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Reading, Writing, 8-year-old Angst


Ohanian Comment We are destroying childhood, and will produce a generation of very angry adults. Parents should consider homeschooling.

Third-grader Cora Wally is literally sick with worry that she'll fail the high-stakes standardized tests and be left back. "She's been having trouble sleeping," her dad, Manuel Wally, said the other day.

"She's very nervous and obviously stressed out all the time."

Cora, who attends PS 212 in Manhattan, spends three hours a week in an after-school prep course and an extra hour a night at home cramming for the math and English exams that will determine whether she makes it to the next grade.

As a result, she has little, if any, free time for fun and games, said her dad.

"Whenever she's supposed to have downtime and enjoy and play, she's thinking about the tests and the scores she needs to pass," he said.

"She's had to curtail a lot of her hobbies for her studying."

Across the city, third-graders are taking extra classes and working with tutors out of fear they'll be held back under Mayor Bloomberg's controversial new plan to end social promotion.

In fact, they're spending as much as 10 hours a week in after-school test-prep programs.

Brooklyn third-grader Sabrina Bodon, 8, is also a nervous wreck.

"The tests are going to be hard and difficult," said Sabrina, who's been taking a Saturday test-prep course at her school, PS 261, in Boerum Hill.

"I'm nervous I'm not going to pass. My friends are all nervous. I don't want to take the tests," she said.

Jane Hirschmann, founder and co-chair of the Parents Coalition to End High-Stakes Testing, said the academic pressures have really taken a toll on the students, both physically and emotionally.

"Kids who have asthma are having more attacks, and kids are coming home with headaches," she said.

"We're hearing of kids with anxiety and sleep disturbances. It's very sad. They don't like school anymore."

A Bronx third-grade teacher who declined to give her name said, "I've seen and heard stories of kids getting ill and working themselves up about the tests."

Social promotion is the practice of allowing a student to move from grade to grade regardless of academic performance.

Department of Education officials have estimated that as many as 15,000 pupils - 20 percent of all third-graders - could be held back.

The high-stakes exams are scheduled for April 20 and 27.

Research on the merits of social promotion is conflicting.

Some studies show that students who are left back are more likely to drop out. Critics also argue that many pupils possess the required skills but just aren't good test-takers.

They also say the intense focus on test preparation comes at the expense of other important school subjects.

"Leaving kids behind will only give them a feeling of failure and really hurt their self-esteem," said a Manhattan ESL teacher.

While many parents and educators are slamming the plan, others are giving it a passing grade.

"I think it's good because if the students haven't mastered the skills, they shouldn't be promoted," said a Queens third-grade teacher.

But others like PS 20 Principal Leonard Golubchik have mixed feelings about Bloomberg's plan, which holds back children who score poorly.

"If they haven't mastered the skills needed, they should be kept back for a year," he said.

"But that determination shouldn't be based on one test, but on entire classroom performance."

Students who fail the tests can get another crack at passing the exams during the summer, and there's also an appeals process that considers classroom performance.

— Adam Miller
New York Post

2004-03-28

http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/17708.htm


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