ELA Performance Assessment debuts, more to follow

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On October 11, freshmen, sophomores, and seniors took the New York City English Language Arts Performance Assessment, which the Department of Edu- cation established this year as part of a new method for evaluating teachers.

According to Principal Anthony Barbetta, a second assessment will be distributed in the spring  “to measure student progress from the fall semester to the spring semester” and to assess how well students learned throughout the year. According to Assistant Principal of Humanities Rafal Olechowski, the test in the spring semester will most likely be “similar but not identical” to the test taken in the fall semester.

While some found the test to be relatively fair and simple, other students and teachers were not pleased to have another standardized test added to an already full workload. The format of the tests were the same for all grades: a ninety-minute argumentative essay based on readings.

English Teacher Katherine Yan said that she was not pleased with the addition of yet another standardized test, but believes that “if you’re going to do it, it was a worthwhile test.”  Ms. Yan thinks that the rubric was fair and that students were tested on important aspects of English.

However, most students were not so pleased with having to take the exam.

Senior Anthony Chiarenza felt that the test was unnecessary because he already proved to be capable of reading to city standards. “I already took a Regents and an AP exam and I believe I did fine on both.”

Anthony also does not believe that the assessment accurately tested all points of English Language Arts, commenting that “the only thing this exam tested was our ability to put together an argument in writing form, and our ability to follow instructions well. My ability to analyze literature was not tested.”

Senior Joshua Merai agreed, saying, “If this test didn’t count as 30% of my Humanities grade, and if I didn’t try my absolute best, then I would say this test was a big waste of time and definitely a mistake on Chancellor Walcott’s part.”  He does not believe that one’s ability to “write one essay [should] determine how well we perform in our English classrooms.”

Even Mr. Olechowski, though overall satisfied with the exam itself, expressed some doubt. “It was not an exam testing on how much you learned, but more how much your teachers taught you.” Mr. Olechowski did not like this aspect of the test, but believed it to be a good idea to “set citywide standards early on.”

Not all of the student feedback on the exam was negative. Sophomore Eriselda Cuni believed that the test was “pretty easy” and “it actually helped in improving [her] essay writing skills.” Eriselda thought that it not only tested her ability to prove or disprove something but also her common sense.

Unlike the Regents exams, the ELA assessment will be graded by THHS teachers. Still, no teacher will grade their own students’ essays. For example, 9th grade teachers will be grading 10th and 12th grade papers. Overall Mr. Olechowski was satisfied with the grading rubric.

“The rubric is pretty challenging. I have no problem using it in class,’ he said. “I will also approach the department to use it.”

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