Thursday, March 29, 2018

NY: Test Prep Vacation

It's that time of year. No, not Easter, and no, not spring break. It's time for the Big Standardized Test.

Schools find many ways to celebrate this special time of year, from testing pep rallies to cute videos to threats and bribes. But nothing is as important as test prep-- constant, relentless, test prep. The challenge, of course, is that testing season is sometimes interrupted by actual holidays, during which students are allowed to escape the long arm of test prep instruction.

What's a school district to do? Well, if the school district is Buffalo Public Schools, the answer is, "Give test prep homework." Here's the letter that the Chief Academic Officer at the Office of Instruction sent home with third through eighth graders:

Yup. That's a thing that happened (h/t Chris Cerrone).

The usual soft-soaping of the BS Test is pretty standard operating procedure-- "opportunity to demonstrate their scholarship" my Aunt Fanny. Let's just flip that around for a second- if we were sitting in a room trying to come up with a great way for students to demonstrate their scholarship, would we agree that taking a standardized multiple choice test would be the best way to do that? Of course not, but propagandists for the BS Testing program aren't really trying any more. But this is SOP, just like the invocation of magical expectations.

What's special here is the next part:

Please support your child at home to complete the sample writing tasks in this packet. You will also find samples to show how each question could possibly be answered.

Or, to summarize, here are some sample answers your child can practice imitating for homework over vacation. Because test prep never sleeps. (Also, why does the first sentence read like a bad translation from Russian?)

We also encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and return the completed booklet to school following the vacation.

It's not enough that students must sacrifice some of their education at school in order to drill and prep so that they can better serve the school by getting scores that will help the school look good. Now this time-wasting educational malpractice is going to follow the children home, like an ugly flea-bitten mutt. Are some schools offering bribery to get students to spend time with this mangy cur over break? Any school that is should be ashamed of itself.

So Happy Easter and a Joyous Spring Break, and a reminder that this is also the season (especially in New York) for opting out of BS Testing. It's your right as a parent, and it's one of the few possible ways that state governments will finally stop wasting school, teacher, parent and student time on testing and test prepping.


  1. I don't know whether this is germane, but: about 15 years ago I participated in a couple of Saturday "test prep" sessions. I had bought the company line about "bubble students" and was paid for my extra efforts. Since then my thinking has evolved. I celebrate my awakening, and I recognize that it is possible for others to evolve in their thinking as well. But I also despair in the amount of time it will take, and that not everyone will make that cognitive leap. And I can't really be sanctimonious about it, because I was just as clueless not that long ago. My point? Not sure, but I appreciate the persistent efforts of everyone who continues to beat the drum against this pernicious futility. It is frustrating to have to keep repeating oneself, but I believe it is ultimately helpful.

  2. The New York State CC math and ELA tests about to be administered in grades 3 to 8 are still under a statewide moratorium. NYS students do not take PARCC or SBAC exams, instead they are now developed by Questar Assessment (formerly written by Pearson). The moratorium prevents the use of scores on our APPR evaluations. Instead the vast majority of school districts are using shared scores from high school Regents exams in algebra (9), biology (9), ELA (11), global history (9, 10), and US history (11) to evaluate ALL teachers. So yes, for the majority of NYS teachers, 50% of their APPR score is based on subjects and students they do not teach. We are so far down the rabbit hole that calling the 3 to 8 tests meaningless is an insult to all that is moot or irrelevant.

    On a positive note, NYS has reduced the number of testing days for math and ELA, from 6 to 4; however tests are now administered with no time limits. There has also been a gradual switch to computers for math testing. All of these changes make any kind of yearly comparisons a bigger stretch than ever. Bottom line: the thrill is gone.

  3. The testing days may have been shortened, but they are just as gruelling. 6 short responses and an essay on day 2 is a ridiculous way to assess children.