for the course she did this for?

  36. Linda Reichard says:

    Positively brilliant!!!!! Wake up NY, your children are smarter then you!!!

  37. Bill Allman says:

    I say, fire the administrators and hire this young lady as an advisor. Apparently she has a better grasp on what the students really need.

  38. My 6th grader basically just said the same thing! Good for her. We should all send this to the Education Dept!

  39. dbpigtail says:

    This is in deed very clever!

  40. Wonderful! But in 5 years or so, no 8th grader will have the wherewithal to be creative and sharp enough to write something like this. Common Core will have done it’s job…..

  41. Wow! Absolutely amazing!

  42. Peg Metzger (Bflo,NY) says:

    Very clever! Cheers for this middle school student!
    I hope King and Cuomo get to see how insightful a young teen is in comparison to the non-educator folks who shill for them in their Education Department

  43. This is BRILLIANT. And funny.

  44. Creativity and thought like this is why I still teach! Thank you for sharing!

  45. Love it.


  1. Brady Abela says:


    […]can be quite simple that’s the reason it may not be really the same as[…]

  2. […] One eighth grader, from upstate New York, dealt with the new Common Core-aligned standardized tests by making a parody and writing her own version of the test. She claims she doesn’t like the tests, “because teachers are always teaching to the test instead of teaching stuff that would interest us or that they are good at teaching.” […]

  3. […] A middle school student’s version of a New York State Assessment. […]

  4. […] one New York middle school student has written a brilliant and insightful parody of one of the tests she and her classmates are being asked to sit. In the comprehension exercise […]

  5. […] 8th grade student in New York State wrote a brilliant parody of the state ELA […]

  6. […] An eighth-grader created a New York State test lookalike to show her disdain for testing. (Chalk Face) […]

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