Monday, January 27, 2014


Read the two passages and show a controlling idea about insights.

That's what today's Regents exam asked my kids to do. The thing is, most of them have only been in the country a few years. And there are likely plenty of American-born kids who don't know what an insight is. Certainly insight is lacking on the part of the test designers, unless their goal is to fail as many New York students as possible. That's certainly what my buddy Reality-Based Educator thinks.

But I watched a bunch of kids struggle. One claimed the word was not in his dictionary. ESL students get to use bilingual dictionaries for these tests, and they also hear the listening passage an additional time and get 50% more time. But you don't have to be a tarot card reader to know that anyone who doesn't know what an insight is will have a tough time writing about it. Here's what the dictionary says it is:

in·sight  (ĭn′sīt′)
1. The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation; penetration.
2. The act or outcome of grasping the inward or hidden nature of things or of perceiving in an intuitive manner.
Personally, that makes it even more confusing for me. It's when you have an "aha!" moment and figure something out, or have the regular ability to do so. But I wasn't seeing that happen.

So here's what I'm seeing--in an effort to push more Common Core nonsense and make us think our kids will be stupid without it, they're throwing in notions kids won't easily grasp and making them write about them whether or not the kids even know English. You don't understand that? Then screw you, you fail.

Hardly the attitude I'd want from someone teaching my kid. 

So even if you prepare these kids, and explain all the literary terms that rarely if ever make it into the NY Times Book Review, you need to hope they don't toss in some random concept that makes it impossible for a lot of kids to answer. 

The more I see this test the less I like it. Not knowing what an insight is does not mean you don't know English. It means there's one specific concept to which you have not been exposed. I could explain this concept to a kid in minutes, but I'm not allowed to. That would be cheating.

Yet then the kid would understand the concept. Better we let the kids fail, take the test again, study the same essay prep for another five months, and make them hate it even more, says Reformy John King, Merryl Tisch, and their zany madcap gang of privately paid interns, accountable to no one.
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