Test Prep Endures in New York Schools, Despite Calls to Ease It

New York City’s schools chancellor said in December that she would limit state exams’ role in measuring student progress, but test prep, and the anxiety it causes, is as robust as ever.

Comments: 120

  1. 20 whole minutes a day learning math? The horror!

  2. 20 whole minutes a day prepping for the test, in addition to the several hours (usually) of homework that the kids have to do each night. Since kindergarten, my children in the NYC school system has had to do test prep in addition to regular homework. The homework takes the entire evening, from the moment they get out of school until about 9-11:00 at night. Every night. Even weekends. Every single night. Even during "breaks" from school they have homework. Plus They have test prep. Plus, May is known as testing month. There are the state tests for English (three days) and the state tests for math (three days) there are the AP tests, there are the tests just to measure how well the teachers are helping the kids compared with the baseline tests taken in the fall (because for some reason teh state tests cant measure this?) there are the tests for kids speakign english as a second language and on and on. The month of May is devoted primarily to testing. Who corrects the tests? The teachers. Between the tests? It's test prep full time. So my kids who prep also for the Regents tests in June, are currently taking entire Regents tests above what is assigned at the school Each test is 3 hours long. yeah, no more testing please. When is there regular instruction?

  3. You should do some reading practice. The 10-30 minutes is in addition to all the other things they have to do.

  4. Zartan, you've no idea how all of this is working. To say that the teachers spend a month on test prep is to minimize the problem. They're spending most of the year teaching to the test because their administrators demand they do so -- since the administrators' jobs are threatened. You need to read more into the little girl's words. It's not studying math that her teacher had in mind when she told her to practice every day during her vacation. It's moving fast, going faster, learning how to nail a test, not learn math. Decades ago, I did the same thing with the prep for Intermediate Algebra and Trig. Regents exam in 11th grade. I didn't know what a logarithm was then and I don't know what it is today. I just figured out the test -- and scored a 98. What did I learn? Math? No. I learned how to nail the test. It's all trickery.

  5. Of course charter schools do not have to comply with the "2 %" rule. The aim of state governments, especially one eith under republican rule or republican lite rule as in NY, is to break the teachers' union and make teaching a revolving door career. With Pearson forbidding teachers, administrators and parents from seeing the test questions (perhaps to recycle them, thus saving their costs), tests could be made to purposely downgrade public school teachers and students so the need to keep testing and replace "developing and ineffective" teachers in perpetuity.

    As a soon to be retiring public school teacher of 32 years, I am glad I got out of this sick system in the nick of time.

  6. The wealthy continue to have schools with rich curriculum, small classes and creative classes. Only the working class and poor are subject to the rote learning and low level standardization reflected in the testing regime. At one time, there was less inequality in the public schools. Now, the system is ruthlessly stratified.

  7. absolutely true. Check out Diane Ravitch's "Reign of Error"

  8. Where did you get the idea that the wealthy are exempt from rote learning and standardized testing?.There are no exemptions for wealthy students from Regents Exams, PSATS,SATS, and all the other standardized tests ,at least not in New York State.

  9. The tests are already wildly inappropriate for elementary. Do they really believe 3rd, 4th, & 5th graders can focus on extremely complex material for 70 to 90 minutes. By all means, let's limit test prep. The goal is clearly for students to do poorly so that teachers can be fired and public education can become a for profit industry.

  10. I was taught classroom assessment to a rigorous standard in my Masters in Teaching program. A good assessment is aligned with classroom instruction, and in a well-designed unit, all classroom activity prepares students for the assessment. Additionally, an assessment can, and usually should, be more than just a multiple-choice test, but such quality assessment are difficult to scale because they are time-consuming to score.

    The very fact that legislators are putting limits on "test prep" time belies the purpose of these tests, which is supposed to be measuring the progress of students towards mastering skills society deems essential to success. If standard classroom practices don't prepare students for these tests, and preparing for the tests is a waste of time, then that points to only one conclusion: the tests are garbage and tell us nothing meaningful about our schools.

  11. I can only describe the way we assess our lower education system as delusional. We judge the performance of teachers and schools based on tests. We are all aware that test prep increases test score results, but we now forbid schools to prep kids. Kids with rich parents will continue to prep privately. Rich kids win, disadvantaged kids and their teachers loose.

  12. No, rich parents (at least in NYC) will continue to send their kids to private schools where state tests are not administered.

  13. Life is full of stress.... and BTW preparing 20-30 mins every day for a test is a big, fat nothing. Piano practice if you want to be adequate can be at least an hour a day.
    Everyone needs to grow up here. If the kids do really well on their tests, maybe they should be allowed to take MOOCs and learn something practical like accounting.
    I personally think the fact that no second language is normally acquired until HS is a huge flaw in the American education system. (By HS you should be on your 3rd or 4th language IMO.)
    Whining is taking up time that could be spent learning.. And furthermore, prob way too many people are going to college w/o purpose. You learn a specific area of study depending on your career goal or you study what interests you if your career goal is more ambiguous or you don't need to work in the future.
    Just remember, Abe Lincoln did fine w/o formal education but he read like mad... Maybe modern lawyers should also learn via an apprenticeship? and MOOCs. Lab requires facilities.. no doubt about that ... and if a professor really knows something, maybe you won't to research the entire situation from A to Z yourself. (The PhD degree is about finding the holes in the current research and trying to patch them or figure out a new way to do something.)
    There is more access to info now than at any other time historically.
    BTW what are the 7th graders doing that should be given priority?

  14. This is the legacy of Bush-Obama-Duncan-Bloomberg-Klein. They were absolutely successful at making test scores the most valued tool for evaluation of students, teachers, administrators, schools, and now, thanks to Obama-Duncan, colleges that prepare teachers. In addition, the tests determine bonuses, middle and high school admissions, and guess what else: money! Federal funding to the states depends on states agreeing to a required level of testing and tying teacher evaluation to testing.

    So give me a break, the legislators, who were all so eager to get that money and didn’t once consider the consequences, now ask teachers to turn down test-prep and just chill?! (Not to mention the ridiculousness of legislating something like that—aren’t they embarrassed?)

    We can also thank the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, Broad, and a few others who are quite content to see the mindlessness that has infected public school curricula. And, of course, Pearson, the global testing company that now creates not only the tests but the test prep materials, too. What a racket—with plenty others joining up (the College Board, etc.)

  15. I am sorry but 20 minutes a day during a whole week of school holiday is NOT 'withering test prep'! If these kids lived in India, it would be test prep from 5-7 am, school, then test prep from end of school to 9pm for the entire year. THAT is withering test prep. I don't support teaching to the test but this article is conflating test prep with just the honest effort required to learn basic math. The way to deal with stress involved in learning new things is not to avoid it but to work your way through it. You know what they say about brain being a muscle. The way you build muscle is by stressing it. Kids should be taught, along with English and Math, how to handle stress right through middle and high school.

  16. You believe our students should be stressed? How high do you want the suicide rate to go?? School should be about education and yes, life skills. Stresses in our students personal lives--apart from school--are already hindering not only their education, but their future. I don't know about India, but we have abused students, drugs, crime, one-parent households, unemployment, and the list goes on. Schools have been cutting guidance counselors to make room for the stresses you seem to approve. Our students are more than a test score. It should be a place where one wants to be educated and want to become a lifelong learner and schools should instill a love of reading, and that doesn't have to be a stressful situation. It's bad enough one principal cancelled a kindergarten play in order to make time for test (stress) prep. Childhood should never be cancelled!!!

  17. Perhaps children “should be taught,along with English and Math, to handle
    stress right through middle and high school” but they are NOT being taught to handle stress. I’m in my 50s,and I still remember the inordinate stress I was place under as student, including in grades 1-6. No one taught us any kind of stress
    reduction. You contend that “you build muscle by stressing it.” Have you never heard of “Muscle strain”,torn muscles, and the like?

  18. Yes, it would be wonderful to live in a world without tests, but tests are the only way we know right now to check if a person is capable of performing a task competently. If you remove testing in middle school, there are still SATs to get into college, GRE to get into grad school and qualifying exams to get into Ph.D programs, not to mention all the tests in between and job interviews. These life defining tests are very stressful and I speak from experience of having gone through almost all of them. You need to prepare for them by taking exams that, if you do badly, will not have serious consequences for your future. So you start by taking exams a few years earlier to get used to the idea. Vilifying tests altogether will not bring better outcomes for students' knowledge. What is needed is better, in depth, testing like the earlier Regents and AP exams mentioned in the article. I am teaching, in college, the level of Algebra I learnt in middle school and my students panic when a question looks slightly different from what they have seen before. How are they going to handle real world problems which are messy and not out of their prescribed texts?

  19. If the schools are pitted against each other - "market competition" - of course this will continue. Yes, have standards for students and teaching, but change the incentives away from "getting tough" to getting smart. This attitude has been a disaster for schools as much as it has been for the criminal justice system. Makes a great bumper sticker but at the end of the day, it is the details and reality that counts.

  20. My son is taking the 4th grade math tests these days, and all year he's been busy with fractions, areas and perimeters, complex multiplication and division, etc. His teacher pushed her class very hard and I'm glad she did. My son can calculate the tip for a restaurant bill in a few seconds and up to the nearest cent, but he also has a deep understanding of all the material that he's been learning for the past two years. I couldn't be more happy with his math skills.
    The ELA is another story, but if it encourages 7th graders to read a newspaper instead of wasting more time on social media, that's not that bad (let's even hope that they read the NYT). My college students NEVER read a newspaper!

  21. Your college students NEVER read a Newspaper?I read at least 4 newspapers a day when I was in college.Then again,I read The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal,Newsday,and the New York Post,National Geographic, and whatever else my parents either subscribed to or brought into the house when I was in grade school.My first letter to the Editor was published in the Post when I was in 5th
    grade,but I was unimpressed.I remember thinking”It’s only the Post.It’s not the Times”!

  22. In 3rd grade at PS6, reputed to be one of the best elementary schools in NY, my son spent a month learning to cross out the two clearly wrong answers on a multiple choice question, to improve the odds of guessing. That was before they spent any time actually learning to master the material. Basically, they were learning to play Who Wants to Be a Millionaire instead of actually learning any content. The most shocking thing to me were the other UES parents who were thrilled and told me this was an important skill that would serve the kids well in preparing for the SATs. Repeat - they were in 3rd grade! It will take some time to get the change through the system.

  23. NYC has something called school choice. Because of this system, 4th graders who will be applying to middle school next year and 7th graders who will be applying to high school next year know that the middle and high schools will look at and consider their state test scores in deciding whether to choose to admit them. In other words, the schools make sure that the tests carry high stakes for the kids because the schools choose their students based on their state test scores. If the City and State are really interested in teaching instead of wasting time preparing kids fill in bubbles on spreadsheets, they'd limit the access that the people making admissions decisions have to students' state test scores.

  24. To add to my previous post:

    Even back in the early 70s, one could take classes and buy prep books to prepare for the SAT, so doing that on one's own is nothing new.

    There also may be an element of the American whine here. Students in many other countries have a more difficult curriculum than in the U.S. in general - in many, they jump from secondary school to the 2nd year of U.S. university.

    Finally, and this is probably endemic around the world, young people are much less able to focus because of constant distractions 24/7 such as IMs, texting, social networking etc., with their heads constantly buried in their smartphones or texting in their pockets in class. Even younger adult colleagues interrupt work related conversations to check and even answer their cell phones. But even if the cell phones are turned off (but are they?), how can they concentrate during class, while studying, while taking tests when they are anxious about missing FB and texts?

  25. SAT's are for 16 year olds. You are talking about a 9 hour badly written test for 8-year olds.

  26. Every parent in NY state has to read the post below. When the cut scores for passing the NY state tests (3s and 4s) equals a grade of A on the SATs or NAEPs, something is wrong. This explains how 30 percent of students "passed" in NY state and 70 percent "failed." NY Times, please look into this. http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/09/who-set-the-ny-cut-scores-and-what-we...

  27. Earlier this month, 100% of my colleagues and I published an op-ed opposing the increased nationwide overemphasis on standardized testing, which we feel is crippling curriculum and instruction. Then, as now, we felt and wrote that "test prep as curriculum" is a dangerous endgame, and also a game with zero sum. What is intended to increase academic rigor instead sanitizes, decontextualizes, and saps the joy out of an authentic curriculum that excites students and makes them want to engage more with the world around them. I am a public school teacher in Queens, and our students are some of the most curious and thoughtful people I know. I fear that replacing their growing vocabulary with words like "packets," "workbooks," and "test stamina," will over time make them less curious, and less thoughtful.

    I am proud to be part of a teaching staff that has resisted test prep wherever possible - you can read our story here: http://hechingerreport.org/content/testing-taking-schools-teachers-one-s.... But I am also sad that we can't resist more. At the end of the day, we operate in a system where we are required to administer these tests, despite our feelings, and despite the responses of our students and parents. We need courage from ALL stakeholders - families, teachers, kids, concerned citizens - to stand up and do more than "call to ease test prep." We need a movement.

  28. Your well-intentioned movement will help nothing but decreasing American students' competitiveness. This is a global world where American kids must be able to compete academically with Chinese, South Korean, Indian... who devote much more time studying for test. standardized tests measure students in a relative fair way, and sometimes a decisive factor for receiving scholarships. Besides are the tests really so hard to deal with? for many kids who are academically driven, test is a piece of cake.

  29. I could not agree more. I entered grade school in 1960s,and graduated
    from college in 1984. In the early grades, I was reading an average of five books a
    a week for pleasure.School beat the intellectual curiosity of me,and I was a straight A student. I graduated number one in my college class, but I rarely read a book now,similar to a runner who has put expended too much effort in the the beginning of a race,and hits a wall. In this case, it was not my choice.I was far more intellectually curious as a child. School robbed me of this .I am completely burned out now.
    I applaud you and your colleagues for your efforts,which I hope are successful.
    The inordinate pressure eroded my health,as well as my intellectual curiosity,and can’t be the only one who fell victim to the pressure.

  30. Keep up the good work. I never thought I'd see that day that I'd have to watch Stuyvesant HS kids lose a day of instruction to take a meaningless "MOSL" so that deadheads in the State bureaucracy could rate ME...what a travesty!

  31. Get used to taking tests, really hard tests, especially if you want to do something important with your life. Assessments that require a lot of preparation often stand between you and your goals, and this is a good thing.

  32. That's all well and good if the tests are appropriate to your goals and abilities. But is you want to be a lawyer and are tested on applied physics then you are going to be set up to fail. That is what is happening. Elementary school students are being tested far beyond their developmental ability

  33. Not fair to people who are lazy and/or not smart. Aren't we striving for an equal society with guaranteed equal outcomes for all?

    (hint: sarcasm.)

  34. If you do not have a child in the NY school system, you have no idea how horrible the tests are and what kind of bad teaching is required to make students pass the tests. These are very different than the kinds of tests you take in high school or college.

  35. The governor is just putting paint on a dirty wall. The truth is test prep has to continue because of the way NYS deliberately stacks the cut scores against our students and teachers compared to other states. Cuomo and King are out to privatize as many public schools as possible by making sure our students do not score as high as other states. It's time the media did an investigative report on this aspect as well.

    Read this report in the Washington Post...

  36. absolutely true.. Check out "Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch.. Things are much worse than we realize

  37. I am a bit split on this. I have taken many standardized tests -- the SAT, the GRE (twice), and the LSAT. I disagree that standardized tests are not diagnostic. If the test is constructed properly, scores are able to accurately predict success in the school or field. That said, I don't really like the idea of 12 year olds having to "build stamina" and study like college students. Age plays a huge role in this debate. I think the first standardized test should be in 10th or 11th grade to make sure students are ready to complete college-level coursework, then the SAT.

  38. As my teenage son says, exams and grades are oppressive and a symbol of competent-ism, and should be banished.

    Not too far fetched they way we are headed.

  39. "competent-ism?" What does that even mean? How can you just adopt your teenage kid's opinions, especially when he's making up words?

  40. Told you and your school would be rated, bonuses given, and students graded based on how they do on Common Core tests you should:

    a) teach as you've always taught and put the consequences out of mind

    b) refuse to offer extra help after school to students sick with anxiety about the test because "that would be cheating".

    c) prep students in any way possible to increase the probability students will score higher

  41. I see no problem with test prep itself, but the timing of it. The pro of test prep is even if you know the material, the test may ask questions differently than the way the student learned and the format may be unfamiliar. Test prep should supplement days, months, or even years of classroom learning. In my lifetime, I use test prep as a way to focus my energy on topics I didn't learn well and improve my test taking skills. In grade or high school, I believe test prep should be practiced periodically (e.g. before a classroom test) or 1-2 weeks before the test, but not throughout the year.

  42. Common Core has to be gotten rid off. It's an old fashioned, overly complicated approach to education, that has pushed art and creative learning out of the classrooms. It's completely test focused, and schools are spending an exorbitant amount of time in test prep because of it. The School's Chancellor has to live up to her promises. So far, nothing gas changed. It will only change when NYC and NYS follow Indiana in getting rid of Common Core. It's having kids hate schools and learning. I'm a parent and I talk to other parents, and we should use our vote come November to get rid of Common Core.

  43. Common Core seems to be a recognition that compared to the rest of the world, American academic standards are both too varied and not high enough. This 'it has to feel good and be creative' attitude is driving us to mediocrity.

  44. I very much disagree. We need to raise our standards beyond just letting the current system slide further into dysfunction. Our entire nation needs to be raising our kids in schools with common universal standards. Common Core is a good idea, and tests need to be part of every student's experience. I'll cast my vote to balance out yours.

  45. What amazes me most is that when comparing how US students far in comparison to western European students, such as in Finland, people do not take into account that one out ten children in the US are now dealing with hunger, high school students in our inner cities have to work in fast food restaurants until late into the night to help support their families. All those terrible factors are conveniently pushed aside. In Finland parents get paid by their government to stay home and raise their kids and there's no poverty.

  46. As someone who proctors the exam on occasion, though it's basically, peanuts for us, the Test preparation is a major money making cow, so of course, it's not going to stop!

  47. When my child was in 4th and 5th grade, they spent so much time on test prep that they didn't have social studies for 3 months. Instead, they took practice tests each day. These practice tests had reading passages that could certainly be part of a social studies curriculum, but nothing connected one passage to the next. Reading four paragraphs about the civil war and then four paragraphs about pioneers doesn't allow a child to really learn or think about either subject. We're out of elementary school now, but I certainly hope that her school (which is very highly rated) figured out that they can teach social studies and reading comprehension at the same time.

  48. New York's ceiling on test prep (2% of what would otherwise be instructional time) is actually a floor, state-sanctioned hours directed at inflating scores with no enforcement, so schools and districts are free, even encouraged, to expand beyond that supposed limit by State policies that punish teachers for low scores. Between time lost to the tests themselves and to test prep, we are sending the wrong message about the purpose of education and substantially decreasing rather than promoting time on task.

  49. I've never seen such epic whining. Life is full of tough tests and anxious days.

  50. Maybe I'm missing the point here...students having to practice math skills, read the newspaper, or (gasp!) have homework over spring break. I don't really see the problem. Reading the news is a great way to practice critical reading skills, the math was described as word problems, so presumably involving at least minimal critical thinking skills and not just route drilling of basic arithmatic.

    It sounds like the new tests are difficult enough that most students need to put in a lot of work to master the material. This is working as intended as far as I'm concerned.

    One point that was not nearly explored enough: that the "test prep" was not translating to real long-term learning. What exactly is meant by this and how is it measured? Is it an issue of worthless test prep? Or is it time to consider doing away with the extended summer recess during which student forget far too much of what they learned the previous year (myself included, back in the day)

  51. As long as the finish line of education is in the pasture, we'll be running the kids through the horse manure to get there.

    The problem trickles down from so-called highly selective colleges, which are regarded, without any rationale basis, as the brass ring in life. Thus begins the dreary, cascading nonsense. High school kids cram for the tests that will earn entry into this meaningless club. Middle school kids cram for tests that will get them into the high school they think will get them into the club. Elementary school kids cram for tests to get into the middle school that gets them into the high school that gets them into the club.

    Parents now prep their toddlers in order to get into the nursery school that leads to the kindergarten that . . . . and so it goes.

    Perhaps when we begin to value things that matter - creativity, passion, humor, integrity, imagination originality - things will begin to change. Until then, sharpen your pencils and renew your ADHD or anxiety medications.

  52. I have community college freshman who walk in unable to write a complete sentence. They walk in with fewer skills than fourth graders should have. While there are certainly problems with test prep and the design of the tests themselves, all graduating high school students should be able to write a good sentence and have the stamina to easily read a newspaper article.

  53. OMG, my son, who attends one of the schools in the article, had to do 90 minutes of math worksheets (on important material not test taking skills) over his 11 day break. And peers of Annie Smith need to "build stamina for the English test."


    Perhaps the tests need improvement, but the education system needs performance evaluations for teachers, just like it needs them for kids. Common goals for the common good.

  54. 1. Common Core is the Obama admin's doing. They ridiculed No Child, which was flawed, but came up with this. 2. Pearson's gag order clause prevents us from seeing what's in the tests. Parents are purposely kept from knowing what's going on. 3. Cuomo and the legislature forced CC down everyone's throat and only now stop to enquire what it is and what they have done. 4. Check out why math professors say the CC is a disaster. They have no stake in it but they say it's fatally flawed. 5. Many of the CC language arts goals are laudable, but the feds' implementation is terribly botched. Get a good grade school teacher in private and ask.

  55. Why can't we go back to teaching students how to think critically rather than what to think. Believe me as an educator I can vouch for the positive outcomes when academic freedom is allowed and students are motivated and engaged.

  56. I come from a family of poor test takers, most of us suffer from terrible anxiety. I know it started for me in the third grade, each of us had to turn our test into the teacher's basket, and I was always last. It even affected me socially, I always begrudged those who turned theirs in first.

    While I was a successful student (relatively) I had a terribly rude awakening in college, but over time, their methods of testing actually alleviated my anxiety.
    Each class tested weekly--this prevented procrastination. In addition they offered tutoring--if I didn't understand the material, an avenue existed for enlightenment. It sure beat arguing with my dad over math problems.
    Lastly, the test covered only the material reviewed in class--I spent less time arguing with myself over semantics and learned to decipher the intent of the question being asked.
    By my third year I went from a barely average student to the dean's list, and my anxiety for test taking is a non-issue. I sleep like a baby before a big test.

    And to me, those are the three glaring problems to me with state standardized testing. One, the student is not tested frequently enough. Two, the material may differ substantially from the material covered in class, and three, an avenue probably doesn't exist (or has not been properly presented) for the student to fully understand the material presented.

  57. Teachers assess constantly so tests are given. However they are costing the taxpayer millions and in some cases billions. Testing is now a big industry and not benefitting the students. Let the schools do the assessing not Pearson.

  58. It's that evil word for some called "marketplace". What does the workforce demand???
    Which century are we educated for in the public schools? I went to private school for 2 years - and it was a complete different world academically. There were no state exams to prepare for - but it was absolutely more regimented. Not just in terms of teachers and their exams - but much of the focus was on critical thinking! As I sit on te office - the number one complaint in the work place is that ppl lack critical thinking skills an the ability to follow multi step tasks. It's obvious what most public schools were doing years ago wasn't working. So the question is does the "drilling for tests" do better.
    I am pretty certain the nations that outperform the U.S. do more testing.

  59. Andre, you are absolutely wrong. At the elementary level, most developed nations do no high stakes testing at all.

    But you are right about the lack of discipline in public schools. This not the fault of the teachers but of a system that coddles children in the name of "self esteem"

  60. Andre is right.. every heard of O levels, A levels... etc...

    or the 4th grade tests that determine the path for children in Germany?

  61. Are you trying to tell me the government implemented a plan that didn't work? Shocking.

  62. Limits on test prep time and...what's that you say? "Charter schools, some of which are known for an almost religious devotion to test preparation, are not obligated to comply, officials said." Shocker. Repeat after me - CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE NOT PUBLIC SCHOOLS. It is pointless for anyone to try to argue they are: they are barely accountable to anyone and so untouched by state and DOE rules that it is ridiculous.

  63. To this day, my Spanish language skills are atrocious but my Spanish Regents score was stellar given the months of class time devoted to refining El Monster Que Comio a Cleveland and the other tricks I was taught - to get a high score on the Spanish Regents - not to learn Spanish. Likewise, having taught SAT prep through law school, I could, and did, using a variety of tricks that work with just about any multiple choice test, teach all but the functionally iliterate, to ace the verbal SAT. I "taught" them nothing of substance or meaning. Teaching to a test is not education - period

  64. So you taught to the SAT test while decrying 'teaching to a test'
    Did the vocab teaser 'moral turpitude' ever come up?

  65. There should be a law against “MANDATORY test packets”,MANDATORY test preparation of any sort, and ANY school work being assigned over over Spring Break, holidays,and summer vacations. Period.

    Those who are issuing the mandatory test packets which must be completed b by six graders, might want to refresh their own vocabularies by looking up the words “Vacation” and “Oxymoron”, for “working vacation “ is an oxymoron.

    Has anyone considered the correlation between the exploding rates of ADHD and other diagnoses in children and adolescents,and the inordinate pressure than is being placed on children in the form of test prep ,including but not limited to mandatory vacation assignments?
    Adults-Get a Grip.Cease and Desist from placing unrealistic demands on children. You are harming children in the process.

  66. Testing and test preparation are here to stay. Its in all fields including law, medicine, engineering, college entrance, graduate school, civil service etc. It is done the world over including in Shanghai, New Delhi and Seoul. It is growing exponentially so that in a globalized world, a certain level of quality can prevail.

    While not perfect, testing is meritocratic and allows us to differentiate excellent from good, and knowledgable from ignorant. Minorities, particularly those who feel they are disenfranchised should embrace testing. The wealthy have political connections, wealth, and easy access to opportunities not readily available to the poor. By taking a meritocratic test, especially one where preparation helps, the poor can level the playing field (though never totally equal).

    Twenty to thirty minutes is not "withering" We should be glad that students are being adequately prepared so that poor test scores can not be explained by unfamiliarity to the format.

    Lastly, I find it appalling that educators come up with endless excuses against testing and test preparation. So many of therm like to blame failing schools on parents, while the parents blame poor teaching and lack of resources. This vicious cycles continues. Testing holds teachers accountable, as evidenced by numerous charter schools including Success Academy who with the same group of students, less money and in the same school buildings demonstrate how the cycle can be broken.

  67. So you believe in testing for its own sake, but test prep doesn't empower the poor. Not only can they not afford the hundreds for a review class, but even those who test highest are not likely to enjoy marked social mobility therefore--especially not by acing these elementary school tests, preparation for which occurs during, and wastes, the years when they can best be taught to think for themselves. It does the exact opposite, demanding senseless uniformity in the practice of specific formats and questions, without real understanding.
    These imaginary irresposible teachers you accuse of endless excuses are people under tremendous political pressure to sacrifice real teaching to test prep, demotivating students and teachers both.
    You are mistaken in thinking that charter school students even generally score higher on standardized tests. See the 26-state study of charter schools released recently by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO. $550 billion a year expenditures up for grabs corrupt the debate.

  68. The tests are not testing what the *educators* feel the kids need to be learning, they don't cover the standards they claim to test, the questions are poorly written and the passages are not grade appropriate. So no, spending lots of time attempting to prepare for that insanity is not a good thing.

    You bring up testing in the professions. Are you aware that the tests to take to finish 3rd grade take longer than the MCATs?

  69. More smoke, mirrors, and hollow mantras from the powers that be.
    While Chancellor Farina has done a decent job at disassociating herself and the New Tweed from Bloomberg's DOE, the truth of the matter is that until she puts a moratorium on the purchasing and use of iReady and other corporate curricula, it will be the same old story for our kids.

  70. Public education must explain and train and test that society's core concepts and tasks be mastered. Difficult for this heterogenous society to agree on core anything! But once we agreed on a basic curriculum of essentials, it's unfortunate that a worldwide (and probably perennial) trend to value appearance over reality, currently exacerbated by increasingly virtual life, leads to over-focus on testing.

  71. When the school, the administrators, and the teachers (as well as the students) are being judged largely on how the students perform on these tests, how can there be the slightest expectation that schools will cut back on test prep, even though educators know how damaging it is?

  72. Endless standardized testing? Parents don't like it, students don't like it, teachers don't like it, and real educators of any stature don't like it...

    Who DOES? Politicos and of course the testing industry!

    One of the most egregious aspects about this whole standardized testing culture is that it emanates from edu-profiteers, who make $MILLIONS creating the (often faulty if you look at those in NYS) tests and who then also make more $millions by providing test-prep (along with prepster-profiteers)!

    Basically, these profiteers have created a need and are pushing it for all they're worth, since THEIR fortunes depend on it! That's the real scandal!

  73. Back when Princeton Review got started I was a college counselor at a private school in Westchester. I tracked for two years the test scores of students who took Princeton Review and found that not one of the kids beat the +/- 30 point spread. Princeton Review was nothing more than a scheme to prey on the anxieties of high school kids and their worried parents.

    One response to the test prep outfits was that ETS offered useful test prep tutoring for free, first in book form then online.

    The best - and only - way to defeat test anxiety is for the colleges to eliminate standardized testing as a requirement for admission. The colleges try to market themselves as student-friendly, as the place where your life will be enhanced and shaped by a caring faculty and attentive staff.

    But first you have to lie on this Procrustean bed and see how you measure up.

    The tests are not of all that much use (certainly not proportionate to the anxiety they generate). Bowdoin and some other top-notch colleges have been chugging along fine, choosing freshmen without requiring standardized tests.

    I was also in college admissions for a few years, and the tests were sort of useful but again, out of proportion to the misery they create.

    My sons are in the Navy and frankly, the ASVAB appears to be a much more useful test if you want to do some sorting.

  74. Actually the best way to defeat college anxiety is to admit that you are not suited to the process and save yourself, and others, years of expense and anguish trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

    About 10 times as many kids want to go to college as can actually deal with getting a bachelor's degree. About 3 times as many actually get some kind of degree as actually deserve it.

  75. Here's a funny thing about test prep: it causes kids to learn stuff.

    You don't get that preparing a term paper on Our Friend the Beaver, or sitting thru episodes of Friends to critique modern mores in a feminist perspective.

    Most of those quoted here seem to be headed for a life of whining about their student loans as their degrees in photojournalism sit gathering dust. It's a shame that so much critique of modern education revolves around those unwilling to address the Three Pillars of Learning: Eyes open, Ears open, Mouth shut.

  76. It's a shame that anyone still believes that "mouth shut" is a pillar of learning. Learning to express a point of view is among the most important aspects of cognition and brain development. Sitting through test prep is among the most barren aspects of cognition and brain development.

    I hope you're not a teacher, David.

  77. It causes kids to learn nothing but the basics — if that's your definition of "stuff." I want my kids to get an outstanding education, not a basic one. If you aspire to be basic, you deserve what you get.

  78. I can assure you, the kids learn far more during their regular curriculum (which includes tests written by their teachers as opposed to Pearson) than they do in the "test prep" which involves reading poorly written passages and answering poorly written questions. Your comment seems to be in favor of studying (which nobody is arguing against), with a complete lack of knowledge of what the term "test prep" means in the current context.

  79. Opposing test prep is a feel-good talking point. When you get down to it, you're hurting your students if you don't teach them how to succeed in a timed test environment. The only way to really end test prep - and still be fair to all students - would be to end standardized testing.

  80. Since our culture values technology above all else, the most important thing for teachers to do, regardless of discipline, is to make our students into the best computing machines possible. The better the automaton, the more likely he or she (now hopefully an 'it') will be better adapted to slip in as a mindless, uncreative cog in the wheel of mechanization.

    What this means is that we should only be teaching to the test, all the time. In math, students shouldn't learn how to measure ingredients to make a delicious meal, but rather should perform pointless word problems with no meaningful applicability. In English, instead of writing poetry that matters to their lives, students should be writing thesis-statement driven essays with topic sentences and formal conclusions so that they become the machines that nature intended them to be. In science, students should rip apart a frog (who has no rights, of course) instead of considering the human's place in the world. All education should be the masculine-centered approach of memorization, competition, and individuality.

    The worst thing we can do as a culture is teach students to think for themselves, out of the box, out of the confines of a standardized test. Creativity, imagination, music, art, love, sociability, compassion, justice, making food, interacting in the natural world, trying to solve important problems that would benefit not only other people but animals and the environment-- these should never even be mentioned.

  81. Back in 1989 when I was in 8th grade, I knew a couple of my classmates who were already taking prep-courses and sample SAT tests. Then in high school, a lot of students would go to summer school in other districts so that when the took the AP course at our high school they already knew the material without it showing up on their transcripts. Really, standardize testing doesn't mean much if you already have an advantage.

  82. I'm a professional standardized test taker, but even I was shocked a few years ago when I looked at the Regents science exams. They were more reading tests. The had a handout with all of the subject matter that a student should have learned in the course. Anyone with the handout, and a moderate ability to read could easily pass, probably ace, the tests. No subject knowledge required.

  83. What’s a “Professional Standardized Test Taker”? How do I sign up?

  84. I think part of the problem is that for many New York City students these tests have an impact on their future placement in middle school and high school as well as on the teachers evaluation and the school. If the criteria for placement and evaluation was changed then there would be less focus on test prep and more on learning. If you look outside of the city, there is no or little test prep because these factors have been eliminated. In addition to these pressures, the uncertainty surrounding the skills that will be tested since the implementation of the core curriculum has also created an environment of fear. These problems seem to be simple to solve and should be in the next school year and would go along way towards de-emphasizing test prep for the mere sake of testing.

  85. Are the students still taking standardized tests?
    Are the teachers still being judged by the results of the tests?
    If so, there will still be test prep.

  86. If the tests/metrics do not correspond to what we want the children to achieve then the tests/metrics should be changed, not eliminated.

  87. That's only part of the problem Howard. The harder problem is, does the ability to perform on a "test" indicate true, resilient learning, or the ability to parrot test questions?

    This is particularly knotty given that the vast majority of the literature points to critical reasoning, resilience, and a host of other "untestables", but not unteachables, as the real hallmarks of learning and success.

  88. The teachers have to take control of the kids prep because the parents are not willing to take the control. Kids are always going to complain about the work to be done and it may be social cringing too, but nevertheless the kids will always do that. Taking exams is one way of cementing the knowledge.

  89. For the most part it is the teachers complaining about being held accountable.

  90. “State law now bases teachers' evaluations partly on test scores.”

    Let’s get real, here.

    Teachers are NOT going to stop “teaching to the test” as long as any part of their evaluations depend on students’ test scores, any more than students are going to stop prepping for college entrance exams, when those scores
    are factored into college admissions.

  91. Test prep SCAM so that billionaires can collect more tax payer $$$$$$$$$$$$...!!!!

  92. Tests, Metrics are a bullcrap scam for billionaires to steal your hard earned tax payer dollars. It is a money conveyor belt into their pockets.

  93. I don't know what billionaires you're talking about but more than likely the teacher's pension fund is invested in those companies so you better hope those firms make lots of money, otherwise the schools can look forward to budget cuts. CalSTRS holds large positions in Microsoft, Walmart, and Apple. It also has 15% of its money invested in private equity.

  94. It is my understanding that a primary function of the standardized tests is to mandate that lower performing schools, in economically poorer districts, strive to equal the performances of schools in economically more privileged districts. Have the tests been effective toward this end? This is a real question, not a rhetorical one. I would be very interested in responses.

  95. Teaching to the test is fine if the test was any good and reflected the actual common core cirriculum, which in this case it clearly is not... at least in New York anyway

  96. My daughter attended a Bronx public school around 20 years ago. On returning from Christmas break, the "learning" centered on reading and math test prep. The drilling continued on until April until the day of the test. After that summer vacation began, Not a blessed thIng was taught after the day of the test. Disappointing to say the least. I understand tests are important to gauge how much a student learned. But this was not teaching, it was drilling by rote.

  97. Is testing not aligned with curriculum and instruction?

    Or are curriculum and instruction not aligned with tests?

    Learning is ultimately assessed with some form of performance:

    Think of testing as performance:

    Either the test performance meets what stakeholders accept for learning in math, reading, writing, et al., or replace with test performances that do.

    Or the curriculum and instruction are not preparing students for the accepted and desirable test performance.

    This dilemma is mired in confusion about quality learning and its cost. In effective school systems, raising the quality of learning for all reduces remediation and the costs associated with it. This is the central argument for preschool education. It applies to every year of education as well.

  98. There is nothing wrong with education being data-driven. The problem is when the data is ONLY derived from tests and is then used to determine consequences for teachers as well as students (ie keeping your job or beingp romoted to the next grade). There are many forms of data and tests should be just a small part of what determines success in the classroom.

    Compounding the problem is that many administrators have very little actual classroom experience as teachers and when one of them is given authority over a school or a school district, it's easier, quicker, and probably cheaper for them to rely solely on test results to measure 'success."

  99. Form the piece: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators passed a law...setting a 2 percent limit on the amount of classroom time that could be spent on test preparation..Charter schools are not obligated to comply, officials said.

    And nobody explains why Charter schools are exempt? Nobody asks? It couldn't be that the privatizers want to give charters an edge when they "hold accountable" public school teachers - and their unions - for low scores. No, I'm sure it couldn't.

  100. The teachers are the ones that want the test prep, because they may be poor at teaching the material, and they don't want a bad evaluation which could affect their pay or job. This action by the teachers is nothing short of "cheating to the tests" and should be stopped immediately, or the teacher placed on probation. This is not helping the students learn, or giving the school and parents a true picture of what the students have learned, or have not learned. It is giving a false picture of how the students, and school is doing, and the test prep is doing more harm to our education systems in the long run by continuing to graduate students that really do not know the material that they should...

  101. The teachers are NOT the ones wanting this Test Prep in our district. The principal demands intensive Test Prep starting in January for the April test. After the first round of tests, any students who failed during the first round are then assigned tutoring in Math and/or Reading, with 3 hours a day spent on each subject. Substitutes are hired to cover classrooms while teachers are spread around the building with groups of about 10 students each.
    Teachers HATE it as much as students.

  102. My generation may be the last to have been actually TAUGHT, by teachers 1960-70s. We had tests, but we also had quizzes on the subject taught that had nothing to do with any test, it was just to make sure you understood. Now, it's all test, test, test and the results are people who cannot formulate a simple clear sentence in writing, speak like morons and know that "Vermont is part of Canada" , as one college student informed me. I'd prefer the old way, you may have memorized facts, but you learned them.

  103. The generation 10 years behind you was also TAUGHT! I went to school in the 70s and 80s and we had all kinds of quizzes and unit tests. THere were weekly spelling quizzes that later evolved into combination spelling/vocabulary quizzes. There were math tests, reading check quizzes in English class, unit tests in science. They were actually used to see if we still needed more time on the material, imagine that! After one math pop quiz in my AP Calculus, my math teacher ended up doing a review of long division because we all seemed to have forgotten how to do it. I really messed up a question on a biology test once and my teacher had me stay after school to review the material with me. We had a lot of tests, but it never felt like the torture my kids are going through.

  104. In all of science, a key goal is to quantify observations on the basis that it is essential for useful, actionable results.

    While there is a place for "soft metrics" in the world, it is still important to attempt to use hard metrics in education because it brings focus to a child's deficits and brings the opportunity for remediation.

    Standardized tests create this opportunity. However, test taking is a also a unique skill. Hence, it is totally appropriate to teach this as a skill too! It has the effect of leveling the playing field to a further degree.

    Like it or not, a good test helps reveal where more educational help is needed. Without it educators are flying blind.

  105. Day 1 Test Update

    My 8th grader answered 38 questions in 45 minutes. I hope his stamina lasts.

    Seriously, he loves the tests, "Way easier than school. We watched a movie in class. It was great!"

    I'm not worried about him being stressed.

  106. The test prep "is" the curriculum.

  107. Wow! According to the article some students are actually reading newspaper articles to help prepare for the tests and have discovered that it has the added benefit of keeping them in touch with current events. What a discovery! Isn't this considered basic classroom learning to be begun in about sixth grade?

  108. Yes. That's why seventh graders reported that they were doing it in their classes. They never said it was a surprise or revelation to them. They were just answering a reporter's question about whether they had done anything in their classes that was supposed to prepare them for the tests. And the author of the article pointed out that it's an example of "test prep" that is really just a normal middle-school activity, so it would be hard to decide if it counts according to this new law. So this is not an example of how kids today are stupid and bad. This is an example of how kids today are doing exactly what you think they ought to be.

  109. And then....
    "On Dec. 30, the day she was announced as New York City’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña denounced an overemphasis on test preparation as the dark underbelly of the previous administration’s data-driven reforms, telling an approving crowd, “We’re going to do all we can to roll that back to focus on the best quality teaching as opposed to test prep.”


  110. Perhaps we should all take a step back and look at the big picture. The hysteria currently roiling the educational waters is based on a belief that if we crack the whip hard enough we can turn out a generation of nuclear physicists who will be guaranteed employment in our post-industrial world. Well folks - chances are that neither your kid nor mine is equipped for nuclear physics. Now that we've cleared that up, let's talk about the problem at hand and start working on some real solutions. Mr. Obama? Mr. Cuomo? Ms. Clinton? Ms. Moskowitz? Anybody want to talk about our job market? What our kids are going to do when the only jobs are low-skilled or ultra-high skilled? With no jobs available in the middle, where most people fall? Oh I see - that would be too frightening and disruptive. Instead, you will continue to perpetuate the fantasy that every kid can grow up to be a scientist or technologist. Any parents that buy into this nonsense deserve what they get.

  111. Outlawing test prep is preposterous in a state that uses Regents tests to measure student performance, uses unproven Common Core assessments to rank and rate teachers, and uses test scores as the basis for ranking and rating schools. When you enact legislation that ties a student's passing grade, a teacher's continued employment, and a school's continued existence to test scores, how can you possibly pass legislation that prevents students, teachers, and schools from preparing for those tests?

  112. Teachers don't like it but passing legislation against test prep has to be done...Test prep is the same as cheating. if the teacher did not teach the material so that the students understand it, then the test prep covers up that weakness in the teacher. Keep in mind the teacher is not evaluated on how a single student learns, but how well all the students learn the material... If all the students do bad on the test, that is telling on how the teacher performs in the classroom... test prep only helps the teacher and not the students, and hides the fact that the teacher may be a bad teacher that needs to be fired, and the students have learned nothing but test prep...

  113. With 46.5 million living in poverty....
    With 31 million without healthcare....
    With a couple of millions in jail....
    With the top 10 percent owning 80% of the wealth...
    With the top 1% owning 47% of the wealth...
    With taxes at 94% in 1945, 70% in 1980, down to 39.5% in 2012 nation building has slipped by 70%.....
    In the previous 30 years income for the top few has risen 250%, and wealth 400%.....
    During the same 30 years income/wealth for the rest of the nation has dropped anywhere from 5% to 30%....
    Minimum wage during the same period has remained at $7.25¢, and the GOP just voted against a raise....
    A full time employee at minimum wage earns as low as $14,500 annually.....
    The FED gives money to banks at 0.25% interest, almost zero. And, the same banks loan to students at to 10%....
    Teachers $35,000 annual salaries are projected as too much, but corporate salaries of $20 million too little....
    Salaries of police, firefighters and teachers have been frozen for over 5 years....

    Our best college graduates rarely take up teaching...
    Those who do, do not stay beyond 2 years...
    Several policy makers have no idea, experience or empathy about what a teacher goes through in the classroom...
    One head of education, who had less than 2 years questionable experience as a teacher, fired nearly 300 teachers.
    That's how adhoc our nation's education is !

    Considering where our national PRIORITIES are..
    70% graduation rate is FANTASTIC !!!

  114. Teachers' salaries are $35K, police and firemen salaries frozen--what state are you talking about? It can't be Calif. which is going broke from CalPERS/CalSTRS unfunded pensions of $1 trillion. Payments on that debt is money that could have been used for job growth, infrastructure, health care, rehabilitating criminal offenders, etc. CalSTRS is 15% invested in private equity. The fees on that PE are a billion dollars a year and they go to people like Mitt Romney. I will be happy to vote for a tax increase for education any time if the funds go to charter schools or if new teachers get 401K plans. Last year in Calif. we approved Prop. 30 for education but that money only went to pensions.

  115. As long as high-stakes tests influence teachers' employment status and students' admission into coveted spots in some schools, test-prep will continue and will continue to undermine deeper learning. It doesn't have to be this way. High-stakes testing is poisoning the assessment waters. Effective assessment is formative. It entails diagnosis of learning from every day student work and uses evidence to move learning forward.
    Read more here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/01/what-if-w...

  116. As long as the test scores are tied to teacher evaluations and school ratings, this sort of test prep is going to continue, even if it goes by another name to get around the legislation.

    Dissociating the tests from evaluations would do a lot more to ease the test prep than passing legislation to ease it. Even better, get rid of these state tests and allow school districts and/or counties to devise their own tests and use them at regular intervals during the year to see where each student is with his/her school work. If they don't do well, then that would be an indication that they need extra help and it should be given immediately, not nearly 6 or months after the tests were given. If a student does really well, then that would be an indication to give them more challenging work, also with no waiting time.

  117. Test prep is not, by itself, a problem. Rather, it is how test prep effects the rest of the curriculum and learning that matters. Excellent teachers with proper material and professional support, and critically, time can build activities that integrate real learning with the skills and knowledge required by the test.

    I worked as a teacher in a private school teaching prep classes for the GRE, GMAT and TOEFL exams. I was able to invent classroom activities that incorporated history, philosophy, debate, economics and many other subjects to keep the work students did interesting, and became one of the most popular teachers at the school. Of course, coming up with 7 hours worth of original material every night was exhausting, and I received no support or pay for these extra hours. After a year on the job I was totally burnt out and left the school.

    The problem with test prep in NY is very similar. Teachers have had a new set of standards thrust on them, along with a rushed curriculum and set of exams they are not familiar with. There has been no additional state funding made available to prepare the teachers, and districts, who in many parts of the state have seen seven consecutive years of funding cuts, cannot provide teachers any substantial support. So, as always, the teachers are left to pick up the pieces for the failures of the rest of the system.

  118. I would love to end test prep or, at least, make it one week before the test, as a review/warm up. However, it comes down from the top- test prep, test prep, test prep. There's a problem here that I haven't seen mentioned, and that is the issue of "high needs" schools. In my school, we have 37% (diagnosed/recognized) as ESL and/or Special Ed. I have a class of Regents Prep, just for kids who've failed it anywhere from 2-6 times. The average reading and writing level of our student body is around 6th grade. That may even be a high estimate. So, what are schools, with this pool of talent, to do about these high-stakes tests? If I can bring a kid from 3rd grade reading to 4th or 5th grade reading level, haven't I done my job? Well, not if the test is at a higher level. I must either bring kids up 3+ levels in order to take the test, or teach them how to navigate the test; how to "cheat" the test with templates and such. It's depressing. I don't know what to do, but I am told by everyone that my evaluation and my worth as a teacher hangs in the balance. I can barely teach whole class texts, since many of the kids can barely read. What's a school to do in these cases? Some may say let the kids wait until their skills are higher, in 12th grade, after 3 years of solid learning...but that's not enough-they are beginning at such low levels, or they'd just be taking all of their tests in their 4th, 5th, and 6th years of HS until they passed. I'm out of characters, or I'd write more...

  119. Similar system was passed from brother to brother to brother. Make sure someone knows you’re doing all this so he can make sure you’re doing all this. You’ll go to your school/pub. library. AT AGE 14: Your project f/each&every week of yr. is to choose 1 art. on NYT/WSJ home page. Print copy to keep f/your records. Read art. Look up in Webster’s all words you don’t know. Copy defs. by hand into notebook you’ll keep f/this purpose,&in which, you’ll reproduce any math in art., even if you don’t yet understand; work bkwd. AT 15: Continue as above. Additionally, reread art. Summarize art. in 5–7 sents. Comp. your summary to ProQuest summary (print copy)&correct accordingly. AT 16: Cont. as above. Addl., find all locations on map, even if you know where they are. Look up in EB/Wikipedia key personages/events. Make concise note of them in your book. Pick 1 quote to copy. AT 17: Cont. as above. Addl., read the letters&comments about art., which is when it’ll hit you this is adult stuff, no longer pedagogical exercise. You’re ready f/work/school/military/dinner table. OPTIONAL BUT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Every June, father had us burn our school papers from the yr., incl. these, b/c he knew we’d find it immensely pleasurable in many ways. Boy, did we! He dug deep hole in the compost heap; we dumped it all in; he poured on alcohol; we all threw matches. Fire! You gambol&shout. After ~½hr., when exhilaration has abated, artistically urinate on embers. Then fill hole. Back to library.

  120. Experiencing the same in California. I am a public school teacher, with a child (last one in K-12!) in public school. As a parent I am opting him out of ALL testing next year. District, state and federal tests are each separate testing sessions. Ridiculous