NEWS YOU CAN USE – High Stakes Testing, Halloween, Autism Play

Parents and teachers, already frustrated with high stakes testing, should know that New York State standardized exams are about to get more difficult next spring! Newsday reported this week that the 2013 state tests for third-through-eighth grade students will be based on new Common Core academic standards, according to NYS Education Department officials. Common Core is a nationwide initiative of the nation’s governors and national education groups. The tests will feature reading questions based on advanced nonfiction and math questions that require more in-depth analysis.

Newsday reports that school officials and teachers on Long Island are preparing for harder tests.

The Common Core is different and, on the surface, looking to be more difficult until our kids and teachers get used to it,” said William Johnson Rockville Centre Schools Superintendent, told Newsday.

We’re anticipating the kids will be expected to read longer, more complex and, perhaps, more interesting passages,” he added.

One bright light is that exams for children in third and fourth grades will be shorter. The Education Department shortened the exams for younger students in response to complaints from Long Island and other regions that the lengthy tests wore out younger children.

Halloween Costumes Banned in Seattle Elementary School

Speaking of the impact of high stakes testing, an elementary school in Seattle has banned Halloween costumes this year. Although there are some parents who object to Halloween celebrations being held in public schools, that’s not the reason children at Lafayette Elementary School will not be celebrating Halloween at school this year, according to district spokesperson Teresa Wippel. She said the decision is not based on political correctness, but on academic concerns.

That discussion did come up … that we have to be sensitive to the fact that there are kids from different cultures, different religions (who are offended by Halloween), but that wasn’t the reason for making that decision,” she said.

Both parents and kids are disappointed with the ban, which the administration said it would reconsider next year.

There`s a lot of pressure on teachers and principals to make sure the kids are academically competent, and we prioritize that here,” Wippel said.

Has the high stakes testing grinch destroyed yet another childhood pleasure or are the days of school Halloween celebrations rightfully numbered? What’s your school doing for Halloween, and what do you think?

A New Play About Autism and the Family

I haven’t seen this play, but the theater review caught my interest. “Falling,” a play about autism’s impact on a family, is currently at the Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane, Greenwich Village. Here’s the New York Times review.