Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, April 2, 2012

NYCDOE To Add Hundreds Of New Tests To Schools - All Censored

New York City Parents blog points out that the NYCDOE is once again farming out contracts for "local assessments" that will be needed to grade New York City teachers as part of the new statewide teacher evaluation deal.

The city tests will be given from preK to 12th grade in addition to the state exams.

The state is expected to add 9 ELA and math exams per student per year, along with 2 exams each in social studies, math, art, music, foreign language, and physical education, for a total of 21 state tests a year per student.

The city looks to be adding a whole battery of ELA and math tests as well:

The DOE released a new set of RFP’s to testing companies to develop yet another set of “local assessments” to be given starting next year. [Apparently the 408 assessments bid out in July did not result in any contracts.] The bids are due April 23. The announcement says that 24 contracts could result, for God knows how many millions of dollars.

It is unclear how many local assessments will result from all these new contracts, but probably hundreds over three years. There are 23 testing “components” in all; with each component involving a "grade span" and a content area, and 40 items in each test, probably to be taken on computers, which will involve yet more millions to buy.

The DOE is pitching this new set of RFP’s to provide new sets of “diagnostic” and “interim” assessments, but the only required part of the RFP is “end of course” exams, which is very difficult to argue is “diagnostic” since there will be varying amounts of summer learning loss for different students. “Diagnostic” for what? Next year’s exams?

In all, the RFP’s arouse suspicion that the DOE’s intention is to use them as more high-stakes tests, most probably as the “locally developed” portion of the new statewide teacher evaluation system, though the UFT has not agreed to this. They can certainly be used for high-stakes decision-making as regards school closures and progress reports. And there is little doubt that they will take hours more away from instruction, real learning, and important subjects like art, music etc.

You can see that over the next few years, it is possible students will take 35+ high stakes tests a year. Teachers' jobs and reputations will be based on these scores, with the newspapers set to print the "bad teachers" who cannot "add value" to their students' scores and the state ready to fire any teacher who comes up "ineffective" two years in a row.

If all this high stakes testing were not bad enough news, Diane Ravitch points out that the city plans to censor the content of the tests so that nothing controversial shows up on them:

After the news broke last week that the New York City Department of Education had effectively banned a long list of topics that might appear on its citywide standardized tests, our city’s school system became a national laughing stock. Department spokesman Matthew Mittenthal lamely defended the long list of taboos by saying that any mention of them “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.”

For a school system that never worries about the “unpleasant emotions” caused by its harmful focus on relentless testing, it’s an outrageous and ironic response.

It is also, as I’ll soon explain, a misleading explanation of why such word bans so commonly happen in our schools.

First, let’s understand exactly what’s going on here. The city is planning to create a lot of new tests in science, social studies and other subjects, and based on the request for proposals it sent to prospective test development companies, it’s clear that the tests will be dumbed down by clumsy censorship.

How can a good science test forbid reference to evolution, dinosaurs, geological history, vermin, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, disease and bodily functions? Beats me.

How can a good social studies test avoid asking about war, terrorism, nuclear weapons, politics, poverty, religion, disasters, crime or loss of employment? Beats me.

Anyone who does not work at the DOE’s Tweed headquarters can quickly see that such tests will be stripped of much of their meaningful educational content.


Why is evolution taboo? Because fundamentalists don’t want to see it mentioned. Fundamentalists also oppose any reference to dinosaurs — because that implies evolution.

And our city will ban any mention of Halloween, parapsychology, the occult and witchcraft because fundamentalists long ago objected to anything that hints of paganism, deities or Satanism. In fact, any reference to religion is taboo because whatever is referred to will be sure to annoy someone.

Expensive gifts, vacations and prizes can’t be mentioned because some children might feel bad reading about others who have more than they do.

Birthday parties can’t be mentioned because some children don’t have birthday parties, and some religious groups object to birthdays. Nor should students ever encounter a reference to a home computer or a home swimming pool because many are likely to feel bad to see that other people have such items but they don’t.

Then there are topics excluded — like death, disease, terrorism, divorce, homelessness, violence, war, slavery and loss of employment — because sensitivity reviewers fear that students will be upset just to see such concepts mentioned on a test.

It’s bad enough that the purposeful exclusion of ideas and social realities that students encounter in their daily lives and see on television will make the exams bland and boring. Worse is the possible effect on what’s taught every day in classrooms across the city. Will social studies classes avoid discussions of war, terrorism and poverty? Will English classes omit books like “The Great Gatsby” (too many luxuries), or books by Elie Wiesel (disasters and religion in the same book), or the Harry Potter series (witchcraft), or the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (too many references to slavery, poverty and politics)?

So tests that have been scrubbed of any meaningful content that might be controversial to somebody will not be part of the batteries of new standardized tests the city plans to add to the curriculum so they can "hold teachers accountable" and fire the "bad" ones.

How can education reformers claim high stakes standardized tests censored and scrubbed of meaningful content should be used to make high stakes decisions for students, teachers and schools?

How can social studies tests devoid of references to war, poverty, or slavery be used to assess what students know about social studies?

How can they be used to evaluate social studies teachers?

Dunno, but we are soon going to find out.

And if some students are held back, some teachers are fired and slandered in the NY Post and Daily News as "Bad Teachers" over these tests, oh well.

We can't talk about that kind of thing in Michael Bloomberg's New York because it is controversial and might upset somebody.

Instead we just compliantly follow Bloomberg's policy and assume since he is one of the wealthiest men in the country, he must know what is best for us all.

Oh, wait - I can't mention "wealth," can I?


  1. Read todays story in the Post regarding the report that slams the 911 system and how the Bloomberg administration is appealing a court decision to release the report. The story on the yet to be released report claims that response time to 911 emergencies has increased and that the system has many problems at an astronomical cost. Commisioner Kelly is at the heart of the problem according to sources.

  2. Thanks for the heads up - do you have a link on that?