Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The New English Regents Examination: The Grade 8 ELA Exam Is Harder than This

For those of you who might not know, yours truly made the leap from teaching middle school for a number of years to teaching high school this year. I taught high school back in my greenhorn days, so I do know what the Regents examination used to look like. Flawed though it was, it was certainly a test that, for better or worse, demanded that a kid have at least a tenuous grasp on how to write an essay and the stamina to write three or four of them in a couple of hours. That alone is probably worth something.

Well, now that I'm back in high school, I am getting up to speed on the new Regents, and let me tell you, my friends, I am unimpressed. The state seems to think that the test is more or less the same, and I have to admit that I'm not up to speed on what anyone's thought process was on making this test so simple. The test is down to one essay and two constructed-response (paragraph) questions, and the multiple-choice section. As I noted in the title of this post, the eighth grade ELA exam is more lengthy and complex than that.

No English teacher with whom I've spoken thinks that this new test is in any way an improvement towards making the tests more rigorous and demanding to encourage kids to reach higher standards. It's hard not to see the current test as pretty dumbed-down.

Why was the Regents revised (in my view) downward? Do you know why these changes were made? Have you seen the new test format and, if so, do you also find it to be more simplistic and less challenging? Your thoughts are, as always, welcome in the comments.
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