Photo by Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images
Teachers in New York City public schools who prepare students for all-important standardized tests might not know exactly what will be on the exams, but at least now they know what won’t.
The New York Post uncovered some rather curious guidelines earlier this week sent to test-makers for the city, which recommend that words like "dinosaur," "pepperoni" and "birthday" be excluded from all city-wide tests because they "could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students." If "the topic is controversial among the adult population," the guidelines explains, it "might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation."
The sensitivities outlined are extensive. There are apparent economic-equality concerns (no mentions of swimming pools) and family concerns (no divorce), but the main thrust seems to focus on religious issues, which would explain why the aforementioned words are out: Jehovah's Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, Muslims don't eat pepperoni, and dinosaurs often come up in conversations about evolution.
City education officials declined to comment on the reasons specific words made in into the guidelines. But the Education Department did tell CNN its requests are old news and in line with colleagues’ in other states, including California, where words like "weed" are banned from tests.
An education expert quoted by the Post didn't buy the city's arguments: "If the goal is to assess higher-order thinking skills," she told the paper, "controversial topics—for example, ones that are the subject of political debate—are exactly what students should be reasoning about."
For a complete inventory of the too-hot-for-testing words and subjects, head to the Post's original report.