Friday, April 27, 2012


This month New York State public school children in grades 3-8 completed high stakes standardized testing in English Language Arts and Math. In preparation for the exams, students are inundated with practice books containing information that is similar to that which will appear on their exams. While teachers are sympathetic to the amount of stress these tests induce, they also know how much weight is put on these single assessments to determine a student's academic fate within the structure of the school and the State of New York as well as the fate of his teacher and his school. And because they know this, teachers emphasize that it is important for students to do their best. These assessments put undue stress and pressure upon our students- the youngest are ages 8-9. They cannot wrap their heads around what it all means. They worry that if they don't soar above benchmark it indicates failure.

 Focus. Read carefully. Go slowly. Focus. Listen Carefully.Focus. Fill in the corresponding bubble on the bubble sheet with the correct answer. Focus, stop thinking about lunch. Make sure you use details from the passage to support your answer. Focus- you'll never make it to high school, little third grader, if you don't make benchmark. Focus. Make sure you explain thoroughly how you arrived at your answers. Focus! Don't make any mistakes! Benchmark is not enough! 

Someone should have told Pearson Education, the company hired by the New York State Department of Education, to Focus! when designing the material for our students' exams. The NY State Department of Education has a $32 million contract with Pearson to produce the New York State tests. So, I find it insane that this company made slipshod errors on the fourth and eighth grade reading and math exams and so far is being left off the hook for it.  One of the passages in the fourth grade reading test- involving a talking yam- had been used in test prep packages in NYC schools- giving those students an unfair advantage. There was also a ridiculous passage involving a talking pineapple (The Hare and the Pineapple) which was revoked from the eighth grade reading exam for its  perplexing questions and a nonsensical moral which read: Pineapples don't have sleeves. The fourth grade math exam had one question with two possible correct answers; while on the 8th grade math exam, one question did not have any right answers.

People make mistakes. Some people just get paid $32 million to do so. Moral: Kiwis don't have leotards.


  1. We should hand over the important matter of education to the most intelligent and creative minds in our 'civilized' society - our kindergarten students.

    1. Ha! Yes we should. I think your solution calls for some illustrating. Maybe a joint project with a nice little social commentary in our future? 'The Day Education was Reformed by Kindergarten Students'