Elite private schools do not take Common Core state tests and neither should you

I have heard lots of ridiculous claims why students should take the Common Core state tests.  One of the most famous lines came from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when he said, “We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” he said. “Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.”

The latest bizarre claim by the reformers is that testing is a civil right.  I scratched my head and wondered.  Of course these groups know what civil rights are but I suspect they should educate themselves on the tests before making such bold claims.  I thought Diane Ravtich put the claim to bed when she pointed out, “How can one look at the results of Common Core testing in Néw York—where 97% of English learners, 95% of children with disabilities, and more than 80% of black and Hispanic students failed to meet the standard of “proficiency”—and conclude that these children are well-served by standardized testing?

In the Fordham Institute’s latest piece, Robert Pondisco seems confused when he makes the claim, “White suburban moms certainly appear to be primary drivers of the opt-out movement. To the degree that such are responding to curriculum narrowing and other deleterious effects of test-driven accountability, I’m deeply sympathetic.”  By his own admission, it is pretty clear that white suburban moms are not the drivers of the opt out movement.  The opt out movement is driven by some of the worst tests we have never seen.  Unfortunately, most students are subject to Common Core’s toxic state tests.

But not all students take Common Core state tests.  These tests are not offered to the elite private schools.  When you search for the test scores of the elite private schools, they come up blank.  Why?  Don’t these parents care if their children are college and career ready at 8 years old?  Don’t they want their children prepared for more difficult tests later in life?  Don’t they care about supporting civil rights through testing?  Don’t they want to know if the schools they are paying tens of thousands of dollars to are failing their children?  Don’t they want their children test prepped?  The answer is no, they don’t.  They care about their children and have sought the best education possible for them.  Their children’s schools, teachers, and students are not held hostage to Common Core state testing and nor should ours.

We will not allow our son to take Common Core state tests

As the parents of an 8 year old, we are very proud when our son takes on challenges.  Quite often, we are the ones encouraging our son to take on these challenges.  We never encourage him to win or get 100s, we only hope that he tries his best.  So why won’t we allow him to take Common Core state tests?

For starters, they are not a challenge.  We would hardly consider 6 days and close to 600 minutes of testing a very limited number of skills/standards to be a challenge.  How long does a child really want to swim in a puddle for?  We would much rather prefer a test with a bit more depth.  After all, choosing between A B C or D for 6 days doesn’t sound all that rigorous.

We can’t see the test.  If our son is going to spend 6 days and close to 600 minutes taking the test, we would like to see his results alongside the actual test.  To send us a 1,2,3, or 4 and some recommend skills is absolutely useless.  We can see every other test our child takes in school and we can discuss questions he got right and help him understand the questions he got wrong.  If all his teachers ever sent home were his grades, there would be no opportunity to learn or grow.  Isn’t that one of the most basic functions of testing?

We do not care how our 8 year old compares to other children.  The main reason is because he is 8 and he is our son.  Knowing he is first or last will not change a thing.  He is not a number or a percentage, he is our son.  A test will not not make our son college and career ready and we would never allow Pearson to rubber stamp him as such- he’s 8.

As he grows older, we are aware his world will become more competitive.  We will be there right beside him, encouraging him to try his best- the same way we did when he was 8.


These are not the tests we took as children.

These are not the tests we took as children. These are tests designed to produce massive failure rates and propel a harmful agenda.  Take a look at the two 3rd grade samples currently posted on engageNY:


On the left (pre- Common Core 2005) is A Winter Surprise.  The readability average through multiple measures is a very reasonable grade equivalent of 3.8.

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 1.8
Gunning-Fog Score 4.4
Coleman-Liau Index 7.9
SMOG Index 4.4
Automated Readability Index 0.5
Average Grade Level 3.8


On the right (Common Core aligned) is The Grey Hare.  The readability average through multiple measures is a very unreasonable grade equivalent of 7.3 

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2
Gunning-Fog Score 8.6
Coleman-Liau Index 9.1
SMOG Index 4.8
Automated Readability Index 7.6
Average Grade Level 7.3

The grade level equivalent of the test questions is another matter altogether.  Most questions are 2-3 grade levels above the grade being tested as shown here.  You would never assess a 3rd grade student or their teacher by using 7th and 8th grade ELA/math questions, but that is exactly what the Common Core tests do.

Every student loves a challenge, but unless they can read 300 words per minute, it is not a challenge students will ever meet.  Read here for the breakdown. 

And last but not least,  look at the length of these exams.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case it is almost worth 1,000 minutes:


Join Lace to the Top because we never took these tests- why should our children?

Common Core does not work because it was never designed to work.

Common Core does not work because it was never designed to work.

Simply shifting demands down by 1-2 years, with no regard for age/grade appropriateness, is producing the exact failure rates those in charge predicted. Of course in cases where the results do not meet predictions, cut scores are adjusted to guarantee the predicted rate of failure.

Everyone knows you can’t turn a 3rd grader into a 5th grader. Why would you ever want to? Unfortunately, that’s what is demanded of the Common Core standards and its high stakes testing.

Here is the shift in Lexile levels.  Each grader reading requirements were increased by 1-2 grade levels:


Not one elementary teacher or child development expert was ever part of the Common Core process and it’s showing.  Read this shocking Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative.  It was a warning sign that went unnoticed and as a result, our students are suffering.

It’s time to end the Common Core experiment.  We shouldn’t be forced to make the best out of Common Core’s worst.  School houses need look internally and build what the Common Core cannot- complete with teacher, admin, student, and parent input.

We are being told Common Core works from those outside the classroom walls.  When do we start to listen to those that actually have to work with the lackluster standards and flawed state tests?

The barbarians are already inside the classroom walls

To think you can remain silent and do your part by being the best teacher you can be is just plain wrong. To quote Dr. Rella, “The barbarians are already inside of the walls.”

Continue to be that great teacher, but realize that it is not ok for the children in your care to be subject to an inferior education and harmful reforms. You should always want more for your students. Common Core and its testing do not inspire greatness and as many can attest to, children are being hurt. Common Core is a path of destruction we should be guiding all children away from- in the same way Gates, Duncan, and John King have made certain their own children are not subject to this nonsense.

The silence of teachers comes with a penalty that no child should pay.

We are the adults. We are the voice for our children. Start shouting!

NYS Corrupt Common Core Test Scores

We would love to believe every word and memo that comes our state education department, but questionable past practices force parents, teachers, and taxpayers to remain skeptical.

Last year, NYSED declared they would not alter cut scores.  This was refreshing to hear, since New York State constantly changed the scores needed to pass (cut scores) on ELA and Math tests.  (Only AFTER the tests are graded, a score needed to pass is established and that score has never been the same since testing began.) NY’s cut scores for all the previous years resemble a roller coaster ride.  For example, in 2009 students only had to answer 53% of the questions to pass compared with the 87% needed to pass in 2010.  Here is the historical data since 2006:

NYS 3rd Grade Passing-page-001

Turns out, NYSED lied.  They did indeed adjust cut scores in 2013-14.  Former NYSED Commissioner John King forecasted ‘incremental’ increases August 2013 and he delivered ‘incremental’ increases August 2014.  This was achieved two ways:

1. They adjusted the cut scores- see for yourself:

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.42.25 PM

(Info provided by NY raw score to scale score and performance indicator chart here.)

2. They simply removed test questions.  Students took the test and answered the questions- NYSED simply decided (and without explanation) that some items would not count.  It is important to understand that these items go through a rigorous review process and are field tested at a great expense.  Fred Smith does a masterful job explaining which items NYSED left off.  The question that no one can answer is why???NYSED insists on keeping the technical report for the test that can answer these questions (the one our taxes already paid for) away from the public.  This report was due out in December and the test was a year ago.

As someone who made tests for Pearson, PARCC, and NYSED- I am at a loss.  NY parents, teachers, and taxpayers should be outraged.  The media has been so quick to accept that our children are failing the tests.  They never bothered to take a closer look- the tests, State Ed Dept, and corrupt politicians that are failing our children.

Lace to the Top

Common Core State Tests Want to Know if Your 8 Year Old Can Read 300 Words Per Minute

Can your 8 year old read 300 words per minute?  Mine can’t.  In fact, I don’t know anyone who can.  Yet, that is exactly what Common Core state tests require.

In looking through samples of Common Core state tests on engageNY for third graders, I find myself once again puzzled by what they are asking our children to do.

The typical Common Core passage is 600 words in length.  During the first day, (of a 3 day test) students are required to read a minimum of 5 passages and answer 30 questions.    Students have 70 minutes to complete day one of the test.

If a student spends only 1 minute reading and analyzing each of the 30 questions, they will have to read passages that are 2-3 years above grade level at a pace of 75 words per minute.  Some would argue that is not too difficult a task and at first glance, I might agree.

However, when we look at what the questions are asking students to do, I doubt any 8 year old can read and analyze these questions to the extent Common Core demands in only 1 minute.  This is the guidance to answering questions offered on engageNY:

Many of the questions on the 2015 Grade 3 Common Core English Language Arts Test are more advanced and complex than those found on prior assessments that measured prior grade-level standards. Answer choices will not jump out; rather, students will need to make hard choices between “fully correct” and “plausible but incorrect” answers that are designed specifically to determine whether students have comprehended the entire passage and are proficient with the deep analyses specified by the standards.

To answer ELA questions correctly, students will need to read and analyze each passage completely and closely, and be prepared to carefully consider responses to multiple-choice questions.

And now look at the directions given to students during the test and ask yourself, can an 8 year old do all of this in one minute?

Most questions will make sense only when you read the whole passage. You may read the passage more than once to answer a question. When a question includes a quotation from a passage, be sure to keep in mind what you learned from reading the whole passage. You may need to review both the quotation and the passage in order to answer the question correctly.

Let’s just say 8 year olds were to use two minutes to read and analyze the questions, they will have to read the passages at a warped-speed rate of 300 words per minute just to finish the test.

Time’s up!

Lace to the Top

One Strike, You’re Out

Educators and the children in their charge are being labeled “effective” and “ineffective” based on assessments that are mere snapshots of the journey that is authentic teaching and learning. If this model of evaluation were to be suggested for America’s pastime, imagine the outrage.  Imagine the kind of rebellion that would occur if it were announced that there would no longer be a baseball season.  There will be one game.  If your team wins, you are a winner.  If your team loses, you must turn in your uniform.   Even with Joe DiMaggio in the lineup, sometimes the Yankees lost.  Imagine the implications, and yet this is exactly what is being done to education.

No one would argue the ability of Joe DiMaggio, and yet in his career he only got on base slightly over 30% of the time.  In other words, 70% of the time, Joe DiMaggio did not meet his objective. This is acceptable to us because we understand the complexity of the task at hand.  There is so much to account for: crowd noise, a small moving target, weather conditions, and especially, the nine fielders that are actively opposing the efforts of the hitter.  Why then, is it so difficult to see the same complexity in the task facing teachers and students?  They have just as many obstacles to reaching their objective, if not more.  They do not have the luxury of personal trainers to keep them in perfect physical form, or a grounds crew to make sure that their footing is sound.  They are not given the opportunity to play again tomorrow.

We shouldn’t accept for America’s public education system what we would not accept for America’s pastime.  Refuse to play the game.

Math Questions + Common Core State Test = Inappropriate Reading Levels

We reported the issues with questions on Common Core state tests.  The tests fail to follow a very simple rule of assessments- questions MUST be written on the grade level you are attempting to assess.  It only makes sense.  Students can’t answer questions that they do not understand.  These tests are constructed for ALL students in a given grade level and therefore it is imperative that the questions are grade appropriate.

Here are the results of the 3rd grade NY State Common Core test questions.  Most Math questions for 3rd graders are written on grade level 6.4 or higher.  Take a look:

“Charlotte played a computer game that uses a target like the one shown. Each

ring of the target is marked with the number of points she earns if her dart
lands in that ring.
Each X on the rings shows where one of Charlotte’s darts landed the first time
she played the game.”

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 5.2
Gunning-Fog Score 7.9
Coleman-Liau Index 7.9
SMOG Index 6
Automated Readability Index 6.5
Average Grade Level 6.7

“The table below shows the points scored by different teams at the math games.
Complete the bar graph to represent the data. Remember to include a numeric

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 5.3
Gunning-Fog Score 9.4
Coleman-Liau Index 11.5
SMOG Index 6.8
Automated Readability Index 5.1
Average Grade Level 7.6

In a computer game, players earn points by collecting ducks and frogs. The
picture below shows the ducks and frogs Sheila collected the first time she
played the game. She earned the same number of points for 6 ducks as she did
for 4 frogs. If Sheila earned 36 points for the ducks, how many points did she earn for each

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 4.7
Gunning-Fog Score 8.1
Coleman-Liau Index 8.4
SMOG Index 5.3
Automated Readability Index 5.7
Average Grade Level 6.4

Something doesn’t add up- it’s the Common Core state questions!

Lace to the Top

A Closer Read of Common Core State Test Questions

It goes without saying you would never assess a 3rd grade student or their teacher by using 7th and 8th grade math questions.  I think it is a statement that everyone (reformers included) would agree with.

In English Language Arts tests, the grade level appropriateness of text used is a gray area. Some would argue that it is perfectly fine for third graders to be assessed using texts with readability levels of 5th and 6th graders.  But even the champions of rigor must adhere to the golden rule of testing- the questions MUST be written on the grade level you are attempting to assess.  It only makes sense.  Students can’t answer questions that they do not understand.  These tests are constructed for ALL students in a given grade level and therefore it is imperative that the questions are  grade appropriate.

As a former test developer for Pearson, PARCC, CTB, and NYSED we were never permitted to use words or vocabulary in questions that were too far above the grade level being tested (i.e. – 3rd grade questions were all constructed on grade 3 or 4).  Again, the concept was simple- students cannot answer questions that they do not understand.  After all, how much comprehension support is there in a test question?

It is clear the Common Core state tests have no regard for the most widely understood testing principle- write questions that are on grade level.  Look at these questions from the Common Core NY state third grade ELA tests.  They have questions that place 3,4, and 5 grade levels above the year being tested.  Imagine giving 3rd graders 6th, 7th, and 8th grade level questions and thinking this is somehow the proper measure of their growth or their teacher’s instruction.

Here are some examples from the actual Common Core NY 3rd grade ELA test:

“Why does the information in paragraph 5 belong under the heading “Suited for the
Sea”? Use two details from the passage to support your response.”

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 7.2
Gunning-Fog Score 9.8
Coleman-Liau Index 11.5
SMOG Index 7.2
Automated Readability Index 6.7
Average Grade Level 8.5

“Why is Thomas “swelling like a blowfish” in paragraph 39? Use two details from the story to support your response.”

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6
Gunning-Fog Score 8
Coleman-Liau Index 10.4
SMOG Index 6
Automated Readability Index 4.5
Average Grade Level 7.0

“Thomas’s mood changes from the beginning of the story to the end. How does

Thomas feel at the beginning of the story? How does he feel at the end? Why does his

mood change? Use details from the story to support your response.

In your response, be sure to

• explain how Thomas feels at the beginning of the story

• explain how Thomas feels at the end of the story

• explain why his mood changes

• use details from the story to support your response”

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 7.5
Gunning-Fog Score 9.8
Coleman-Liau Index 9.4
SMOG Index 6.8
Automated Readability Index 6.9
Average Grade Level 8.1

“The author provides many details about how sea turtles are similar to and different
from each other. How is a leatherback sea turtle similar to a green sea turtle? How are
they different from each other? Use details from the passage to support your response.
In your response, be sure to
• explain how a leatherback sea turtle is similar to a green sea turtle
• explain how a leatherback sea turtle is different from a green sea turtle
• use details from the passage to support your response”

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 9
Gunning-Fog Score 12.5
Coleman-Liau Index 10.3
SMOG Index 9
Automated Readability Index 8.4
Average Grade Level 9.8

Teachers use tests to assess students and drive instruction all of the time- predicated on the notion that the student understands the questions being asked.

If the problem is with the questions, any data derived from them is not valid.


Lace to the Top


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