Fred Smith worked for many years for the New York City Board of Education as a testing expert. Now he is a watchdog to guard against the misuse of tests. He writes opinion pieces and advises parent groups about the excesses of the testing industry. For non-New York City folk, Tisch is Merryl Tisch, the head of the New York State Board of Regents, which never sees the harm in adding more tests. The Tweed Courthouse is the building that houses the leaders of the NYC Department of Education. Klein is Joel Klein, former chancellor of the schools. Walcott is Dennis Walcott, current chancellor. Polakow-Suransky is the deputy chancellor, once a progressive, who now oversees the city’s obsessive testing regime and answers very question with the promise that the Common Core will bring Utopia and an end to all concerns.
The Night Before…
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the state
Tisch was telling the Regents that she couldn’t wait.
The new year was coming, surely bringing the best;
Every school overflowing with test after test.
The Common Core Standards would arrive any day,
Educational nirvana was well on its way.
And in the Tweed Courthouse joy was also in season.
Tests, yet more tests on top of tests were the reason.
Dasher Klein passed the torch to Walcott, the Dancer;
Year-round testing, K-12 was the obvious answer.
On Bloomberg’s A team was no reindeer named Cupid,
But Polakow-Suransky was left to play stupid,
Explaining how tests were mere all-purpose tools
For holding back kids, judging teachers and schools:
If test prep and drilling took the entire school day,
Such a sacrifice was but a small price to pay.
If History was lost and Music and Art,
Well, you know everybody has to do their part.
If kids are nervous and are sick or are stressed,
That’s kinda sad, but the state and Fed say we must test.
When tests make special need and ELL kids feel dumb and sob,
Again, blame the Fed, we’re only doing our job.
If teachers feel pressured and are tempted to cheat,
We’re sure that’s so rare it’s not worth a tweet.
When teachers are rated by tests that won’t let them teach,
Hmm. I’ll get back to you soon. That’s not part of my speech.
If teachers don’t add value and their names make the press,
I really don’t like that either, I must confess.
When teachers quit because they can’t stand the grinding,
We’ve not done a survey that proves what you’re finding.
And so on and so forth on this Christmas Eve.
Here’s a list to check twice of things I believe:
If children come first, then parents come second.
That’s a clear truth that never gets to be reckoned.
So Albany and Tweed, you must let in the sun;
You and the privateers are not Number 1.
And that goes for Pearson and all of the charters;
We’ll call you if we need you! How’s that for starters.
Don’t keep parents in the dark about testing you’ve planned.
And spring tests on our children with your high hand.
Inform us of field tests and all other exams;
We’re not here to be led around like little lambs.
Let us decide to opt out or give our consent,
If we think taking these tests is time that’s well spent.
Be sure to assess what’s important to measure,
The work kids can do and the growth that we treasure.
Not the bubble sheet tests sold by grubby green vendors
To the grinches on Tweed Street—education’s pretenders.
That’s the kind of New Year that I hope will be seen;
Merry Christmas to all and Happy 2013.
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