The Insanity of Standardized Testing: A Tale of Two Cities: El Paso and New York!

Dear Commons Community,

The are two stories making the headlines one in El Paso and the other in New York City involving the insanity that has evolved over standardized testing in our public schools.

In El Paso, a cheating scandal has erupted over the school district’s policies of keeping low-performing students from taking the tests in order to boost overall student performance indicators.  As reported by the New York Times,

“… in the cheating scandal that has shaken the 64,000-student school district in this border city, administrators manipulated more than numbers. They are accused of keeping low-performing students out of classrooms altogether by improperly holding some back, accelerating others and preventing many from showing up for the tests or enrolling in school at all.”

In New York City, later this month, children at 169 New York City elementary and middle schools will, for the second time in a calendar year, take a 40-minute “field test” in math and English language arts to determine which questions will go on future state standardized exams.

Lori Chajet’s daughter will not be among them, though the tests are scheduled to be given at her school, Public School 321, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Nor will many students at Public School 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, or children at schools across District 6 in northern Manhattan.

Ms. Chajet’s objection is not to testing itself, but to the way tests are being used to evaluate schools and teachers.

“I want my school to use tests to help instruction, to help find out if kids don’t know fractions,” she said. “I don’t want my child to feel like her score will decide if her teacher has a job or not.”

Ms. Chajet is one of a small but growing number of parent activists in New York City opposed to the system’s emphasis on high-stakes testing. Many of them took part in a boycott of the field tests in June, when parents at 47 public elementary and middle schools of the 1,029 tested had their children sit them out. In their eyes, it was a win-win situation: Children who skipped the field tests did not risk punitive action or potential harm to their school’s grade on the city’s progress reports, while their parents could make a statement against the tests.”

The stories of school officials manipulating test scores and parents protesting them are becoming commonplace.  Are there any education policy makers willing to take on the politicians and ideologues who keep pushing for more and more high-stakes testing.



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