Every time the media reports a story about brave and caring parents who are allowing their kids to refuse the state tests, the reporters go ask NYSED officials to comment (in the name of fairness). What the officials of our education department offer are soundbytes and talking points that are ridiculous, at best, and completely insulting, at worst. Without further ado, here are the six most insulting things that NYSED keeps repeating in the media.
#6 Parents don’t care about their kids’ progress
Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the State Education Department, said, “Parents who keep their children from these tests are essentially saying ‘I don’t want to know where my child stands, in objective terms, on the path to college and career readiness’ and we think that’s doing them a real disservice.”
What Dennis is effectively saying here is that teachers are worthless in regards to teaching and assessing your kids. He believes that parents are actually hurting their own kids by allowing teachers–who spend hours and days with their students watching and listening and evaluating–to assess kids. Here’s a history tidbit: teachers have been objectively and qualitatively measuring students’ progress for a very long time. And if there’s one thing we’ve already found out over the past decade, standardized tests do not objectively measure student progress. That’s not even what they’re designed for, according to John King.
#5 We should expect that our kids feel pain
Dennis Walcott, NYC Chancellor of Schools (not NYSED, but still), famously stated that he knows the tests will be incredibly difficult and that several students will not pass, which may hurt their little hearts and minds, but “It’s time to rip the Band-Aid off, and we have a responsibility to rip that Band-Aid off.”
Our first question is: What Band-Aid? Does this imply that our schools and our kids are bleeding and there is some temporary tourniquet keeping our education system from bleeding out? If so, then the analogy is sort of clever, in a not-so-innovative way. But the fact is, ripping the Band-Aid off with tests that we know our kids are going to fail is not a cure. This assumes that the state tests are like Neosporin, which can speed the healing. Wrong. You can’t heal a problem by causing more damage.
#4 Parents are a bad influence on their children
Ken Wagner, Associate Commissioner of NYSED, told the New York Times that he was worried that the concerns of parents were rubbing off on their children, causing kids to suffer anxiety about the state tests. He’s then quoted as saying, “My heart goes out to any kid that’s suffering stress or anxiety, but we have to think very strategically about the messages that students are getting from the adults they are around.”
Two major problems with this: (1) the parent concern was a direct result of kids’ anxieties and fears, not the other way around; and (2) who gets to make the “strategy” regarding what messages kids get to hear from their concerned parents? If there’s one thing that’s getting very tiring around here, it’s listening to state officials trying to tell parents how to parent. It’s especially tiring because the parental “advice” they’re offering has nothing to do with kids–it has only to do with not making their corporate buddies mad.
#3 Without the state tests, children will never be ready for college and/or career
We’re going to use Ken Wagner again, from the same article, because he’s such a pompous liar. However, this line has been repeated ad nauseum by many different officials. We hear it over and over again. The Common Core State Standards are the “answer” to our kids’ inabilities to succeed in college or the workforce (that one was from John King). The problem with this cheap and overused line is that there is no evidence, whatsoever, to back it up. The standards have never been tested, never been shown effective, and have actually been deemed inappropriate for the 21st century, if you use models from other countries as an example.
And the tests do not prepare kids. They do not evaluate kids. They aren’t designed to track student progress. (Again, that is also what John King said.) Now, Bill Gates does want to use them to track our kids, but not in the way that we would like.
We also hate that this statement makes a blanket assumption about all kids. In order for our students to get into college, they must learn everything in the standards and pass tests. You know who doesn’t care about state tests? Ask your closest university.
#2 Stressing your kids to the point of vomiting is healthy.
Merryl Tisch, who is also not technically part of NYSED, is the Chancellor of the Board of NY Regents. She was seen in a recent Wall Street Journal piece responding to reports from principals, teachers, students, and parents of kids breaking down crying during and after tests, vomiting during tests, and not wanting the leave the bathroom–all due to the anxieties and stress of the overwhelming English-Language Arts testing during the last three days. Her response was that she visited several schools and only saw one kid crying. The Wall Street Journal then goes on:
But she called it a “healthy problem.” It would be worse, she said, if tests were described as unfair or poorly done. Last year, for example, the state had to toss out questions related to a passage that was widely ridiculed for being confusing. “I would be so bold as to say they were better than most people expected them to be,” she said.
So, it’s healthy for our kids to suffer this way, according to the obviously out-of-touch and basically stone-hearted Tisch. And we’re going to go ahead and join the growing camp of people with test design experience who suggest that this year’s tests are not just poorly done and unfair (which we can only assume from the stories we’ve heard, since we can’t see the tests for at least another year). They are a flat-out disaster. They are, as Chris Cerrone has written, a #fail–with a hashtag!.
#1 Even though the tests don’t mean anything for students, they should do them anyway. Because they’re hard.
Coming in at number one is our friend, John King,
Dictator Commissioner of New York State Education Department. You can find many stories of Dr. King repeating the same things as his cohorts above. But what really gets our goat is his nerve when trying to tell New York parents how to educate their kids, and then doing the complete opposite.
He tells us, as parents, that we should encourage our kids to try things that are hard, while letting them know that the most important thing is that they tried their best.
Hey parents: is there anyone out there who doesn’t do this on a pretty consistent basis?
But here’s the thing, John. We don’t ever tell them, for months on end, that if they don’t do well on something, then their teachers will get a bad grade and that their schools will suffer. They may even have to give up some fun classes and activities because, if you can’t pass the tests like a normal kid, you’re going to have to take extra math and reading classes. These are kids, John. They aren’t your lackeys.
And that’s not even the worst part. We know, thanks the New York Times, that John King’s own children don’t take state tests. They don’t go to a school that’s drowning in the Common Core. That’s very, very confusing. If the Common Core is the “answer” to college and career readiness, and the state tests are the only objective way to determine if kids are going to make it, then are John King’s kids doomed ?