Horror stories pour in, this time on the common core algebra regent’s exam.

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In New York State, Regents Examinations are statewide standardized examinations in core high school subjects required for a Regents Diploma. Most students, with some limited exceptions, are required to take and pass the Regents Examinations in order to graduate. The Regents exams were recently aligned to the controversial common core and have since created a great deal of problems for NYS students and teachers.

On or about July 2014, a FOIL demand was issued to the NYSED requesting disclosure of HumRRo reports which, according to NYSED, verifies that state ELA and Math tests are valid and reliable. SED failed to disclose this information in violation of public access laws forcing parent advocates to file an appeal with the state education department. Additionally, a petition signed by thousands of concerned parents and educators and education advocacy groups was sent directly to the Attorney General to demand access to the HumRRO report and an independent evaluation be performed on the the common core ELA and Math exams crafted by Pearson. A link to this petition can be found below in references. Despite this petition being sent certified mail and also brought in person to legislators, there has been no response from state officials to the petition and SED has rebuffed their obligations to the public under the FOIA laws.
Like the state ELA and Math exams crafted by Pearson, the NYS Regents exams are common core aligned and thus have significant deficits of their own due to the complexity and inappropriate nature of the standards.

This week, the Common Core Algebra I Regents test was administered this week and again the reports are nothing short of disturbing.

Public education advocates, parents and many teachers have been speaking out against the common core with good reason. After having independently researched them enough to look past the propaganda, we are able to conclude that the common core state standards are deficient and developmentaly inappropriate in large respects. This week reports from the field speak volumes.

The Common Core Algebra I Regents exam literally had children in tears and teachers are at their wits end.

Many questions are being raised in NYS with hopes that things will change for the better. The question on all of our minds: Is anyone at SED or Regents even listening?

Knowing full well that the common core was hastily written, never piloted or field tested and constitutes nothing more than an experiment, isnt it fair to argue that administration of the common core tests is tantamount to educational malpractice?

The standards are designed for children to fail. How is this experiment being conducted on students in our classrooms ethical?

How is tying teacher evaluation and performance to arbitrary testing outcomes even legal?

Why are we the only state in this country who are saddled with Regents? Wasn’t the initial goal of this team to protect the educational integrity of our students? Under Chancellor Tisch the regents have instead ensured that New York education has failed our students.

Many teachers and parents wrote in on social media to expose it for being extremely age inappropriate, like most of the common core tests. When will this abuse end?

Children are venting their frustrations all over in their schools, communities, and on social media.

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The common theme shared by parents and teachers was that any test that children will likely fail that determines their future is abusive, and that when most children leave an exam in tears something is very wrong. And don’t forget that this incredibly flawed exam will also count toward teacher evaluation, thereby prejudicing and harming teachers as well.

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/documents/Grade8AlgebraICCRegentsGuidance_20150413.pdf”

Parents, tutors, teachers and principals have written in, devastated.

Here are just a few of their comments.

Rachel Amodeo shares;

“Well my son loves math…loves his teacher and has been getting in the nineties all year, he walked out today completely unsure if he passed…He said it was ridiculously hard. That says set up to me. He did everything he was supposed to do, studied, had tutors to make sure his grade would be high, went to regents prep classes, was told by the teacher he gets it and that the teacher thought he would do well, I was told by his tutor that he knew everything and he also expected him to do well…and yet my son isn’t sure…He thinks he did poorly…most of the kids he spoke with and saw at the test think they did poorly…How exactly does that get them ready for college and career? I am so frustrated with all of this. I want someone to explain to me how this is okay to do to kids who work as hard as my child? They are making kids give up…what’s the point in working hard if they are going to be set up to fail?!!
How do you continue to convince your kids to work hard when they are being raked over the coals? How much longer will our children listen to us that hard work pays off when they are set up to fail? I want someone to pay for doing this to my kids, for doing it to me as a parent I have been completely undermined by the state!”
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Another New York parent, educational advocate writes;

“It has been discussed numerous times at BOE meetings and PTA meetings, to no avail. They think it’s in the best interest of the students here. Whether a student passes by the skin of their teeth or truly masters the subject means nothing. Extra help is pretty much mandatory. Special Ed students have resource room, AIS, and the actual subject, so pretty much three periods a day devoted to Algebra, then extra help, and even tutors just to get them to pass one test. My ninth grader took both CC and non-CC last year, failed both, is now in pre-algebra and bc he was doing so well in class, he was encouraged to take the regents test yet again during this years mid-terms. Three times he took it, and three times he failed. He started his education learning one way, and halfway through, it all changed. These are the “gap” kids. These are the students being harmed most, imo, bc at least the younger grades are starting out with Common Core. And every tutor and teacher I hired has told me point blank that this is completely unfair, and they can only do so much, because there’s more material to cover than there is time to cover it.”
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Another parent shares a common theme;

My daughters said that whatever their teacher gave them to review including the algebra regents review booklets was not on the test!!! What’s the point of reviewing if it’s not on the test!!!”
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A New York parent and educator/tutor writes the following;

“I’m not a math teacher but I tutored about 10 kids from 4 different districts for this CC Algebra Regents.
Algebra should be a challenging yet positive introduction to upper level math instruction. Common core will make many kids (and parents) join the “I hate math” club. I’ve taken all the available tests, real and actual, and have a good feel for what challenges the kids faced. I do not think parents or students were prepared for the difficulty of this test. The generous curve makes it so that kids will pass, but kids want to do more than pass.
Scoring 30 points will pass with 65.
How is having kids pass a Regents with 35% correct helping them be “college and career ready”?

For the CC math “Guinea pigs” it’s a huge disadvantage to have to take a brand new course and brand new Regents with no full actual practice exams that is scheduled 2 weeks prior to normal Regents week. These leading edge kids had 2 weeks less with curriculum and practice, no Barron’s book to refer to.

I’d rather kids know 100% of less and would love to see a quarter or even a third of CC algebra eliminated so kids could focus on mastery, proficiency and long term retention of the most important areas instead of being spread thin and not really understanding upper level concepts.

What I saw that was interesting from helping kids from different districts, was that while most things were the same, different districts approached certain topics differently and there were some concepts covered in one district but completely left out in others.

(Poor) Wording can mask what’s being asked on this test. It’s possible the questions were posed in an unfamiliar or unusual way that made kids think they didn’t know something when they actually did. This happened over and over when I worked on practice exams with kids.

Kids had gaps through no fault of their own. After all, they couldn’t learn something that wasn’t part of a curriculum when they had the course. Unfortunately their current class assumed they learned it.
Non IEP and very strong math students feel frustrated by the CC Algebra Regents also.

In 2013, the first year of the new CC Algebra standards, the entire curriculum (modules) wasn’t even fully ready before school started. Teachers were taken out of class for professional development as the math airplane was “being built as it was being flown.”
Ludicrous.

CC math should not have been dumped on every grade at once but gradually phased in, starting with K. Changing the approach to math in the “middle of the movie” isn’t helpful or in students best interests.

And before that, it should have been tested on a small scale to know it would be successful and work out the kinks, develop solid materials, etc. (And), where’s the proof that CC is better, even if it starts in K?

My district instituted “extra help” on the elementary level mostly to help with math

Taking parents out of the math equation will not lead to success in math. Pockets are only so deep. The kids who will succeed and do better are those whose families can afford tutors

CC redefined algebra into something that made classic Algebra textbooks obsolete. Algebra is the new Algebra 2. It’s very demanding and is difficult for many students to do well in.
To end a challenging year with a overly difficult Regents is wrong.

I hope kids still have opportunities to be successful in high school math despite this terrific burden placed on them. It’s disappointing that so many kids have lost their self confidence in math. ”
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New York parent Marci Rappoport Talarico states;

“My daughter took the CC Algebra regents exam today. She said two of her friends ran out of the test crying and another one (a very smart girl) wrote on the last question, “I have no idea how to answer this because we never learned it”. My daughter said some of the questions made no sense but she attempted every one because she didn’t want to “look dumb” even though this test made her feel dumb. What are we doing to our kids?!?”
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New York parent Danielle Lanza Flora shares;

“Longer hours of convoluted math. Does the end justify the extra time we are devoting to this and taking away from other subject areas such as Science and Social Studies?

This is a case of a Snake Oil Salesman. Nothing more.”
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Some teachers said their students left in tears, others vomited. One parent anonymously said her child had a panic attack.
These children were all over social media saying they felt like failures. One principal said in all the years she was at her post, she’d never seen such a mess.

More parents added;

“My daughter who has a 97 average all year walked out very upset. She said it was the hardest test she has ever taken. She panicked and didn’t have enough time to finish. This is so frustrating! Wish there was something I could do.”
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“Awful!! Extremely hard and topics on test that were not taught in class.”
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“These aren’t supposed to be tests of endurance. They are supposed to test whether students have a decent understanding of Algebra. The whole concept of trying to trick the students shows something else at play.”
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“When math requires good wording. When an experiment turns into abuse. When will these kids have a voice? In therapy?”
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“It’s sheer abuse. They are destroying our kids and robbing them of a real education. Makes me sick.”
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“The remediation students will need in college in 3 years will be off the charts, there will be a lot of damage to be undone….”
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“It’s so upsetting reading how these kids are feeling. The only good outcome of this is that parents who don’t know what’s happening start to ask questions and fight back.”
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“My son has pulled the second highest grade (out of all students in our school) for the entire year for this class. He said he was one of the last kids out of the exam and he just left one page entirely blank. He couldn’t make heads or tails of the questions on one of the pages (and they built of each other, naturally). It barely covered two of the main topics of focus. My straight A student says it was far more difficult than was reasonable. He loves testing and never complains about it. If this was his response, I know it must have been ludicrous!”
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“It’s not a good test. There’s no way in hell special ed or ELL could do well on it. My daughter just took it and was in tears. She’s a high honor roll student and said she’s sure she failed…it’s 20% of her grade. There goes her A average.”
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“My daughter took the CC geometry regents June 2, she said the wording was terrible, that you need to be an English major to understand.”
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“My daughter also came home extremely aggravated with the CC Algebra regents test today. She said that there were others who cried and were just lost. My daughter said that she couldn’t understand what some of the questions were asking to even attempt to try to solve it (in pen no less). She said there was a lot of material on the test that was not covered during the year. This is a high honor student who is challenging the geometry course this summer so she can set herself up with trig next year in her all 11th grade courses (in 10th grade). What is happening here??? Why is this being allowed?? Common Core NEEDS to go!!!”
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“The exam is reported to be extremely difficult. The source is very reliable. Reports say it is devastating for the students.”
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“Friends here with double and single accelerated kids (7th taking algebra 1) reported their kids saying test was more difficult than any of the practice materials and many did not finish.”
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New York parent Kristine Schanstra contributes;

“My daughter said it was the toughest test she ever took. Even with weeks worth of private tutoring under her belt, she said she felt like she was going to be sick!! Her friend said she welled up in tears a few times!”
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“I was not there to proctor yesterday, but a college told me that two students started crying and one girl almost passed out. She said she tried to reassure them that this one test means nothing and is not worth all of the sadness and anxiety. Sadly though, the students are so young, they don’t understand that in the grand scheme of things this one test is not going to make or break them. Mark Naison is right, this is child abuse.”
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“I proctored the exam and teachers jaws were falling open at the problems at the end.”
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Another parent of two middle school parents added:

“The graph was impossible. I wouldn’t be surprised if state removes two questions from that test, maybe three. My child was in tears.”
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Removing questions that have already caused distress and a feeling of hopeless failure is not the answer. This does not fix the panic the children feel when they struggle through inappropriate questions.

Teachers also commented in disfavor of the exam. The reports coming in reveal disturbing test reality. Below are a few thoughts from teachers and their experience in administering this terribly flawed test.

“I am not going to bother addressing the test items themselves as many of you have already done yeoman’s work on that subject.
I find it highly unethical that each of the scaled scores from 81 through 98 are actually lower than the raw percentage. How can anyone justify a scale that is punitive to the students that are highly successful on an exam like this? Please spare me the rhetoric that it can be justified by pointing out that a raw percentage of 34 becomes a 65, therefore what is given in one instance is taken away in another to achieve some sort of bizarre “balance”! A child works his/her tail off on test questions, many of which are unfair to begin with, and the state sees fit to take points away when the student was correct in their work???? Ridiculous!!!
I still maintain that the tests should contain 100 points and the students must obtain at least 65 of them in order to pass……no more scales. Make the test items fair and the test can once again be worth 100 points. Whatever money these so-called psychomatricians are being paid, is simply a complete waste of state money!
I’ve been through 4 major curriculum changes in my career and I don’t mind change, in fact, I embrace it. But this was the first exam, at any level, that I saw such a large number of students still working with less than 10 minutes left. In and of itself, that is not a bad thing. There are always a couple of kids that leave in tears, but there were so many crying this time, that I felt the need to go home and talk to my wife about retirement because these poor kids are being used as political pawns. I am ashamed to be part of a system that does that to kids. If Andrew C wants to grade me down and fire me, bring it on! But don’t use the kids to get to me.”
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“I don’t want to keep beating this dead horse, but I feel that all this test did was confirm to the majority of the students that math is beyond their comprehension and not worth pursuing. The advanced students got their 85%, and probably with this curve, most of the others got their 65. They will now take Geometry, struggle through that and get into their Junior Year and decide that they will go into something other than a math or science. We are killing ourselves here as “Math People” by continually taking the fun out of mathematics.
Problems that ask a student to first subtract two quadratic equations, and then multiply by a 2nd degree monomial with a fractional coefficient (for 2 pts), or asking about completing the square with fractions (2 pts), only serves to reinforce the message that math is hard.
I’m sorry, but this test really demoralized me and I could see it in the students. Some just gave up. I know we are supposed to be teaching “stick-to-it-tiveness”, but when each question keeps asking for explanation when their solution is obvious why they did what they did, students will just say “What’s the Point?”
Sorry for the rant, but I’m just very frustrated and feel like I wasted a year!”
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“We had roughly 25% of our students stay until the end and many of them were very upset and said it was the hardest test they have taken. Many of those students were honor students.”
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“We had about the same number stay for the full 3 hrs. I, and the other Math teachers here, felt that some of the questions were ridiculous. While the topics were apprpriate, the level of difficulty was much higher than that of previous tests. If the state was looking to bring down the passing percentage for the Algebra 1 Regents exam, they succeeded.”
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“I had a significant number of students stay until the end and a large portion that just gave up. A few students were crying as they left. I thought the test was ridiculous and uncalled for.”
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“The scoring scale for Algebra 1 has become just like the Chemistry Regents scale.
For example, on this test, if a student got a raw score of 73, then he/she would have 73 out of 86 or 84.8837%. Even worse…74 out of 86 is 86.05%. In both of these cases, the “scale score” is below 85, and the Performance Level is a 4. DESPITE the fact that their raw score was 85 or better.
That is wrong. I cannot state that any more strongly, but it is wrong in every sense of the word.
Again, what is the message we want to send to the student? Do we want to emphasize that they are NOT college-ready? Do we want to tell the teachers that you need to teach better?
I firmly believe that all this test did was cement into the student’s mind that math is difficult, Algebra is NOT for everyone, and to select Liberal Arts as your major in college because you certainly won’t succeed in a math-related field if you cannot get through Algebra 1.”
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“Just finished grading the exam. I think the many of the questions are not appropriate for an introductory algebra course. The level is too high. The cut score for passing is 30/86 which is 35% correct. Why not write a test that students can pass with a cut score of 56/86?”
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“I do not think the multiple choice were that difficult, and thought most free response questions were fair. I thought the part IV was an annoying question as it simply tested their ability to use a calculator, and many students voiced how it took them a long time to graph it because they were using multiple points rather than integer points along the parabola.
I also think there were too many explain how you arrived at your answer when the algebraic solutions were self explanatory.
I do not understand how certain questions are only worth 2 points in Part II when they require multiple steps.
Also think the curve is ridiculous for this exam since in the past it really hurts the stronger students and rewards those who score low, which is a whole other monster of issues with the Regents System.”
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“I also think there were too many ‘explain how you arrived at
your answer’, when the algebraic solutions were self
explanatory.
This is one aspect of Common Core that “has to go” – clear definitions of the variables and the assumptions up front, proper use of units such as m/sec, etc makes the wordy text explanation unnecessary and un-mathematical.
*****

“We had the same problem. Many students didn’t finish and left in tears. I’ve already received emails from parents with children who were very upset.”
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“It was certainly challenging! I agree multiple choice was more difficult than the other 3 Core exams. Extended response was mostly fair. Accelerated kids will be ok but I feel horrible for the 9th grade students!”
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“That exam was obnoxious and uncalled for.”
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“I was particularly upset about #12, the graph of the polynomial function. Is that even in the CC standards for Algebra 1?! I haven’t taught CC Algebra1 yet, but on know polynomial functions are part of the Algebra 2/Trig curriculum. Isn’t there enough to teach and test the students on without tossing things on there that aren’t even part of the curriculum?”
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“I fully agree. It is so ridiculous that an 80 is 80% but a 70 is 46%. How can you compare? I think they should dispense with the mapping to 100 and use the 1 to 5 scale that they alreadyhave there. It will be like the ap. 5 is amazing 4 is good 3 is passing etc. and then you won’t havethe parents clueless about the process. Some of the parents are going to be really angry at their children, unjustifiably so.”
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“I dont normally like to write on these feeds but this has become very insane. Exam began easy and most were ok with exception of a few. Extended responses questions were doable but a lot of work was needed for many. Very time consuming. Honors kids who normally do well unable to complete the exam due to all the necessary work and explanations. Strong kids in tears at the end not because they could not answer the questions. Very unfair chance to get a decent score. Many kids will not get the grade they deserve because they didn’t have the time to finish. Very upsetting as a teacher. Its disgusting that we will be evaluated by a test score that is inaccurate and not reflective of our students true abilities.”
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New York teacher Denis Ian adds;

“These tests are designed to produce failure. Large numbers of failures bolster the Common Core premise that American schools are failures. Your children are being offered up to prove a point.
A sick point.
Just an observation … something that I’ve seen on several sites.
The number of newly stunned folks is amazing. I actually think there were lots of folks beyond the elementary level who felt untouched … or perhaps only grazed by Common Core. This testing cycle is like ice water in the face for lots of folks.
I’d use this as a new wake-up call … a new alarm to call for a revival of both spirit and action. These are your schools. Schools you pay for and schools you support … and they are being ripped away and retuned into something few like and few bargained for.
You need to regain control of your schools and your children’s education … or these fuzzy theoreticians in some far away basements … in collusion with their entrepreneurial thieves … will mock you all and ruin lives by the hundreds of thousands.
How the hell did we get to such a place so quickly … and without our approval?”

Another teacher states;

“As a teacher I apologize to all parents. This isn’t the way to supposed to be. Kids shouldn’t leave exams crying. They should be proud of their accomplishment. None of this makes sense. They want us to improve kids math and English abilities but they make a test so kids will hate math and categorize themselves as dumb. Teachers in my building said it was impossible. Just awful. Not why I wanted to teach. I want to build kids up- not break them down.”

http://dianeravitch.net/2015/06/21/here-is-new-yorks-controversial-algebra-test/

What is to be done? Parents are told to expect their children to fail these exams. An entire year of test prep, and then anticipated failure, has killed this generations love of learning.

A curve is meaningless. These children were put through hell and are emotionally drained. The curve simply proves the material was age inappropriate but they’ve decided to cover their own behinds.

http://www.wgrz.com/story/news/2015/06/19/answering-little-more-than-one-out-of-three-questions-correctly-still-gets-a-passing-grade/29008025/

There were hundreds of Twitter comments by students, attesting to the fact of how stressed these children are over this test. Many said they could not finish the test. They answered questions in a rush and felt defeated. The common theme was that since common core began, their educational experience has crumbled. This happened as well with the ELA regents. Complaints were made in spades, but we were ignored. Again.

https://stopcommoncorenys.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/new-york-parents-demand-an-independant-investigation-of-common-core-tests/.

https://stopcommoncorenys.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/parents-demand-an-independent-investigation-of-the-nys-common-core-exams/.

https://stopcommoncorenys.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/teachers-report-on-todays-ela-exam/

https://stopcommoncorenys.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/teacher-horror-stories-pour-in/

Enough is enough.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/27/a-disturbing-look-at-common-core-tests-in-new-york/.

http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/09/who-set-the-ny-cut-scores-and-what-we-still-need-to-know/.

http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/new-yorks-first-experience-common-core-high-school-exams-shows-steep-mountain_1452/.

Anna Shah, @SOTHVNY, contributed to this piece.

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