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June 14, 2013

Local student cited in testing debate

SARANAC — As school assessment testing struggled through growing discord from teachers and parents this year, at least one savvy student looked to who might address the problem.

Taxpayers across New York are funding a five-year contract for standardized test development and training materials from NCS Pearson Inc., the London-based publisher awarded the State Education Department contract for $32,136, 276 two years ago.

Errors on part of the tests last year and grading mistakes on scoring tests for gifted students this spring have led some state education officials to question the contract, outright.

But — beyond quality — a growing number of parents, teachers and school administrators have raised concern over the quantity of testing and the impact the pressure has on students.

STARTED AS A JOKE

An eighth-grade student in the Saranac Central School District made a distinctive statement as testing got under way this spring with her own version of the test.

Sophia Stevens is 13 and will enter high school next fall.

Her assessment test mirrors the style and format of standardized state tests. Simply labeled English Language Arts, Book 1, it also mimics the redundancy in multiple-choice answers that she says leads to confusion.

“At first, it was to be funny, as a joke,” the teen said in a recent interview.

“Then I realize it could possibly change something in the system.”

‘DEAR NEW YORK’

Sophia sat down and wrote her own test. She said it took about three hours.

It begins: “Dear New York State. I am not fond of your tests. They do not show you who I am, or who my teachers are. … 

“Not all students are the same. Therefore standardized tests are impractical. Albert Einstein once said: ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’”

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