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Less time, more questions for Common Core Assessments

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Students taking the Common Core Assessments, which align education standards throughout the country, are getting a rude awakening.

Area educators say time management was a common issue for elementary and middle-school students who took the new, more rigorous Common Core English assessments last week.

The assessments, in third to eighth grades this year, will be used in part to grade teachers on their annual professional performance reviews.

“Some of the kids in the class talked about how long it was, or said, ‘I didn’t finish. Did you finish?’” Carthage Middle School fifth-grade English teacher Stacy R. Doldo said.

She said fifth-graders had 90 minutes on Wednesday to finish booklets two and three, which were composed of five passages with seven questions each, three short responses and an essay, with no break between them.

This year’s test is more rigorous and has more questions than prior assessments.

“Some of these kids are 10 and 11 years old and looking at the clock,” Mrs. Doldo said. “They’re anxious.”

She said many children did not have time to plan out their essays before writing them, which is the way they are taught to write in class.

For several weeks, Mrs. Doldo and fellow fifth-grade English teacher Jeffrey R. Ventiquattro prepared their students by outlining what might be on the test. They also had some timed activities to get students used to completing their work faster.

“We felt we needed to give them a heads-up so they wouldn’t feel totally overwhelmed,” Mr. Ventiquattro said. “I feel that the length really wore on the students.”

Mrs. Doldo said she worries that students will be too worn out to take the math assessments.

Pamela L. Knight, principal of Evans Mills Primary School in the Indian River Central School District, said her teachers debriefed her about the English language test Friday morning.

“The time allotment really didn’t match the rigor of the test,” Mrs. Knight said.

Third-graders had 70 minutes to finish book one and 70 minutes to complete books two and three.

Mrs. Knight said 15 of the 89 students tested did not finish the exam. She said that when she was in the cafeteria last week, she heard high-achieving students who typically test well say that they did not have time to double-check their answers.

Last year, third-graders had 90 minutes to finish less rigorous assessments.

“One of the responses last year was that it was too long to sit through,” Mrs. Knight said. “This year, they could have used it because of the content of the test.”

Mr. Ventiquattro said that as long as the state is consistent with its assessments, teachers will be able to shift their teaching to prepare students better.

“The unfortunate thing is that more and more teachers will unfortunately be teaching for the test,” he said. “Timing takes away from teaching creativity.”

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