Too Many Tests? Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know

December 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

Every once in a while, some higher up—in this case, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum—says what everyone with kids already knows: that there is too great an emphasis on testing in NYC’s public schools. It starts in 3rd grade, when students take something like 12 tests, 9 of which are city-mandated. After that, kids are tested again in 4th and 8th grades. Fewer tests in those years, but still more than anyone would willingly subject their children.

From amNewYork’s coverage on this:

Gotbaum said she wasn’t against standardized testing, but “we don’t need to go overboard” and she urged the city Department of Education to scale back.

Andrew Jacob, a spokesman for the Education Department, said Gotbaum was misunderstanding the city tests, which he described as “no-stakes evaluations in reading and math that pinpoint students’ gains and weaknesses throughout the year.”

Forgive me, Andrew Jacob, but have you actually shown up at a PS or IS in NYC lately? What you term “no-stakes” is enough to give pre-ulcers to more than a few students and to cause even more parents to freak out about where their kids fall on the continuum once the results are in. It reinforces what so many parents feel about their kids from the moment they are born and get an Apgar score–that they are either unbelievably gifted and talented or hopelessly average, both perspectives usually bearing no connection to the long-term reality.

And from what I hear (full disclosure: we opted out of the public school system for exactly this reason, but 95% of my friends are dealing with this), some of the questions on the test are incomprehensible to both parents and teachers. I am not even a bit surprised; I’ve edited grade-school textbooks and have seen this phenomenon all too many times.

Get this: P.S. 196 is offering for free (whereas other schools charge [$10/class @ 101] or don’t offer it at all [144]) four 3-hour class English Language Assessment preparation courses on Saturday mornings. Parents are required to attend with their children. What happens in these Kaplanesque classes? The kids take practice tests and get it drummed into their heads that they need to read the question before they tackle the reading passage. Good to know that our tax dollars, plus a few more, are being spent on kids’ learning how to take the test while their parents are dreaming of java to stay awake.


Entry filed under: education, Forest Hills, timely topic.

Bhutto Assassination Touches Queens Scoring at Viva Bimbi

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