Millions of kids all over the country are taking high stakes tests this week:
At Public School 10 on the edge of Park Slope, Brooklyn, parents begged the principal to postpone the lower school science fair, insisting it was going to add too much pressure while they were preparing their children for the coming state tests.
On Staten Island, a community meeting devolved into a series of student stress stories, with one parent recounting how his son had woken up from a bad dream, mumbling that he had forgotten to fill in a bubble answer.
And at Public School 24 in the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx, a fifth-grade teacher, Walter Rendon, has found himself soothing tense 10- and 11-year-olds as they pore over test prep exercises. “Sometimes, I say: ‘Just breathe.’ ”
this year’s tests, which begin Tuesday, are unlike any exams the students have seen. They have been redesigned and are tougher.
But the standards are so new that many New York schools have yet to fully adopt new curriculums — including reading material, lesson plans and exercises — to match. “It really makes me nervous,” said Patrick Timoney, a seventh grader at Intermediate School 2, on Staten Island. “It’s a big deal and if you don’t get a good grade, it’s not the best.”
Larry Larson, a Web developer with a fourth grader at Public School 58 in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, said he had started teaching his son concepts like long division. He said the new tests felt like someone “changing the rules of the road overnight.”
I’m sure when the scores come back we’ll be treated to a media barrage of stories about our failed and failing public schools, which will certainly make privatization proceed more smoothly. The kids are anxious because they’re not absolute morons, despite being failures who attend our failed and failing public schools. They’re surrounded by anxious adults and they know they didn’t cover the material. Would Arne Duncan sit for a high stakes test he hadn’t prepared for? Of course not. That’s not “education.” It’s a very common bad dream, is what it is.
Meanwhile, here’s how the adults are holding themselves accountable:
The chairman of the D.C. Council’s education committee said Sunday that he has no plans to launch a full-scale investigation into allegations of widespread cheating on standardized tests in 2008, during the tenure of former Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Council member David Catania (I-At Large) said that he intends to find out why the scope of a prior cheating investigation was limited to one school, but much of his focus will be on improving the integrity of future tests, which are used to evaluate schools and teachers.
Catania’s statement came three days after the public airing of a 2009 memo indicating that as many as 191 teachers in 70 D.C. public schools may have committed testing infractions in 2008.
Catania said that in light of the 2009 memo, he is “bewildered by the narrow scope” of a investigation by the D.C. Inspector General, which lasted 17 months and focused only on one school. But he said a full-scale reinvestigation of the five-year-old allegations “would be impractical and would yield little in terms of accountability.”
“Among other things,” he said, “simply identifying and interviewing the hundreds of witnesses would overwhelm the Council’s limited staff and resources.”
It makes more sense to focus on tightening test security and strengthening efforts to identify cheating in the future, the council member said.
The hearing will also include discussion of a report released Friday by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which found that teachers in 11 schools cheated on 2012 standardized tests.
I have no idea how they’re going to “tighten security” when they’ve made a decision to ignore what happened when security was lax, but creating security standards without finding out how and why there was a breach makes about as much sense as testing kids on material they didn’t cover, so I’m not surprised. I suppose we’re getting ready to create a companion industry to the testing industry, one that focuses on test security. We’ll need lots and lots of consultants. I can save DC a lot of money and time on this hearing, because everyone in this country is familiar with how these go. The 2008 cheating was due to a few bad apples (ideally lazy, venal union members or their failed and failing students) and none of the people responsible are now or were then in positions of power. Wrap it up, release the findings and hire the security consultants.
The school reform industry spokespeople and the politicians they own yammer constantly about “accountability” and “no excuses.” The standards they impose seem to apply only to students and teachers, however, because let’s face it. It would be extremely embarrassing to the billionaires and the clueless media celebrities and the politicians from both parties who promoted Michelle Rhee and blindly climbed onto this bandwagon if they investigated what actually happened under Rhee’s watch, so they’ve simply decided not to. No excuses for fourth graders. Plenty of excuses available for the adults at the very top. That’s today’s lesson in accountability from the no excuses crowd.