WATERTOWN — The state Education Department on Aug. 6 released half of the exam questions used on the 2014 assessments for grades three through eight.
It was the first time test questions have been released by New York state, although other states have done so.
“If the parents, teachers and the students have the chance to see those questions, it will give them a chance to introduce learning techniques for this new system,” Indian River Assistant Superintendent Mary Anne Dobmeier said. “Releasing the questions now will give them the time to really prepare.”
According to a news release by the state Education Department, the questions represent a range of difficulty and illustrate how student performance is assessed in accordance with the learning expectations and instructional shifts established by the state Common Core learning standards. The questions can help inform classroom instruction and local assessment practices.
Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Stephen J. Todd said it is a good start.
“In a perfect world, we’d get all the questions for the tests,” Mr. Todd said.
He said it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility in the future for all questions to be released, but for that to happen, there would have to be a larger bank of questions from which to choose.
“Initially the department requested $8.5 million to create the bank of questions,” Mr. Todd said. “To release all the questions would require a larger financial investment to develop more questions.”
He compared the release of the questions to the Regents exams, for which all questions are released annually after all students have taken the tests. He said since the Regents examinations have been given for many years, there are more examples to choose from without giving away answers to questions that could appear on tests in the near future.
According to the release, the department requested additional funding in the annual budget to increase the number of test forms to enable it to release more test questions and eliminate stand-alone multiple choice field tests. The request was not funded in this year’s budget.
The department released an 88-page document with a variety of questions, readings, scoring rubrics and photos. For each released multiple-choice question, explanations are provided detailing how the question measures the intended learning standard and why the right answer is correct and why wrong answers are incorrect. For constructed response questions, several examples of student work are provided, with explanations of why the responses received the scores they did. Educators also can access the information collected by the Regional Information Centers to see the percentage of students who answered each test question correctly and the percentage who selected each incorrect response for released test questions.
Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch wrote in the release, “Educators can use this information together with student work from throughout the school year to help understand whether their instruction, assignments and classroom assessments reflect the rigor and depth of our learning standards and our statewide assessments.”
Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was quoted as saying, “We’ve listened to New York state educators make the case that having more test questions available would benefit our kids.”
Mr. Todd said the grades three through eight assessments are only one indicator used to measure a student’s ability. The tests are used in conjunction with teacher evaluations and in-class performance to evaluate student performance.
Carthage Superintendent Peter J. Turner said it’s a good thing the questions were released.
“I think it will have the greatest advantage for teachers who will have an idea of how to gear their instruction,” Mr. Turner said.
He said having an opportunity to share the questions with students’ family members might encourage them to decide against opting out of the mandatory tests.
In Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, more than 516 students in the 31 districts opted out of the math exams and more than 239 didn’t take the English language arts exam.
Mrs. Dobmeier said when parents informed the school district they wanted their children to abstain from taking the examinations, a meeting was requested with the parents.
“Hopefully as we go through the our opt-out protocol this year we’ll have more to add to those conversations,” she said.
More information for parents, educators and students about the Common Core examinations and course materials is available at EngageNY.org.
Performance level descriptions describe the knowledge and skills students should display at each performance level.
Questions can be viewed by going to the state website.
On the web
Common Core answers: http://wdt.me/testanswers
The state Education Department has released sample questions from its grades three through eight Common Core tests. Samples are below.
• Third-grade math: Jerome had 23 farm animal stickers and 17 sea animal stickers. Jerome used all of the stickers to fill an 8-page scrapbook. He put the same number of stickers on each page. How many stickers did he put on each page?
• Sixth-grade math: The set of numbers 1, 7, 11, and 36 contains values for m. What value of m makes the equation 4m + 8 = 36 true?
• Eighth-grade math: What is the solution to the equation 2(x-3) = 2x + 5?