Step right up, boys and girls. All 135,000 of you. It’s field test time again here in New York City. And your parents don’t know a thing about it.

Don’t tell them. It would spoil the fun. You can take extra reading and math tests in June, but this time the results don’t count. That’s right. You don’t have to worry about doing well. It doesn’t matter how high or low you score.

There’s no pressure. The field tests will take up less than an hour on one bright morning next month. The tests are not even required. If you perform poorly nothing bad will happen to you or to your teachers. That’s why teachers are so relaxed about giving them. Even your principal knows that nothing will happen to your school after you take the tests.

That’s very different than the way it was in April when you took the real reading and math tests that were given on six days and took close to nine hours. And you knew the tests were important because you spent so much time preparing for them. And the questions counted.

Do you remember how you felt then? Were you upset because the questions were too difficult for you or you couldn’t complete them? Your teachers and principal were nervous too because they were being judged by how well each of you did on the tests.

Some of you who are already critical thinkers may ask what the field tests are for. Well, they’re not regular tests. Think of them as a way to try out new reading and math questions to see how easy or hard the material is for children like you. Then the people who make the tests can choose which questions seem just right to go on next April’s required exams—when the scores count.

Some of you may realize that if kids know that nobody’s keeping score on the field tests they won’t be interested in the questions. And if they don’t try to do their best on them how will the test-makers find which questions are easy or hard?

Children like you shouldn’t fret about such matters. Think of this as another practice test. The test-makers know what they are doing, and they know how to pick out the good questions even when kids aren’t trying—even though field testing in June isn’t the best way to create new tests.

But, as everyone knows, if you don’t try-out new reading and math material, the testing program cannot continue. Then, how would children, teachers and schools be evaluated without more exams for all of you in grades three through eight? And how would we meet learning standards?

The last thing anyone wants to do is to bother parents about the field tests because they have enough other things on their minds. That’s probably why this is the second straight year that Chancellor Farina has not notified them about the coming tests, and why she hasn’t told principals to spread the word.

But her silence is also a puzzle. She just said she wants all parents to get involved in the schools and in their children’s education. Then shouldn’t the Chancellor want parents to be informed about the field tests and seek their consent to let their kids participate in this activity.

Yet don’t be anxious, boys and girls. Even if parents refuse to allow you to take the field tests, the people in charge of education in New York State want to make a rule that will require you to take the field tests.

That’s why it’s a lot simpler and easier to keep parents in the dark. Shhh …

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