Posts Tagged ‘school testing’

Students Bored to Tears

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Not all cases of child abuse involve physical violence inflicted by an angry adult on a kid who somehow violated the rules of the house. Sometimes, in fact, the abuse is more subtle and physically painless, and is meted out by the people and in the place where you least expect it. That would be administrators making life temporarily miserable for pupils in school.

If you’ve got a child in school and if you happen to be one of the growing numbers of moms and dads who are opting their kids out of the New York State grade 3-8 English language arts exams and state math testing, you have to read this story. And possibly, you might have to take action.

Here in Test-Happy New York, parents have the authority to exempt their children from the endless rounds of testing – testing that, in the minds of some officials, apparently passes for education. Thus, a question: How does a school district care for the needs of students who are not taking the tests during the periods when testing is being administered?

In its May-June issue, NYSUT United, the bimonthly publication of New York State United Teachers union, reports that the policy in 72 districts holds that kids not taking the test remain in the same room with those who are. The policy is called “sit and stare” because that’s all that the opted-out kids are allowed to do.

Read a book? No. Write an essay or compose a poem? No. Invent a game with a pencil and a piece of paper? No. Walk over to the window and follow the antics of a squirrel? No.  This is the kind of torture that some school administrators are inflicting on children.

In fact, the kids not being tested are not allowed to do anything other than the words dictate: sit and stare – and possibly be bored out of their minds. Which seems like a doubly moronic policy since it would appear to annoy and distract test takers knowing that the lucky kids – the decliners – are seated just a couple of rows away.

What the “sit and stare” policy means for a third-grade test decliner seated in a room where testing is being conducted is that she must gaze at the wall for the 70 minutes a day (for three days) allowed for the English Language Arts test. You really have to wonder when was the last time any official of the State Education Department sat still and quiet for that long.   

NYSUT also reported that the policy in 93 other districts allows the students not taking the test to read quietly, a slight improvement. But still, those being tested and those who are not are lumped together in the same room.

Another 157 school districts do the only sensible thing by finding space in for non-test takers in rooms where testing is not being conducted so that they can participate in alternative educational activities.

It goes without saying that if you’re not allowing your daughter or son to be tested it is essential that you contact the school and find out what your kid will be doing during testing. If he or she is going to be ordered to gaze at a blank wall, you might want to make your voice heard at the next meeting of the school board. Clearly, an administrator who makes a kid sit motionless and speechless doesn’t know a thing about children and ought to be doing something else for a living.

Incidentally, if you decide that your kid will not be tested, you may be happy to know you’re in growing company. NYSUT United reports that 34,000 children have been exempted from testing by their parents. For a wealth of information about testing and opting out, check the New York State Allies for Public Education website.

Testing! Testing! Do you read me?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

There’s a 100-year old document making the rounds on the Internet that some people undoubtedly will use to show that kids in 1913 got a better education than children in school now. Others will dismiss the test as a means to memorize and regurgitate facts.

In any case, it’s a 60-question test that was administered to eighth graders in Bullitt County, Ky., about 25 miles south of Louisville.

I’d like to tell you that I picked up my pencil, sneered at this easy exam of a time long ago when there was a century’s worth of fewer facts to know about. I’d like to tell you that I went on to score a perfect 100 percent. I’d like to tell you all that.

But I’d be lying.

Oh, I was able to spell “chandelier” and “scissors” and most of the other 38 words on the spelling section of the test – I was always good in spelling. I got “pennyweight” right though I hadn’t the foggiest notion of its meaning. I erred on “rhinoceros.” Don’t ask me why.

In math, I was successful in determining that if a man bought a farm for $2,400 and sold it for $2,700 he gained 12½ percent on his money.

I’d like to say that I breezed right through this question: “How many steps 2 ft, 4 inches each will a man take in walking 21.4 miles?” But the truth is I didn’t even attempt it. For one thing, the calculator I would use hadn’t been invented in 1913. Of course the real reason is that doing the arithmetic long hand would bring a monumental headache beyond the healing power of my bottle of ibuprofen. Or is it Ibuprophen?

How would you do on this exam?

In the grammar section, the testers asked questions I never encountered until high school, such as “What are the properties of verbs?” I had no idea—not in high school, not now. (Those properties are, courtesy of the answer sheet, person, number, tense, voice and mood. You say you knew that one? I don’t believe you.)

The kids were asked to diagram the sentence “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver” and I marveled at the innocence of the question’s wording and how quickly the testing company would be called on the carpet nowadays for mentioning you-know-who by name.

In geography, students were asked to name the six states that border the Ohio River and give their capitals. They also had to locate the following mountain ranges: Blue Ridge, Himalaya, Andes, Alps, and Wasatch.


How are you doing?

The test had a section on physiology. “Describe the heart,” it asked and I imagine the answer to that terse question could have gone on for days. The students were also asked, “Why should we study physiology?” My question precisely.

Among the questions in the section on civil government were the following: “To what four governments are students in school subjected?” Watch out, that’s a Kentuckycentric question but you can probably figure it out. But if it is too Kentuckyish, try this: Name three powers given Congress by the Constitution. The House has the power to impeach federal officers; the Senate conducts impeachment trials; Congress has the power to declare war – though the framers might be shocked at the number of undeclared U.S. conflicts in the years after World War II.

The students had to name the last battles of the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the French and Indian War, and then name the commanders in each battle.

 Oh, and “Describe the Battle of Quebec.”

And, who invented the magneto? How about the phonograph?

Who led the first European expedition into what is now Florida?

 To see the entire test, go to:

For the answers, try:

Let me know how you do.