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NJ ASK: It's Only a Test

The NJ ASK test will hit New Jersey Public Schools in the next couple of weeks and will leave stressed out students, teachers, and administrators in its wake.

It’s testing season in New Jersey's public schools. Pencils are sharpened, test booklets securely wait to be opened and guidelines are being reviewed as schools gear up for the NJ ASK test.

The standardized test will be given to students in grades three through eight over the next couple of weeks if some didn’t already start last week.

I’m sure if you have children in the above mentioned grades, you are aware that the ASK is upon us. If you would like additional information regarding testing, check out the State of New Jersey Department of Education website. You will find loads of information and tips for both parents and students.

ASK is an acronym for Assessment of Skills and Knowledge. This standardized test was designed to test student’s knowledge of New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards in language arts, math and science. The NJ ASK is a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 which states, “Under the provisions of this federal legislation, every state is required to administer annual standards-based assessment of all children in grade 3 through 8. Federal expectation is that each state will provide tests that are grounded in that state’s content standards and that assess students’ critical thinking skills in three content areas: language arts literacy, mathematics and science.”

The goals of the NJ ASK test, as set forth by the New Jersey Department of Education are:

  • To measure and promote student achievement of challenging state curriculum standards.
  • To provide accurate and meaningful information about student performance.
  • To meet state and federal accountability requirements.

I personally am not the biggest fan of the ASK test. I understand that there needs to be some sort of testing but I think the emphasis on the test scores, the formality in which it is given and the length of the ASK creates too much stress on our children, teachers and the entire school district.

Other problems I see with this type of testing are that some kids are born test-takers while others are not. Many students shut down when asked to write under pressure while others can write no matter what is going on around them. Some students will not be able to complete their tasks when timed while others  thrive under the same time constraint.

Another issue I have with the test is how the writing is scored. It is all so subjective. What one reader may think is a well-written piece, another may find to be incomplete or poorly written. It all depends on who is reading the essay, what kind of day they are having, and how they interpret what was written. I don’t see how this part of the test can be considered standard.

Like I said, I get that we need some sort of accountability and some way to gauge the quality of education provided for our kids but maybe it needs to be tweaked a bit. I don't think we get an accurate measurement of our student's knowledge and capabilities using this type of test. The ASK score is only one piece of the puzzle, there is so much more that goes into a good education.

In my opinion, the "No Child Left Behind" concept doesn't fit the needs of our diverse and ever changing school climates but it is what it is.

Our children are required to take the test regardless of what we think about it. Our job, as parents, is to make sure they do their best and are not stressed out.

I tell my girls not to worry as long as they work to their potential, their best is good enough for me. I also remind them that testing week is usually a fun week. They won’t have any homework. They will have extra recess and snacks and most importantly, ASK testing ushers in the end of the school year so there is something a bit magical to that!

Remember, it's only a test! 

If you are worried that your child or children may be anxious or nervous, Great Schools has some timely tips to “de-stress” test taking.

Sally April 30, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Sadly, it is not "just a test". Teacher and school performance are directly measured to students' outcome. If students go in with a laissez faire attitude and do not do their best, it harms the school and their teachers. Also, students written responses are scored by two readers. If the two readers give vastly different scores, then the response is read by a third reader. Their score is not dependent on just one individual who possibly had a bad day.
Janet Tumelty April 30, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Sally, I did not say students should go in with a "laissez faire" attitude, not sure if you read the entire article.. I understand that teacher/school performance are based on the outcome of this "one test" and that's what I don't get, I don't think it's a fair representation. It's only one piece of the puzzle and causes a lot of stress for students and teachers alike. Thanks for reading.
Don brown April 30, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Janet you hit it right on. This kind of stress test is way too much with too much at stake. Like most federal programs in concept sounded good but in practice cost way too much and is not a true result anyhow. And once again one of the major areas that impact our kids is the lack of physical activity which has decreased over the years at school with less recess or after school intramurals.
Gender Ali May 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Whahhhh, stress on our children. Really? Why not do away with all testing in schools to de-stress our children? I can only imagine how the author of this piece was brought up. Probably surrounded by bubble wrap and pillows. This if life as we all know it, not a coddling system. School is stressful and so is going on a job interview, preparing for a presentation in work, stepping up to the plate with bases loaded or pitching in the 9th inning of the World Series. Stress is part of life, we just need to teach our children how to deal with it not avoid it.

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