Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School, has been an outspoken critic of both the Common Core standards (which she once supported, even wrote a book about them) and the testing associated with them. She is a leader of the Opt Out movement on Long Island in New York.

In this article for Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog, Burris reveals some of the most problematic questions on the Common Core ELA tests, administered last week. So many of the questions and the reading passages are now circulating on the Internet that it is hard to believe that Pearson thinks its tests are secure. They are not.

The article includes links to all the items mentioned.

Burris writes:

Disgusted teachers and parents are defying the “gag order” and talking about the tests, anonymously, on blogs. The sixth-grade test has consistently come under fire, especially during Day 3 when an article entitled, “Nimbus Clouds: Mysterious, Ephemeral, and Now Indoors” from the Smithsonian Magazine appeared on one version of the test.

Here is a passage from the article:

“As a result, the location of the cloud is an important aspect, as it is the setting for his creation and part of the artwork. In his favorite piece, Nimbus D’Aspremont, the architecture of the D’Aspremont-Lynden Castle in Rekem, Belgium, plays a significant role in the feel of the picture. “The contrast between the original castle and its former use as a military hospital and mental institution is still visible,” he writes. “You could say the spaces function as a plinth for the work.””

You can read the entire article here.

The genius at Pearson who put that article on the sixth-grade test should take his nimbi and his plinth and go contemplate his belly button in whatever corner of that Belgian castle he chooses. The members of the State Education Department who approved the article’s inclusion should go with him.

Other complaints include:

* requiring fourth graders to write about the architectural design of roller coasters and why cables are used instead of chains

* a sixth-grade passage from “That Spot” by Jack London, which included words and phrases such as “beaten curs,” “absconders of justice,” surmise, “savve our cabin,” and “let’s maroon him”

* a passage on the third-grade test from “Drag Racer” which has a grade level of 5.9 and an interest level of 9-12th grade.

The eighth-grade test required 13-year-olds to read articles on playground safety. Vocabulary included: bowdlerized, habituation techniques, counterintuitive, orthodoxy, circuitous, risk averse culture, and litigious. One of the articles, which was from The New York Times, can be found here. Here is an excerpt:

Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.

I am sure that 13-year old ESL students were delighted by that close read.

[Guess the subjects deemed too ‘sensitive’ for new Common Core tests]

And who will be scoring this new generation of tests? If you have a bachelor’s degree, you can ‘soar to new heights’ working either the day or night shift with Pearson making $13 an hour. Or, if you would like to spend some quality time in Menands, New York, the temp agency, Kelly Services, will hire you for $11.50 an hour to score. No degree? No problem. The company’s last ad on Craig’s list for test scorers didn’t require one.
With these exams, the testing industry is enriching itself at the expense of taxpayers, all supported by politicians who self-righteously claim that being subjected to these Common Core tests is a “civil right.” Nonsense. It is clear that none of this will stop unless the American public puts an end to this. I have only two words left to say—opt out.