"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, February 26, 2006

State Mandated Child Abuse

Someday, someone, somewhere, in an act of civil disobedience, is going to say enough is enough. How much longer will the American public and teachers stand by as the nation's children are subjected to the emotional and intellectual abuse of the testing industry and the politicians whose pockets they line? How much longer?

Fifth-Graders Hit Hard by New Test Load
By Rick Holland / Daily News Staff Sunday, February 26, 2006

Last week’s school vacation may have been the last time many fifth-graders and teachers felt fully relaxed -- at least until June 2.

By that date, the 10- and 11-year-old students will have slogged through three times the number of federal or state-mandated exams that their counterparts were required to endure in 2005. It’s all part of a rigorous new schedule of exams included in this year’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System which has fifth-graders sitting for three two-hour tests and a one-hour so-called tryout test.

According to some school officials and teachers, the spike in fifth-grade test-taking time from 2005 to 2006 places undue strain on students. "It is an unbelievable amount of pressure to put on a 10- or 11-year-old kid," said Stephen Patrick, chairman of the Bellingham School Committee and a sixth-grade teacher. "In the sixth grade, we have only have two (MCAS) tests this year...I feel so bad for the kids in fifth grade."

School officials agreed.

"This year’s schedule is far too intense (for 10-year-olds)," said Elaine D’Alfonso, principal at the Bellingham Memorial Middle School. "The teachers are stressing the importance of these tests, but they’re being careful not to over-emphasize, so the kids don’t get anxious or sick."
Despite the best efforts of teachers, D’Alfonso knows every student reacts to pressure differently.

"I think some kids will get anxiety from this schedule and some will get ill from it," she said.
The cause behind this year’s exam slate for fifth-graders is a combination of federal deadlines and state mandates, according to Kit Viator, director of student assessment and the MCAS program for the state’s Department of Education.

She said all states are required to have full-length (two-hour) tests in 2006 in reading and math at all levels from third to 10th grades. Those tests -- along with an elementary grade science exam -- are mandated as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
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The next casualty of NCLB will be an entire generation of scientists along with their discoveries and cures that will never see the light of day. That's something to think about -- if there's anyone left who can still think.
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"I would admit it’s a dilemma, but we have a federal law to administer an elementary science test," said Viator. In the end, however, she said part of the reason to keep the science test at the fifth grade level was financial.

"The state had already invested significant funds to get that grade five science test operational," said Viator. Beyond the pressure on fifth-graders, D’Alfonso said the increased testing activity has forced her to say no to some cultural activities and field trip proposals.

"I’ve had to turn those offers down....We don’t have the time and teachers get very nervous when (classroom) instructional time gets taken away near MCAS exam time," said D’Alfonso.
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The teachers should be nervous -- they are forced into being accomplices in this crime against humanity.

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