And who tests the testmakers?


As revealed by a report in the New York Sun  and other news outlets, fully 81% of New York City's eighth—grade students failed a statewide exam in social studies. This represents a huge jump in the failure rate of the 2001—2002 school year's test, which was 62%. Statewide, results were better, but still well below satisfactory numbers.

Perhaps the reforms would have had more success if the State Education Department used tests that gave the students a better shot at a passing grade. Try this one yourself, one of several 'sample questions for the Grade 8 Intermediate Social Studies Test,' published by the NY State Education Department and reproduced in the Sun:

D. European Jews and other groups were killed in large numbers by Nazi Germany During World War II. Which term refers to this situation?

Readers will search in vain among the four choices offered to test—takers for the only sensible (and correct) answer, which would be 'the Holocaust.'

The students instead were forced to guess among the following:

1. appeasement
2. blitzkrieg
3. communism
4. fascism

Answer No. 4 was supposed to be 'correct,' and woe to the child intelligent and knowledgeable enough to know that none of the four choices is an accurate one for the question as posed.

Richard N. Weltz  5 10 05


The New York Sun published a correction today:

Appeasement, blitzkrieg, containment, and Holocaust are the choices given, in a sample question from the state's exam in social studies for eighth—graders, for the term for the killing by Nazi Germany of large numbers of European Jews and others. (The answer is Holocaust.) Some of the choices were given incorrectly in a graphic on page 4 of yesterday's Sun. 

While disappointed and puzzled by the Sun's error, we are glad that the test is not as ridiculous as it appeared.