July/August 2019 Issue
June 20, 2019

These Granville 5th graders have a lot to say about what's wrong with the state's computer-based tests

Author: Kara Smith
Source: NYSUT United
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granville students
Caption: Photos by Andrew Watson.

Madelaine worried that her test wouldn’t submit.

Paige got a headache after staring at the computer screen for hours.

Kiariana considered the test unfair because some “kids had to retake it” after the statewide system crashed.

Those were just a few of the stories students shared with NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango during a visit to Granville Elementary School in Washington County. DiBrango traveled to the school after receiving letters from Granville Teachers Association member Cara Pilch’s fifth-grade students about the problems they experienced while taking the state English language arts and math tests in the spring.

“It’s so important for you to have a voice in changing testing for children throughout New York State,” said DiBrango, who said she would hand-deliver students’ letters to the NYS Education Commissioner. “As students, you know how best to be tested — as adults we need to listen to you.”

When Pilch suggested her students write to state officials and NYSUT about their testing troubles, they ran with it. “I told them, ‘I’m a teacher, the commissioner has already heard from me,’” she said. “Maybe the voice of a 10-year-old will get through.”

For these students and others around the state, computerized testing was once again a headache. Since many students lacked keyboard experience, educators spent class periods teaching them how to use a mouse, the drawing tool for the math exam, and other techniques and keyboard shortcuts.

Other student concerns included being distracted by the sound of others typing; and worry that the computerized format didn’t allow them to do their best work. All agree the tests are too long.

“I was excited when Ms. Pilch said you were coming,” one student told DiBrango. “It was good to know that I didn’t write my letter for nothing.”

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