Author Topic: PhD Mom Blasts Common Core in Letter to Obama: Here’s a Test Eva Has to Take but Malia & Sasha Don’t  (Read 291 times)

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http://www.ijreview.com/2014/04/132870-mom-writes-president-obama-letter/

PhD Mom Blasts Common Core in Letter to Obama: Here’s a Test Eva Has to Take but Malia & Sasha Don’t
    By Justen Charters 



When a mother who works as a literary consultant for urban schools allowed her seventh grade daughter to be a Common Core test case subject, she was unpleasantly surprised by what she discovered.

The mother was so concerned with the reactions from her daughter after she took the test, that she penned a letter to President Obama, outlining her grievances.

According to the letter, these were the feelings that pulsed through her daughter during the test:

“These are such weird questions.”
“This test is crazy.”
“This is a stupid, impossible test.”

The mother wondered if her daughter was just being melodramatic, so she decided to try to answer a few of the Common Core tests for herself.
Here was her reaction:

Quote
“I have a Ph.D. in English, I’ve been in college and high school classrooms for over 20 years, and for much of that time I’ve trained and coached high school English teachers. I was shocked that the ninth grade test included an excerpt from Bleak House, a Dickens novel that is usually taught in college. I got seven out of 36 multiple choice questions wrong on the eleventh grade test. And I had no idea what to do with this essay prompt on the third grade test.”


Read her letter in full. It’s a bit lengthy, but very straightforward:

Quote
Dear President Obama,

We have something very important in common: daughters in the seventh grade. Since your family walked onto the national stage in 2007, I’ve had a feeling that our younger daughters have a lot in common, too. Like my daughter Eva, Sasha appears to be a funny, smart, loving girl, who has no problem speaking her mind, showing her feelings, or tormenting her older sister.

There is, however, one important difference between them: Sasha attends private school, while Eva goes to public school. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support your decision to send Malia and Sasha to private school, where it is easier to keep them safe and sheltered. I would have done the same. But because she is in private school, Sasha does not have to take Washington’s standardized test, the D.C. CAS, which means you don’t get a parent’s-eye view of the annual high-stakes tests taken by most of America’s children.

I have been watching Eva take the Massachusetts MCAS since third grade. To tell you the truth, it hasn’t been a big deal. Eva is an excellent student and an avid reader. She goes to school in a suburban district with a strong curriculum and great teachers. She doesn’t worry about the tests, and she generally scores at the highest level.

So when I saw that practice tests had been released by the PARCC consortium (which is designing new Common Core tests for 16 states, including Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia), I though Eva would be a great test case for the test.

I should mention that my interest in PARCC is professional as well as parental. I am a literacy consultant in urban high schools, where many of my students struggle to pass the 10th grade MCAS, which is a graduation requirement in Massachusetts. I support the Common Core State Standards, which hold teachers and students across the country to high expectations for deep reading and writing. As Massachusetts moves to the new standards, I am already seeing tangible improvement in my students’ skills, as well as in the quality and rigor of Eva’s schoolwork. So I was anxious to see what these new tests would be like, and Eva was eager to try one out.

Here are a few of the things Eva said as she took the seventh grade ELA test: “These are such weird questions.” “This test is crazy.”

“This is a stupid, impossible test.” “This question just is a stupid awful question. It makes no sense.”

Wouldn’t you be concerned if you heard these reactions from Sasha?

I’m sure one thing you’d wonder is whether the questions really are “weird,” “stupid,” and “awful.” We both know that seventh graders can be a tad melodramatic and slightly prone to exaggeration.

So here’s one essay prompt:

You have learned about electricity by reading two articles, “Energy Story” and “Conducting Solutions,” and viewing a video clip titled “Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits.” In an essay, compare the purpose of the three sources. Then analyze how each source uses explanations, demonstrations, or descriptions of experiments to help accomplish its purpose. Be sure to discuss important differences and similarities between the information gained from the video and the information provided in the articles. Support your response with evidence from each source.

Eva’s comment on this question: “It’s impossible, and there’s like 15 parts.” Just as I feared, she exaggerated. There are only four parts. But take a close look at those parts. Can you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing here, President Obama? And could you have done it in seventh grade?

I know a lot of seventh graders. They know how to compare and contrast, and they know how to provide evidence, but I’m quite sure that unpacking this prompt, let alone accomplishing it, would feel pretty “impossible” to most of them.

Overall, Eva felt the test was “really complicated, hard, and unclear.” And her score bears out her impression: she got ten of 45 multiple choice questions wrong. Here’s what she had to say about that: “Something is wrong. I should not be getting in the C range in this test.”

Just to be clear, Eva was not complaining about doing badly on the test; she was concerned that if the test was so difficult for her, it would be even more difficult for many of her peers, and thus would not provide an accurate picture of what seventh graders really can (and should) do.

Like Sasha, I’m sure, Eva is empathetic. She spends a lot of time helping her classmates with their work, and she was worried about them: “Doing multiple choice and a few open responses one day and an essay the other day [as in the MCAS] is totally different from doing really hard multiple choice and then doing an essay. This is hard. For me it’s faster because I’m typing [the PARCC tests are on computer, while the MCAS is paper], but for some kids it’s going to take more than a day, because writing essays is hard, and typing is hard for some of them.”

You may wonder whether a seventh grader is the best person to assess a seventh grade test. I actually think seventh graders are great people to assess the tests: they’ve been taking them for years, and they generally know what’s what. But if you want a professional opinion, I can provide that too.

I have a Ph.D. in English, I’ve been in college and high school classrooms for over 20 years, and for much of that time I’ve trained and coached high school English teachers. I was shocked that the ninth grade test included an excerpt from Bleak House, a Dickens novel that is usually taught in college. I got seven out of 36 multiple choice questions wrong on the eleventh grade test. And I had no idea what to do with this essay prompt on the third grade test:

Old Mother West Wind and the Sandwitch both try to teach important lessons to characters in the stories. Write an essay that explains how Old Mother West Wind’s and the Sandwitch’s words and actions are important to the plots of the stories. Use what you learned about the characters to support your essay.

Would Sasha have been able to figure this out in third grade? And, more importantly, is there any reason a third grader should have to figure out an essay prompt this broad and abstract?

Just as you do, President Obama, I want America’s children to learn and succeed. I want every classroom in the United States to have great teaching and a rigorous, challenging, engaging curriculum. I believe the Common Core State Standards could help make this happen.

But the standards won’t succeed if the tests used to assess them are confusing, developmentally inappropriate, and so hard that even good students can’t do well on them. Setting high standards and effectively teaching them is a fine route to success; setting children up to fail because of ineffective tests is not.

Eva, Sasha, and all of America’s children deserve better.



If a woman with a PhD in English is reacting like this to “grade school” English tests, why did the states adopt them – without conversations and consultation with the parents ahead of time?

It appears there is a political agenda behind these tests, otherwise the Republican Governor’s Association, the corporate consortium backing these tests, and the Department of Education would have gone to the states, the parents and the educators for feedback before implementing the standards, instead of ramming them through in defiance of the will of the people.

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Offline Oceander

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I'm sorry, but if this woman has a PhD, it's in I'm a Moron.

Here's one of the questions she's whinging on about like a total piker:

Quote
You have learned about electricity by reading two articles, “Energy Story” and “Conducting Solutions,” and viewing a video clip titled “Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits.”  In an essay, compare the purpose of the three sources.  Then analyze how each source uses explanations, demonstrations, or descriptions of experiments to help accomplish its purpose.  Be sure to discuss important differences and similarities between the information gained from the video and the information provided in the articles.  Support your response with evidence from each source.

And here's her little bitch-whine about it:
Quote
Eva’s comment on this question:  “It’s impossible, and there’s like 15 parts.”  Just as I feared, she exaggerated.  There are only four parts.  But take a close look at those parts.  Can you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing here, President Obama?  And could you have done it in seventh grade?

Evidently her child is just as much of a moron, because there is no way that anyone other than a moron would say "there’s like 15 parts."

Can I figure out what I'm supposed to be doing here?  Yup.  Yep.  Sure can.  Apparently I'm brighter than a PhD in English even though I don't even have a PhD at all.

What am I supposed to do?  I'm supposed to take two texts and a video clip that I've already read or watched and I'm supposed to summarize them with emphasis on using details from the sources rather than simply paraphrasing everything.

What's the purpose of each source?  A PhD in English cannot figure that out?  Almost everything written is written with a purpose - i.e., why the person who wrote it actually wrote it.  In this case, clearly the purpose of each source is explaining some aspect of electricity to its readers.  The first source, "Energy Story," is most likely a broad view of what energy is, in particular that electricity is a form of energy.  Oooh, that was hard, and I haven't even read the thing myself.

The second source, "Conducting Solutions," is most likely a discussion of how electricity is conducted - how it travels through things and from one thing to another, and probably includes a description of how electricity can travel across copper wires, just like the ones in the walls of your home.  Oooh, that was hard, and I haven't even read the thing myself.

The third source, a video clip called "Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits" sounds rather interesting, but it's purpose is almost certainly an explanation/discussion of a few types of electrical circuits - you know, like the circuit you make when you take a battery, two lengths of copper wire, and a light bulb, connect one piece of wire to the positive terminal on the battery and the bottom of the light bulb, and connect the second piece of wire to the negative terminal on the battery and the side of the light bulb.  Guess what happens - the light bulb lights up!  My further guess - see how good I am even though I haven't seen the clip - is that this was a hands-on thing - there were probably kids in the video playing with various kinds of circuits, maybe some made out of things like potatoes (which you can do, a potato can be used as a very weak battery).  Oooh, that was hard, and I haven't even seen the thing myself.

Next, we have to pull some details from each source to show/explain how that source uses explanations, demonstrations, or descriptions of experiments to accomplish its purpose.  Here's my guess: the first source probably relies mostly on explanations to describe some basic facts about energy and electricity, such as the fact that electricity is made up of subatomic particles called electrons which carry a negative charge and so flow from the negative terminal to the positive terminal.  It might even have described a simple experiment you could do to see this.

The second source probably relied more on descriptions of experiments that could be done to see and understand some facts about how electricity moves - is conducted - through and across various items.  Maybe it described an experiment you could do to show that electricity will flow through metal, but it won't flow through glass.

The third source probably relied on demonstrations to show the various things it was trying to teach its viewers about electricity.  Maybe it had a couple of kids in it who put together a circuit consisting of a battery, some wire, and a light bulb, and we all get to see how the bulb lights up and glows when the circuit is completed.


Are you seriously telling me that a PhD in English couldn't even accomplish that level of analysis of a fairly simple question written in plain English and in pretty correct sentences as well?  Really?  Really really?


If this is what counts as critical analysis of common core, then the primary conclusion to be drawn here is that a lot of parents are bitching and moaning because they're too stupid to understand fairly simple English.


Come on people, stop getting lost in the weeds and start focusing on the things in Common Core that are worth criticising, such as the way some states and school districts are simply dumping the entire thing on kids midstream without allowing either them or their teachers to get familiar with the materials gradually.


Apparently it is possible for morons to get PhDs.

Offline mountaineer

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Apparently it is possible for morons to get PhDs.
Sure it is. You must not spend much time near a college campus.   ^-^
The skeptic is never for real. There he stands, cocktail in hand, left arm draped languorously on one end of the mantelpiece, telling you that he can't be sure of anything, not even of his own existence. I'll give you my secret method of demolishing universal skepticism in four words. Whisper to him: "Your fly is open." If he thinks knowledge is so all-fired impossible, why does he always look? — James Sire (from, The Universe Next Door)

Offline Oceander

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Sure it is. You must not spend much time near a college campus.   ^-^

Hee-hee!  Point well taken!


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