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Testing 1, 2, 3

When I was growing up, I thought my parents put too much pressure on me about getting into college; it seemed absurd to me that they were obsessed with me building the perfect "resume" starting as early as middle school. None of my friends' parents were that obsessed.

Whether I just lived a sheltered life or whether things have changed -- for the worse -- I can't say, but now I read with a mixture of amusement and horror the stories of parents who spend thousands of dollars on private college admissions planners, essay coaches, SAT prep tutors, trips around the world so those kids will have something about which to write their essays, etc. (And then there are the parents who game the system and then file lawsuits when that doesn't work perfectly.) Of course, stories of Manhattanites trying to get their children into the "right" preschools are still absurd. (Right?)

With that in mind, read this New York Times article on whining, obsessed parents who seem to have lost perspective, although with an interesting twist. The trend nowadays is to complain about too much standardized testing in schools; these parents are complaining about too little.

The short version: there's a private school in New York called the United Nations International School, which primarily (though not exclusively) serves children of diplomats. As such, the curriculum is oriented towards the International Baccalaureate program. Most families intend to send their children to the school all the way through high school, and hence do not care about the workings of the public school system. However, a small segment of the student body will be attending public high schools, and for that reason their parents want the UNIS to prepare students for that path, a significant part of which involves standardized tests:

Many say their children need the standardized scores to apply for summer enrichment programs on college campuses or to qualify for transfer to selective New York City public high schools.
The UNIS has done away with the tests, and these parents are upset. All that makes sense, until you see what the complaint of the parents is. In fact, the UNIS has done away with the tests only before the fifth grade, and has made them voluntary after that. And that's what worries the parents:
While the assessment test will still be available in middle school, these parents say their children will be introduced late to the tricks of the trade: pacing themselves on timed tests, knowing when to guess on a multiple choice question, carefully marking the bubble next to the right answer.

"My fear is the school is not preparing my children properly and they'll be at a disadvantage relative to other kids," said Jeffrey Sovern, a law professor at St. John's University and a leader of the protest.

That's right; these obsessed parents are worried that their kids will be at a disadvantage because they won't be taught in third grade how to color in a circle with a pencil. They're worried that their kids won't get into selective high schools because their kids aren't taught in elementary school how to guess on a multiple choice question. Hello, people! If your kids can't pick these complex skills (Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe) up within four years starting in the fifth grade, they don't deserve to be going to selective high schools!



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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 18, 2004 12:58 PM.

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