3rd-grade standardized test asks students to reveal a personal secret

posted at 6:01 pm on May 13, 2012 by Howard Portnoy

Seriously now, how hard is to write questions for third-graders that don’t (a) address creepy topics like cannibalism, (b) ask how many slaves it would take to pick an orchard clean, or (c) intrude on their and their family’s privacy by asking them to write about a secret they had trouble keeping? The answer obviously is (d) very.

Choices a and b were the stuff of math homework assignments earlier this year in schools in D.C. and Georgia, respectively, while c appeared on a statewide standardized test in New Jersey just this week. The test, given to 4,000 students, was a dry run for the Garden State’s Assessment of Skills and Knowledge.

The website NJ.com reports that one parent, Richard Goldberg of Marlboro, was appalled when he asked his 9-year-old twin sons about the exam and was told about the question, which required an essay. One of the boys wrote about breaking a ceiling fan and not telling his dad (presumably until now). The other wrote about the time Goldberg took them out of school on false pretenses for a day of skiing!

“All of a sudden,” Goldberg told reporters, “you have in a sense Big Brother checking out the secrets of families.” He added that the question has the potential to open up all manner of Pandora’s boxes. He asked, as a hypothetical, what action administrators might feel impelled to take it the secret divulged had to do with a criminal act.

The Associated Press quotes Susan Engel, a lecturer in psychology and director of the teaching program at Williams University, who said the question isn’t troubling to her:

Asking about secrets is a good way to get children to write, she said. And, she said, children at that age are unlikely to say something that would offend their families, or even bare their own souls. ‘I think by and large, kids are not going to tell a real secret,’ she said.

That reaction begs the question of what to do in the case where children do reveal real secrets—and closely guarded ones at that.

Justin Barra, a spokesman for New Jersey’s state Education Department, said the state planned to look into who wrote the “secret” question. In the meantime, since the story first broke, the question has been scrapped. The Department of Ed has not said what was written in its place. Perhaps it is best not to ask.

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This …. this is getting out of hand, we must get the government out of our lives

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Hey KOOLAID2, your late…

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM

Is there anyone out there?

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Come on say something ppl……

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Ed’ not gonna like this….

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Oh, this is some kind of joke …. right….???¿?

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Ok then…. how is this gonna help the children in real life?????

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Teach them how to tell on there co-workers?

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Come on ppl, it not December 21 yet….

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Wake up KOOLAID2, this is hard to keep thinking of things to say……

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:20 AM


angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:21 AM

Bishop, are you out there?……..

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Come on help me out…. my vocabulary isn’t very strong, I’m running out of words……

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Is there anybody out there???

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:24 AM

your record is gonna be mine…..

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Math and science should be taught in school not how to rat out your parents..,….

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Ok, is this a set up?????

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM

One more and your done KOOLAID2

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Big brother needs a cap in his behind, to remind him who the boss really is…..

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:30 AM

This is getting scary..,.

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Someone let me know when everyone gets out of bed …… I’m done……

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:33 AM

Well, anyone up yet???????…..

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Ahhh the heck with it, I’m going for 25……

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:36 AM

No child left behind…. and yet I’m alone……..

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:38 AM

Somebody stop me……please……

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:40 AM

This is 26 KOOLAID2 ……. beat that……..

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:41 AM

I’m done, y-all can say something now…….;-)

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:43 AM

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Well, that was an interesting half hour…

DrMagnolias on May 14, 2012 at 10:07 AM

If I had a kid and heard stuff like this was going on I think I’d tell the kid that if they got this sort of question on a test to make something up about how one of their teachers kept touching them and so they went to the principal and the principal just told them not to tell anyone else and didn’t do anything else about it and the teacher keeps touching them and they wish he/she’d stop. Now that might lead to something entertaining.

Rip Ford on May 14, 2012 at 10:39 AM

No sense of decency, no sense of propriety, no respect for privacy.

That’s why we home school.

UnrepentantCurmudgeon on May 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

I once spoke to a woman whose mother grew up in Germany (East Germany, perhaps). The students were asked “When your parents watch the evening news, what is the shape of the clock on the wall?” An innocent question, right? Actually, if they answered the wrong shape (square or round, I don’t recall which), their parents would be arrested for watching newscasts banned by the government. I have also heard of test questions here in the US regarding guns in the home. Kids love to talk about their family and are a great source of “private” information.

conservative4freedom on May 14, 2012 at 11:12 AM

Libertarian ideals do not apply to people under 18, champ.

John the Libertarian on May 13, 2012 at 6:22 PM

That’s funny.

Conservative ideals apply to everyone – without exclusion.

Solaratov on May 14, 2012 at 11:29 AM

I love the picture on this thread! But, this is real stupid. The department of education needs to be deleted, as well as the EPA and a 100 other three letter words.

TX-96 on May 14, 2012 at 12:21 PM

If this were a single teacher, then I’d think that a parent-teacher conference would be in order perhaps getting a lawyer involved. But, a standardized test? Not no, but hell no and I’d be asking for heads to roll.

I’m just betting that the brain-addled amateur psychologists/teachers that devised this test question were doing it to see if they could drum up some child abuse/molestation cases.

Geministorm on May 14, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Math and science should be taught in school not how to rat out your parents..,….

angrymike on May 14, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Down in communist Cuba this is requirement for all children to rat out parents, friends and other family members for doing or saying anything they have been taught is wrong, from the standpoint of the state. Standard socialist and communist agenda. Schools are for socail engineering, just ask any democrate. They will also explain that children are just small adults that are lackign experience and knowledge, which is why a first grader needs to understand the concepts of sex and sexual roles before they get confused later when they are old enough to to care.

The question was obviously meant to be a quesiton that requires higher level thinking skills. It is very poor one for many reasons. A middle school child probably has a number of socials secrets they could write on that will not cause a conflict with their concept of loyality or what is right and wrong. A third grader is usually seven to eight years old and still a child with a childs understanding of the world around them. Their concept of a secret is totally differnet than an older child and more confusing for them to write about. Sure there maybe ones that need intervention, but a test is not where it needs to be asked. It could be possible that the child has no secrets they are willing to write about. To be forced to do so could have consequences for the well being of the childs self esteem. They may see it as a betrayal of their secret and feel helpless that they are being forced to by the teacher to reveal it.
One of the hallmarks of liberals and socialist is the lack of understanding the consequences and appropriatenss of their actions.

Franklyn on May 14, 2012 at 5:29 PM

Hey, this is America where any kid can grow up to be president. Best to start the oppo research now!

JackOfClubs on May 14, 2012 at 6:11 PM