Sometimes kids say things best.

Saige Price, a 7-year-old second-grader at Briarwood Elementary School in Florham Park, N.J., recently addressed the New Jersey Board of Education about her experience in school. She said in part:

“Children should have more recess because it allows us to play with our friends. Instead, we spend most of our time just reading, doing math problems, taking math tests and reading tests. Is that all that matters to grown-ups?”

Now another second-grader has made known his opinion of Common Core-aligned standardized tests via a school assignment.

The paper below was written by 7-year-old Rex Reinhart after Jennifer Deane, his reading teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville, Fla., gave him an extra-credit assignment to express his opinion of a new benchmark standardized test by Pearson that he and his classmates are required to take.

(The text says: “I hate the new reading test we have to take in second grade. I think it is unfair for the kids. I think it is unfair because the questions are confusing. I feel nervous when I take the test. It makes me sad when I don’t do well. I wish second graders didn’t have to take these tests.”)

Rex’s mother, Minde Reinhart, said in an e-mail that her son is very soft-spoken, so the use of the word “hate” in the first sentence “speaks volumes.” She wrote in an e-mail: “He is very smart and in the enrichment program, and these tests are so hard for him to grasp and understand.”

Asked why the tests would be confusing, Deane, his teacher, said in an e-mail:

“… (T)he wording has subtle nuances that are impossible for children this age to decipher.  This past week we gave a test of this format and one of the questions asked what the word ‘outgrew’ means in the sentence “He outgrew his pond quickly.”  The answer choices were:  got bigger than, got older in, got too big for, and got big faster than.  As an adult with education and experience, I cannot decipher the difference between ‘got bigger than’ and ‘got too big for’.  The second portion of the question asked which sentence helps you choose your answer.  The sentence “All ponds were just too little for him.”  Does that help you?  It didn’t help me either.  The answer is ‘got too big for.’ “

Deane said Rex Reinhart is a “very hardworking and conscientious student and has been stressed with the testing and it’s effect on his grade.” So she gave him the opportunity to write about the testing for extra credit.  After Rex turned in the assignment, she asked her principal if she could have all of her students write about their views of testing, and permission was granted.  She knew from many parents, she said,  “that test day is very upsetting for all of” the youngsters. When she shared Rex’s note with other teachers, she said, they all got “choked up.”

“We’ve known that is how they feel, but seeing it in black and white was heartbreaking,” she said.

Deane said that Language Arts class is 120 minutes long. Teachers are required to give two benchmark tests a year to amass student data for the county and to give students exposure to standardized testing. The exams are so long that teachers break it up into two or three days, she said. She wrote:

“It is extremely long and developmentally children of this age cannot sit and remain focused for this long a period of time. It is literally physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting for them.  Many days after we’ve had these types of tests the students return to their homeroom classes feeling upset and anxious.  It literally ruins their day.  Many parents have told me that their children cry on the nights and days beforehand in stressful anticipation.”

The tests come from a book by Scott Foresman Reading Street Unit and End of Year Benchmark Test for College and Career Readiness published through Pearson.

                            (Photo by Jennifer Deane)


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