In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2006 / 16 Teves, 5766

Test offers kids all the write stuff

By Lenore Skenazy

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | 'They're teaching to the test! All they're doing is test prep. They're teaching to the test!"

Hang around any grammar school this time of year - fourth-grade English test time - and you will hear parents wailing about test prep as if it were something invented at Abu Ghraib. You could be forgiven for assuming that their children were being strapped to their chairs and forced to parrot meaningless facts all day, every drop of joy and learning sucked from their young lives. Test prep equals brainwashing to these angry parents.

But when it comes to the facts, they get an F.

The statewide, three-day test that fourth-graders are in the middle of today - the English Language Assessment - is not a test that kids can ace by cramming. It's not an SAT-type test. It's not about facts. It is, for two out of the three days, a writing test. (Eighth-graders are taking a similar statewide assessment. Kids in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh grades are taking a citywide test.)

While the fourth-grade test does not determine which kids get held back, it does to some extent determine which middle schools they get into. That's why many of the kids are feeling stressed. Don't blame the test for that pressure - blame a dearth of excellent middle schools, making the competition to get in so fierce. The test itself is making the kids better writers.

Today - day two - the fourth-graders will be asked to think about a story read out loud to them. Why, for instance, did the fox decide the grapes were sour? They'll have to write out their reasoning. Tomorrow the kids will read two articles and be asked to weave information from both of them into an essay. One article could be about baseball player Sammy Sosa's impoverished childhood, for instance, and another about how he sent his earnings home to the hurricane-ravaged Dominican Republic. (I'm basing this on the practice test my son brought home. Bat-corking went unmentioned.) Then the kids might be asked to write about what makes Sosa a hero.

You can't cram for a test like this any more than you can cram for a piano recital or driver's test. Sure you can practice over and over, but that just hones your skills. How terrible is that?

"If ever there was a worthwhile test, it's the ELA," says Anna Marie Carrillo, superintendent of the high-performing District 2, but also a local instructional supervisor at a handful of struggling schools in the Bronx. At some of the worst-performing schools, says Carrillo, principals are still not convinced of the importance of writing. "We know a lot of the teachers [there] just do round-robin reading: You read, then I read, then another child reads," she says.

That's it for literacy. No discussion of what the author was trying to say. No writing about it, either.

But with the English Language Assessment looming and principals keenly aware that their schools' test scores will reflect on them, "They have to focus on writing," says Carrillo.

Test prep at these schools means making the kids practice listening and writing. Cramming at the best-performing schools? Same thing. Hallelujah.

But try telling that to the parents.

"I am furious!" seethed an acquaintance of mine the other day as we were dropping off our kids. "They're spending all the time on test prep when they should be teaching our kids to write!"

Chill, my friend. These things are one and the same.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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