Originally posted on “The Answer Sheet” – Washington Post
By Valarie Strauss
NY officials’ excuse for link to vulgar test prep questioned
What did New York state education officials do when they were questioned about why a Common Core website they operated was sending students to other sites with vulgar material? Not what you’d hope. Award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in Nassau County wrote in this post about the website, and in the following piece, answers the question about official reaction.
Burris has been chronicling New York’s standardized test-driven school reform on this blog for some time (here, and here and here and here, for example). Burris was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010, tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is a co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by thousands of New York principals and teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here.
By Carol Burris
In my January 11 blog post, I included information about a troubling link on the New York State Education Department’s website, which was listed on the Student Service Page under the heading, Making Test Prep Fun. This link took users to a site called “allthetests.com”. That site is filled with inappropriate “quizzes” designed to determine, for example, if the user is a “sexy bitch” or is “evil” or is a “freak” or is “a true Mexican.”
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) took the link down, after an outraged parent, Anna Shah-Bomba, made the department and the public aware of its existence. The news media picked up the story, and questioned NYSED about the purpose of the link and its contents. Unfortunately, their response is even more troubling than the original link.
When questioned by NBC news, (you can hear the account here), NYSED officials responded that when they posted the link in October of 2012, the site provided a “fun, light-hearted way” to practice content that was relevant to what students were learning. In another interview with the press, SED spokesman, Dennis Tompkins, acknowledged that the link had been on the SED website, but that the contents of “allthetests.com” at the time of its placement, were appropriate and useful for teachers for “planning after-school programs.”
Parent Anna Shah was not content with the explanation and she wondered whether the public was being told the truth. In order to find out what was on the site in October 2012, she used a tool that allows the user to access the archives of the Internet, called The WayBack Machine. The Internet Archive, which began in 1996, created the WayBack Machine in order to allow the public access to the contents of a webpage on specific past dates.
What Anna quickly discovered was that many of the quizzes on “allthetests.com” were just as offensive in October 2012 as they were last week. Here are some examples of what she found.