Green Room

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

posted at 5:03 pm on May 12, 2012 by

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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I think the assignment incorporating cannibalism would appeal highly to 8 year old’s taste. Generally, they are obsessed with boogers and other bodily secretions. So, I would consider it a step up. :)

Blake on May 12, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Wow, do these idiots even understand that what they’re doing is creepy and inappropriate?

Teachers are just people who went to school for four years. How would you feel if an accountant or someone from IT asked for your kids’ secrets?

WeekendAtBernankes on May 12, 2012 at 5:45 PM

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.

Of course it’s not troubling to you Susan. You guys have all the answers and can predict anything and everything a person might say or do.

A liberals inability to say “whoa-let’s think this through”, is astonishing.

arnold ziffel on May 12, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Teachers are just people who went to school for four years. How would you feel if an accountant or someone from IT asked for your kids’ secrets?

WeekendAtBernankes on May 12, 2012 at 5:45 PM

lol, Probably a lot better than most teachers asking questions.

arnold ziffel on May 12, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Asking about secrets is a good way to get children to write, she said.

As is obvious to anyone but a lecturer, asking as secretis the worst way to get someone to right.

Why not just ask the kids to list all the ways in which they are inadequate?

pedestrian on May 12, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Big Brother is watching you – through your children.

Elric on May 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM

Good thing we go Christie there to keep them in check…

astonerii on May 12, 2012 at 8:42 PM

This sounds like the usual questions asked on state tests, actually. Things like “write about a time you had to stand up for yourself. Write about a time you were surprised. Write about a time you faced a challenge.” The prompts have a reputation for being inane, but they’re broad enough to give the kids a broad range to answer. Something like “write about a time you had a hard time keeping a secret” sounds similar. Tone-deaf, but not sinister, especially since tests aren’t graded at the school.

kc-anathema on May 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM

I’d be tempted to answer: The secret I had trouble keeping is when Teacher took me into the janitor’s closet and played with my wee-wee.

………………………..

I’d also be tempted to rewrite that math question to:
How many Arab slave traders would it take to bring enough slaves to pick my orchard.

LegendHasIt on May 12, 2012 at 11:05 PM

Destroying our world, one amendment at a time.

lsheldon on May 12, 2012 at 11:24 PM

WeekendAtBernankes

When you consider how many perverts work in the school system, I doubt it strikes them as weird or creepy at all.

we’ve got Obama’s school czar as the perfect example. Not only did he aid and abet sexual molestation of a kid by not reporting it, he pushes sexual activity for children. His reading list, as gatewaypundit showed some time back, promoted child pornography. Once, such people would have been lynched in this country. Now they’re put in high positions over CHILDREN. Every time i see a story like this, or a story about ‘sex ed’ or GLSEN, or any ‘gay’ education in schools, my pedo-radar goes off, LOUDLY.

This sort of stuff makes some people’s arguments for abolishing the public school system.

avgjo on May 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM

I don’t want to be too conspiratorial (as I’ve been becoming recently) but with Nazi children in the youth corps informing on their parents, and now as we have read with Shin In Geun revealing being raised in his North Korean prison camp to inform on his family as a matter of conscienceless routine — ending in their summary hanging — can this be a prelude to the same in America? And shouldn’t this incense us all?

flicker on May 13, 2012 at 3:49 AM

Howard, I am that Dr Richard Goldberg from Marlboro, NJ. General dentist from Monroe Township and PROUD HOT AIR MEMBER!!!…I go back reading hot air.com for years!! I am a big fan of the site, enjoyed Michelle Malkin, Dr Zero and now you. Thanks for your interest in the story! I think the Associated Press story does not do the story justice as it misses the mark on a few points. I encourage you to read the excellent 2 articles by Alesha Boyd in the Asbury Park Press.
The Associated Press article shows sloppy journalism, no surprise. I could not find a single child psychologist or educator or parent who thought this question was appropriate on a State Exam . I even wrote the one professor who the “journalist” managed to find who said “secrets” on a state exam were appropriate. I told her “that if…

“parents and children believe the education system is attempting fishing expeditions into the private lives of families, you DESTROY the trust between parents and the education system.”

Hundreds of children could blow the entire test that day because they write something that so disturbs/distracts them they can’t focus. Was that the aim of testing the writing skills of 9 yr olds? I think not…
One of my boys wrote about a ceiling light he broke that he had told my wife but not me, lol. My other son really struggled with the question. As a general dentist, I work evening and Saturdays so I don’t see my kids as much as I would like, so I took them out of school a few months ago for a father/son ski day. He wrote about it, but then felt so bad, he went back to try to say it wasn’t a school day, IN ORDER TO PROTECT ME. I had another parent tell me their daughter revealed a personal medical condition of another family member.
I TELL YOU FOLKS ONE VOICE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE The problem is most folks are fearful of incurring the wrath of the system, possible retribution, or the anger of their spouses and friends/family. I was fortunate to pick a fight which found both parents and teachers on the same side. The teachers throw their hands up and say

“we are just teaching to the test”

In this case, I believe them. I would love to share some of my other views of the education system, including how political correctness affects the curricula and how the system really puts my boys and others at a disadvantage, if you are interested. Thanks for your and Hotair’s attention to the issue, Howard. Now if I could only get on Foxnews my life would be complete lol…Dr Rich Goldberg… toothsaver365@aol.com

DrRich on May 13, 2012 at 7:50 AM

Oh, I’m sure Professor Engle is a PhD and is all the more edumacated than me. She knows best. I’m ok with dat. . . /s

BigAlSouth on May 13, 2012 at 7:52 AM

DrRich on May 13, 2012 at 7:50 AM

Keep up the good fight, Dr. Rich! I’m going to be electronically high-fiving you when I see you on Fox and Friends in the next week or two.

PatMac on May 13, 2012 at 9:13 AM

This post has been promoted to HotAir.com.

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Ed Morrissey on May 13, 2012 at 1:48 PM

Keep up the good fight, Dr. Rich! I’m going to be electronically high-fiving you when I see you on Fox and Friends in the next week or two.
PatMac on May 13, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Ditto.

AH_C on May 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM