Business Schools

The Six Weirdest Questions on New York's Common Core Test


The New York State Education Department just published half of the questions, along with correct and incorrect answers, from this year’s standardized tests for students in third through eighth grade. The tests are among the first to follow the much debated Common Core curriculum standards. Bloomberg Businessweek took a deep dive into the intricacies of the exam and found some oddities:

First of all, that’s not how you spell “snooze.” Is it a joke? Potentially. This comes from a passage in the multiple-choice section of the English Language Arts test for fourth graders, which assesses their “reading standards” by seeing whether they can answer a question correctly in the midst of “text-based distractors.” This particular riff gets to the heart of questions such as “What exactly is sleep?” (answer: “a period of rest”) and “How does ‘an albatross’ find time to sleep?” (“experts aren’t sure”).

This is a sample answer to a question for fourth graders about a story featuring Carla and her brother, Manuelo, who do some discovering together one afternoon. The test manual says this answer garners a “score point 0 (out of 2 points),” which may be because it’s just a sentence from the story, but with some words misspelled. No word on whether “snoozzzzzze” would have been appropriate here.

Here’s another no-go, per the Common Core answer book, this one from the fourth-grade English exam. It’s a response to a passage about feeding animals at the zoo, which includes details like “Animals just like to sniff things” and “Wait till you watch a bear roll around in perfume, aftershave … and elephant dung. Whatever makes them happy!”

Grammar aside, this student seems like the kind of kid who should pass.

Clocks. They’re still teaching clocks. Third graders who encounter this on the mathematics portion of the exam might recognize the image from the icon on their iPhones.

Here’s a picture of what some people think are the impressions left by a Bigfoot-type creature in Washington State. Eighth-grade test-takers would know this, having been asked to read a passage about the hunt for Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch, and then answer questions about it. Scientists apparently lured this Sasquatch (whose traces may be pictured above) to a mud puddle using melons “as bait” and then, instead of interacting with said Sasquatch, made a plaster cast of its various buttocks. B+ work, scientists.

George is not the person answering the question. George is a fictional shy kid who helped Amanda with a science project using bread that was hidden in her room for six weeks, and is now moldy, and turkey that’s been festering for an unknown amount of time. Real kids in the third grade were asked to describe George’s contributions to the group. Seems like a balanced response, all things considered.

Kitroeff is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York, covering business education.

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