The Washington Post

A scary parody

When I first started reading the piece below, I wasn’t sure if it was real or if it was parody. I was relieved to find that it was the latter, though in these crazy days of education reform, it could have been the work of a real education department.

So here is a parody written by Fred Smith, a retired analyst New York City public school system. He has written before on this blog about the crazy testing scheme; you can see a piece he did on Pearson here and another piece on standardized tests here.

Here’s the parody by Fred Smith:

The New York State Education Department just issued the following press release:

State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Jr. announces that all schools will administer an early childhood learning examination this September.

The State’s testing partner, NCS Pearson, has perfected an instrument that is predictive of pupil performance at the end of kindergarten, first, second and third grade. The HELIX (Houston Early Learning Index) was developed over the last five years in Texas as a way to establish each child’s learning baseline. SED has entered into a five-year, $20 million contract with Pearson.

First, children are introduced to a relaxed testing environment. They are given lollipops in order to obtain a sample of their DNA. Pearson’s psychometricians have been able to map and classify DNA into four basic groupings that have a high correlation with the four performance levels reached by students who have taken previous ELA and Math exams.

Then, students take a 10-item, 15-minute exam to see how well they handle shapes, colors and sizes--based on the classic Fisher-Price shape sorter. Scores range from 0 to 10. This is a non-verbal measure that reduces the amount of cultural and linguistic bias traditional tests have shown against minority group youngsters and English Language Learners.

The DNA and shape-sorting raw scores are combined to derive an Individual Learning Index. Easy-to-use tables are provided for converting the results to scale scores units. Two scales are available to assess a 5-year old’s English Learning Potential (ELP) and Math Learning Potential (MLP). This breakthrough yields two critical pieces of information. The ILI provides every child’s learning baseline at school entry. Secondly, it allows schools to set a growth target for each child and class.

“The benefit is enormous,” said Commissioner King. “We now will be able to apply the value-added model to early childhood grades K-3 and have an objective, measurable way to hold teachers accountable for student progress.”

The Office of Assessment will be sending out more information to all principals later this summer.


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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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