poem in your pocket day

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

Anaisbely Franjul

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.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”