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Play Teaching to the Test

By Anthony Rebora — April 21, 2009 1 min read
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A 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy who wanted to play school managed to order a batch of the state’s standardized assessment tests, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. State education officials were apparently in disbelief. “Only the school district’s test coordinator can order tests,” said the State Education Department’s spokesperson. “It’s a very secure system.”

Well, maybe not: By reports, the boy simply faxed an order to the test-production company from his house, using two special codes he got from the education department’s Web site. The tests, however, were mailed to his school district’s warehouse rather than to the boy’s home—a measure that officials say validates the system’s safeguards.

Officials in the boy’s district are confident that he was simply exercising his imagination and not attempting to cheat. “He purposely requested the tests to come on the last day [of testing] because he didn’t want to see the test before he took it,” said Rebecca Costello, director of pupil services for the Hempfield School District. “He wants to be a teacher. He wanted to play school.”

In any case, Costello added, the education department has indicated “they will look at [their] Web site because they may have an issue.”

Meanwhile, we are left to wonder: Does it say something about schools today that a kid who wants to play teacher thinks he needs to have authentic standardized tests on hand?

Update 4/27/09: Nancy Flanagan, who has taught hundreds of 5th grade boys over the course of her career, explains that there are other possible ways to interpret this story.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.