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A failing exam

New York Teacher

I am a licensed 8th-grade English language arts teacher and reading specialist. In April, I proctored the 8th-grade ELA exam and encountered several problems.

First, the length of the exam on the second day was excessive. The students were expected to write answers to seven short-response questions in addition to the extended response/essay. Many students wrote from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. or longer; many had to delay lunch. Requiring students to complete an exam with empty stomachs is a poor scenario.

Second, the exam selections were deficient. Most English teachers ask students to avoid starting sentences with “and,” “so,” “but,” and “because,” which often lead to awkward phrasing and grammar issues. Many sentences from the excerpt, “Made To Not Last,” began with these words and used contractions, something academic writing also does not condone.

Worse yet, the title “Gadgets: Made To Not Last” is a “split infinitive,” an example of poor grammar (Yes, the “T” in the word “To” was capitalized). Sentences in the excerpt ended with dangling prepositions, and the use of colloquialisms did not especially endear itself to ELA teachers who teach ELLs.

Is there any qualified oversight for this exam? Why are we punishing ELL students by forcing them to take the ELA exam after living in the United States for only one year?

The State Education Department must support ELA teachers by wisely choosing materials that do not undermine what we teach. It is time to stop traumatizing our most needy ELL students by requiring them to perform on the ELA exam prematurely.

Elissa Berkowitz, IS 62, Brooklyn

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