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NCLB Outrages

Tot testing plan given low grade

The legacy of NCLB: Test 'em young, test 'em often.

By Joy Wiltermuth

For kids just getting familiar with school, here's another skill they'll have to pick up soon - how to take a standardized test.

Parents, teachers and community leaders rallied at Public School 205 in Bayside this week to oppose to a pilot program launched this month aimed at testing kindergarten through second-grade students in some 100 city schools.

"Enough of this crazy testing," Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, urging Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to halt the growing emphasis on high-stakes exams.

"I think the [Bloomberg] administration has gone a little crazy," Gotbaum said to parents gathered at PS 205, among the highest- scoring schools in the city.

Cathy Cahn, 42, head of the school's PTA, said: "The weight of testing on the backs of our kids is oppressive."

"Children are not given the freedom to learn and teachers are not given the freedom to just teach," said Cahn, whose son, Ryan, is a third-grader.

Cahn called the reliance on numbers a "horrible mindset."

"It's just a numbers game," said Suzanne Windland, 47, whose son is a third-grader attending PS/IS 266 in Bellerose.

Don Freeman, 63, a retired public high school principal, called testing a "distraction."

Freeman, whose grandson attends PS 98 in Flushing, joined the advocacy group Time Out From Testing six years ago. He said kids need to get a well-rounded education.

"Exams of that nature are the last thing they need," Freeman said of standardized exams.

Karen Alford, vice president of the United Federation of Teachers, agreed.

"Subjecting the city's youngest learners to high-stakes tests is just plain wrong," she said.

But city officials noted the voluntary program was launched because principals wanted better ways to track student performance. "For starters, it is not new," said Education Department spokesman Andy Jacobs about the pilot testing program.

Students in those grades are already taking exams, Jacobs said. "To be clear, this does not mean bubble tests," Jacobs added.

The exact number of schools taking part in the program is unclear, he said.

Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside) called the trend toward more testing in city schools "a growing menace."

— Joy Wiltermuth
New York Daily News


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