It appears that many New York City public school principals have a great deal to say about this spring's standardized English tests for grades 3–8.
Only they can't, because they are under a gag order.
I wish we could at least informally do the same for students—and parents.
No matter how you feel aboutstandardized testing, I am convinced that it is both bad form and harmful to talk about test scores.
Unfortunately, the conversation is an occupational hazard in a school system where supply and demand issues turn parenting into a competitive sport—and where test prep is an established routine.
For both public and private school parents alike, test talk starts really early. Your toddler might still be in diapers when taking the ERB exam (an intelligence test on the radar of private school parents that has been particularly controversial for 4- and 5-year-olds).
By now, my public school teenagers have sat through hours of test prep and taken an alphabet soup of exams: ELAs,SSHATs, APs, SATs, ACTs, Regents, the SAT IIs, and an array of middle school and high school entry tests with names, dates and outcomes I cannot remember.
Many of these tests determine where they would, could or will apply.
That does not mean I want to talk about their scores, or hear how well or poorly anyone else did.
"You are not a number!" I exhorted my son and some of his friends recently at a college fair, where they traded their own test scores and repeatedly asked admissions officers what numbers they needed to get in.
Test scores dominated discussion; no one asked about campus life, programs—or what they might actually want to study.
Unfortunately, the college admissions conversation is too often shaped by media reports withdire sentences revealing how just 5 percent of applicants are accepted and a vast majority rejected.
That leads to lots more anxiety, even among students with near or perfect test scores.
Last year,I railed against such stories (even though as a longtime education writer I've reportedmy share of them), noting that it is time to stop "engaging in this wrong-headed, waste-of-time conversation at all,'' and that we shouldn't compare our kids test scores, GPAs, merits and drawbacks.
In New York City, though, the testing conversation will go on, even if the so-called gag order for teachers doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Just read the opinion piece principal Elizabeth Phillips ofPS 321 in Park Slopepenned last month.
You can also get a sense of the outrage some educators feel about the way this year's test was designed from Jim Dwyer's terrific column in Wednesday's New York Times.
The conversation will be driven bynew assessments under theCommon Core standards, and bolstered by bad news released this week: Scores from theNational Assessment of Education Progress (known as the nation's report card) are woefully stagnant for high school.
In addition, two recent opinion polls find a surprising level of support for school testing, my Hechinger Report colleague Jill Barshay reports.
None of this means we have to talk about how our kids did; they also should not be comparing test scores.
I would rather talk about teaching, learning and improving the quality of education for all. When it comes to testing, there is such a thing as too much information—and too much talking.