Just reading Anna Phillips’ well-timed New York Times article Fight for Middle School Spots Benefits Tutoring Firms will make you tired and depressed.
Coming off Easter “break”, many fourth and fifth graders have been forced to attend test prep centers in preparation for days of upcoming math and English state testing. Understandably, city parents are concerned about students’ scores because they impact whether students have a chance at admission to many prestigious and selective NYC public middle schools.
Test prep has become a part of New York City (and New York State) public school life. Thanks to the rise in state testing requirements and the paucity of seats at desirable city elementary and middle schools, Manhattan children can now look forward to testing, and its inevitable partner, test prep, from the age of four on.
I wish that someone in the Department of Education would attack the issue that children are being cheated out of their childhoods. Instead, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s chief academic officer, has added more hours of state testing. For admission to gifted elementary programs, the DOE has responded to test prep by planning a new test, a useless response since test prep companies then just revise their test prep materials.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that parental anxiety spreads like wildfire. Once one child preps, the next child’s parent hears, their child is prepping too, and the bar is raised for everyone. No school official cares. Children waste beautiful spring days in cram schools.