This year's state English language arts exams required more "close-reading" than ever before, in keeping with the priorities of the Common Core learning standards.
Back in April, when the exams were administered to students in third through eighth grades, educators said the length of the reading passages and what students were asked to do with them made the tests too onerous for the time allowed. This week, the state released scores showing that only 31 percent of students met the state's proficiency standards, including just 26.4 percent in New York City.
We asked three English teachers to apply the same reading strategies that they teach their students to questions that appeared on the state's reading exams. (Breaking from recent past practice, the state released about a quarter of the test questions that students saw. We highlighted math questions on Wednesday.)
Zeroing in on the "Earth and Water and Sky" passage on the seventh-grade exam, the educators — Victoria Dedaj, Mark Anderson, and Jen Murtha — said some questions required more than literacy skills, used complex language, and sometimes had no clear answer.
Dedaj and Anderson — whom you might remember from our Common Core literacy event last fall — teach at M.S. 228 in the Bronx, where Murtha was a Teaching Matters' consultant before becoming the nonprofit's director of educational services. Here's the passage and what they said about it:
A few months ago, teachers from KIPP charter schools approached the network's co-founder Dave Levin to say that they were restless with the training they were getting. Despite weekly observations and extensive support, the teachers wanted to talk to educators from outside the KIPP organization to find out what they considered best practices for classroom teaching.
Levin took that idea and developed it into the "What's Works in Urban Schools," a conference that took place Saturday at New York University. The purpose of the event, Levin said, was to forge better working relationships between district and charter school teachers.
"Too often the broader structural debate has nothing to do with the great things that are happening in classrooms across New York City," Levin said. "Whether you teach in a charter school or a district school, good teachers have the same goals."
On Saturday, hundreds of teachers braved inclement weather, an early morning wake-up, and a $35 entry fee to attend the event, which was sponsored by KIPP, Google, TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project), Teaching Matters, and Scholastic.