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Susan Kindergarten Gets Tough as Kids are Forced to Bubble in Multiple Choice Tests

Go to the newspaper site to see what some test questions look like.

Reader Comment: You know what I find most ridiculous about this is how few make the connection that these tests assess clerical skills. Can you count? Can you read simple sentences? Terrific, you can clerk at Macys at minimum wage. We need other skills besides these. Children need to learn how to assemble things as they traditionally did with tinker-toys. Those skills help lay a basis for skilled trades later. Children need to learn abstract thinking and problem solving. They need to learn how to write letters and compositions. They need to learn something about music and art. All of these are facets of an educated person that are going out the window so we can mechanize everything. 

We are at the point where people will swallow the most outrageous lies because they haven't been taught to think independently. If they google something on "Wikipedia" it must be true. If a fringe lunatic espouses a theory, it gets the same respectful audience as that given to a person with real knowledge and credentials. 

Keep going this way for the next generation of credulous fools. I guarantee that none of the elite schools will be tossing their curricula anytime soon to embrace this nonsense. No wonder home-schooling is catching on. 

Ohanian Comments: So what did New York City kindergartners learn this year? They learned that it's NOT a good thing to help each other. 

By Rachel Monahan 

Kindergarteners are having a tough time with standardized math tests. 

Goodbye Play-Doh, hello No. 2 pencils. 

Because of a tough new curriculum and teacher evaluations, 4- and 5-year-olds are learning how to fill in bubbles on standardized math tests to show how much they know about numbers, shapes and order. 


Teachers said kindergartners are bewildered. 
"Sharing is not caring anymore; developmentally, it's not the right thing to do," said one Queens teacher, whose pupils kept trying to help one another on the math test she gave for the first time this fall. 

The 4- and 5-year-old students are finding the tests bewildering. 

"They're scared. They just don't understand you're supposed to bubble in next to the answer." 

The state's teacher ratings, which are in their first year, require each city school to administer some tests. State exams are usually administered starting in third grade, but 36 early elementary schools that have only younger students -- in kindergarten through second grade -- are required to give the multiple-choice tests to kids who are just starting school. 

Even city schools that aren't required to test their youngest kids have begun giving kindergartners similar math tests as part of the Common Core -- the new curriculum that's supposed to help kids develop higher-order thinking skills. 

One of three tests obtained by the Daily News is created by Pearson -- which made the New York State third- through eighth-grade exams, including a ridiculously worded question about a talking pineapple last year. Pearson also makes the Common Core materials that most city schools have recently adopted. 

Administering the exams is a complete headache, teachers said. "They don't know how to hold pencils," said a Bronx kindergarten teacher whose class recently took the Pearson exam. "They don't know letters, and you have answers that say A, B, C or D and you’re asking them to bubble in . . . They break down; they cry." 

The young students are not being allowed to help each other with the tests, even though they keep trying to do so. 

The young students are not being allowed to help each other with the tests, even though they keep trying to do so. 

Because the little test-takers don't know their numbers, teachers direct them to find each question by an image printed next to the answers. 

Education Department officials insist that the 32 early elementary schools don't have to give the kindergarten test yet -- though they are required to administer it by this spring. But officials also acknowledged schools may not realize they can wait a few months. 

At the same time, officials defended the use of multiple choice as an an easy way for even kindergarten teachers to learn how much their students know at the beginning of the year. 

"Teachers should have access to multiple tools that they can use in a variety of ways to diagnose what students already know and what they need help with," said Nancy Gannon, executive director of academic quality for the Education Department. 

But teachers said testing this way is slow and traumatic. Trying to get a proper answer was next to impossible. "We said to color it in with a pencil, so they were taking out crayons," said a veteran teacher on Staten Island. "I can tell when a student needs help. I don't have to give them a test." 

— Rachel Monahan
October 10, 2013

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Susan Ohanian

Susan Ohanian, a long-time public school teacher, is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic, Parents, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Phi Del...