Stressed by state tests, a seventh-grader finds a creative outlet

Anaisbely Franjul wants to be a writer. The seventh-grader at M.S. 118 said she reads constantly and especially loves fiction and poetry.

But when she opened last week’s state reading test, she was stressed out. She saw words she didn’t know and faced down a reading passage about the thyroid, an organ she hadn’t encountered before. On the second day of testing, she was thrown by the listening passages.

So she wrote a poem about her experience. When she submitted it to GothamSchools, she wrote, “I am a middle school student in the Bronx, who like many others, felt stressed about the state test. Book 2 really hit me like 100 needles in the back and I decided to write a poem about how I felt.”

Here’s an excerpt from “Book 2,” which is published in full in the Community section:

The pale chalk
In my teacher’s hand
Mocking my pain
As she erases the numbers and says
“Two minutes left”
Smoke is coming out of my ears
What does “dismal” mean?

I asked Franjul for more details about her testing experience. She told me that she was most stressed out by Book 2 on the second day of testing because it required her to listen to passages that were read out loud. “At least for me it was hard to listen,” she said. “I copied everything down but then I was racing with the time and it beat me.”

What caused the delay? “Two passages that slowed me down were the penguin and the thyroid passage,” she said. “Nonfiction is hard to understand when you don’t know what some words mean.”

And Franjul said her classmates had the same problems with unclear test questions that others have cited on exams in different grades and subjects.

“I think that other students felt stressed just like me because 90 minutes is fair, but the questions that they put really confused us,” she said.

Seventh-grade state test scores play a role in high school admissions. But if everything goes well for Franjul, they could matter less: She hopes to attend Fiorello LaGuardia High School for Music and Art & the Performing Arts, which selects students based on their artistic prowess.