On second day of new tests, time crunch seen as major issue

If students post low scores on the sections of the state reading test administered today, it might be in part because many could not finish in the allotted time.

According to teachers who proctored today’s English language arts exams, the time allowed — 70 minutes in third and fourth grades and 90 minutes in fifth through eighth grades – simply wasn’t enough for many students, especially given the critical thinking that the tests required. The year’s tests are the first to be tied to tougher new standards known as the Common Core, and today’s sections were the first to include essays. (Tuesday’s test section was all multiple-choice.)

“When such a great increase in complexity — of questions and texts — is being implemented for the first time, AND we are tying results to students’ permission to graduate — 90 minute is IN NO WAY sufficient,” wrote Michele Hamilton, an eighth-grade teacher in the Bronx, in a comment on GothamSchools. “Today was a very hurtful experience for many of my students.”

It was an reaction that many teachers said they shared.

“Crushed by time today. My students CAN do this level of work but many barely got to the essay or had to rush through it,” tweeted teacher Mike Locker, who estimated that only a few of his students completed the entire test.

“Perhaps 50% ‘finished’ the test, if you count rushing through an essay in ten minutes,” Locker wrote. “About 10% seemed to legitimately finish.”

Wrote ChristinaMLuce, “I wanted to cry looking at my 6th graders today. They worked so hard. It was just too long.”

Binh Thai, an eighth-grade teacher at University Neighborhood Middle School, reported that students he proctored were crying themselves. On Twitter, he wrote that the amount of work students were asked to do in 90 minutes was “absurd.”

Annie Annunziato estimated that 60 percent of her sixth-grade students completed their tests. For Emily Aptekar, another sixth-grade teacher, that rate was “a little more than half.” A “popular question” today, Aptekar wrote on Twitter, was “Will I have to repeat sixth grade if I didn’t finish my essay?” And another teacher, Katherine Hernandez, wrote, “We had a lot of 8th graders doing the 10 minute rush essay.”

State Education Department officials said there are more test questions than last year and students have less time in some grades to finish, but that the tests had been designed to be completed in the allotted time..

“Based on the results of last year’s test and the stand-alone field tests, we estimated that students would have sufficient time to complete these additional questions and there would be a decrease in the amount of ‘extra’ time, or the amount of time that students must wait for the test session to end once they have finished their work,” said Tom Dunn, a department spokesman.

Yet even Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, a fierce defender of the tougher tests she helped bring to the state, encountered students who were upset about the time crunch.

“I said, ‘I know the people who wrote the test. What should I tell them?'” Tisch told GothamSchools about her visit this morning with fourth graders at Future Leaders Institute, a city charter school. She said one student immediately suggested, “Can you tell them I need more time?”