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New York Releases Half of Statewide Test Questions

New York Releases Half of Statewide Test Questions
Critics said releasing the test questions show how flawed the tests were.

New York education officials released half of the state's 2014 standardized math and English test questions on Wednesday, five months after critics first complained that the questions were confusing and loaded with brand name references that looked like product placement.

   The material released by the state Education Department included questions from last spring's tests together with answers and analyses.

   "Educators can use this information together with student work from throughout the school year to help understand whether their instruction, assignments and classroom assessments reflect the rigor and depth of our learning standards and our statewide assessments," said Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

   But critics said releasing the questions just shows how flawed the tests were.

   "Seeing these questions again I'm angry all over again," said Bianca Tanis, a special-education teacher in Rockland County who said some students put their heads down and cried when she administered the tests.

   Tanis singled out a fourth-grade question about a story called "Pecos Bill Captures the Pacing White Mustang."

   The question asks: "Why is Pecos Bill's conversation with the cowboys important to the story?" The choices are:

   A) It predicts the action in paragraph 4.

   B) It predicts the action in paragraph 5.

   C) It explains the choice in paragraph 10.

   D) It explains the choice in paragraph 11.

   Tanis said the question requires too much flipping back and forth for the average 9-year-old.

   "It's a five-step process to answer this one multiple-choice question," she said. "This is not developmentally appropriate."

   Lisa Rudley, a member of the New York State Allies for Public Education and a Westchester County parent whose three children opted out of the tests, said releasing half the questions is not enough. "Why aren't they releasing the whole tests?" she asked.

   State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said one reason is that some questions must be recycled for budgetary reasons.

   Some parents complained that the 2014 tests contained references to consumer products such as Nike and Mug Root Beer. The material released Wednesday includes the question about Mug Root Beer, complete with a footnote explaining that Mug Root Beer "is the registered trademark of New Century Beverage Company."

   This year was the second year that New York's tests were designed to incorporate the Common Core learning standards that have been adopted by most states in an effort to boost academic rigor.

   Scores plunged in 2013, the first year of Common Core-aligned tests. The 2014 test scores will be released this month.