Though I am more than a few years removed from high school, I still receive—via email—copies of my alma mater’s student newspaper. A recent edition gave me pause. It contained an article describing changes to the school’s policies about how examinations were to be administered.
My school was highly academic, a feature that I didn’t necessarily appreciate all the time. We enjoyed many extra-curricular activities and had a great deal of fun, but expectations for scholastic achievement were ever-present. Our students regularly won Merit Scholarships, along with science, math, and English competitions. We expected large percentages to get into top universities. Certainly, we complained about our workload and petitioned for fewer exams, but those grumbles effected no change.
For this reason, the recent article about changes to the system regarding testing caught my eye. The school was introducing more exam coordination among the different classes. One of the reasons cited for the change was the expanded number of students who qualify for extended time for testing, causing them to miss the start of their next class. I’m not sure how many students are in each grade this year but considering that the school occupies the same building as when I attended, I am estimating that about one-quarter to one-third of scholars are receiving this accommodation. No one in my year received extended time. It never came up. It was not an issue.
There are two ways of looking at this new development. One is to see it as an advance, opening the school to more children by allowing those with learning disabilities to participate fully. The second way is to view this partially as a scam. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists or psychiatrists are diagnosing nebulous and non-existent “disabilities” which forces the school to offer extra time for examinations. Instead of training children to manage their time and teaching them to “buckle down” those in authority are moving the goalposts.
To be fair, my friend’s brother, who was ten years older than us, used to tell us how much easier our classes were than those that he took a decade earlier at the same school. He was probably correct. Very few high school students today face as challenging a curriculum as did their grandparents and the line has been steadily moving towards less memorization, grade inflation, and less rigorous mathematics. Granting extra time for testing accommodations can be just another path to the same end.
Another friend of mine, Beth, went to public school at the same time that I attended my private one. When we both sat for a national standardized college entrance exam as high school juniors, I took the multi-hour test in stride. I was used to sitting at a desk and working for extended periods. Being asked to concentrate for four hours was a new experience for her. Likewise, my college schedule was less demanding than my previous one; hers was more.
I am sure that there are students for whom testing accommodation is a true gift. I worry that there are other students, perhaps the majority, who are being impeded in learning how to unearth their capabilities and how to devote themselves to hard work. Rather than school propelling them to achievement, it is training them to strive for less. I fear that we are not doing a good job differentiating between the two groups.
This Musing is dedicated in memory of Noam and Yishai Slotki, brothers who ran into danger to save their fellow Jews on October 7, 2023, and were murdered. May their young wives and small children be comforted among the mourners of Zion.
With prayers for the safe release of all the hostages, among them Hila and Raya Rotem, mother, and daughter, who were abducted from their home on October 7, 2023
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The Art of Making Challah
$16.95 On Sale for $12
Thanksgiving is approaching. It is a time of joy, celebration, and sharing a meal with friends and family. What a great time of year to up your baking skills and learn how to bake the traditional Sabbath and holiday bread known as Challah! Join Susan Lapin and have some fun as she walks you through each step of the process in this video tutorial (including her favorite recipe).
“I just took my second batch of challah out of the oven, it came out just as beautiful as the first batch. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and giving a video tutorial. It makes me feel like I have a friend here in the kitchen with me!” – Jen.