Failing is the New Passing

Failing is the New Passing
by Elissa Stein

New York State test scores were released this week. It was reported that 26 percent of 3rd-8th graders in NYC passed the English test while 30 percent passed math.

Flipping that around, 74 percent failed English and 70 failed math.

Fingers are being pointed, excuses made, and silver linings desperately searched for. But, at the end of the day, thousands of kids failed.

Here’s the crazy part: they failed a test they couldn’t study for and that teachers couldn’t prepare them for. These students were guinea pigs for a new system. Yes, that new system emphasizes creative problem solving and analyzing instead of relying on memorization, which makes a lot of sense. And perhaps in the long run the Common Core learning standards that educators are adopting will be beneficial.

But not for these kids.

These kids were confronted with material they hadn’t covered and information they’d not seen before in a highly stressed testing environment. Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education are rushing to assure parents and school that these sub par grades will not reflect negatively on report cards, middle and high school admissions, teacher evaluations, and school ratings. But how can they not? When three quarters of students fail a test that fact can’t just be swept under the carpet.

And what about the results? These students lost their individual baselines of progress from year to year. They can’t be compared to performance from previous years students either. The slate’s been almost wiped clean, the only benchmark remaining is improving from failure. But even as dismal as the results may be, NYC families know just how important these test results are in the fierce competition for middle and high school spots.

The stress surrounding these tests and their inflated importance had already been extreme — now knowing thousands of children are labeled as failing adds more fuel to an already volatile situation. Among parents and educators there is a profound sense of frustration and anger that this is what education has come to.