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The end of an error

New York Teacher

A new day lies ahead for our city’s schools and students.

In just six weeks, the Bloomberg administration will come to an end, and we will finally turn the page and welcome a new mayor to office — Mayor de Blasio — who wants to end the Bloomberg era of school closings and testing madness.

“I would end the focus on high-stakes testing,” de Blasio has said. “We should use the standardized tests to the most minimal level possible, not for all the decisions that became central in the Bloomberg years, [such as] the grading of schools.”

We agree — and look forward to the change our new mayor will bring. But we’re not out of the woods yet.

Even on their way out the door, Mayor Bloomberg and his Department of Education are still unapologetically pushing their failed educational ideas, intent on doing whatever damage to our school system they still can before leaving office at the end of the year. We already have to clean up the teacher evaluation mess and now we have to stop them from further harming our youngest students.

After more than a decade of their misguided obsession with testing, you would think we had seen it all. After all, Bloomberg-style “drill-and-kill” standardized test prep has sadly become the norm for our students, and attaching high stakes to the tests has all but forced real teaching and learning out of our classrooms. But now they’ve come up with something new.

So what’s the mayor up to this time?

Simply put, he’s taking his testing mania to a whole new level, insisting that our youngest students in grades pre-K to 2 complete bubble tests that are wholly inappropriate for their developmental levels. It’s shameful and it’s wrong.

It’s clear that the educrats at Tweed who came up with this silly idea haven’t spent much time in the classroom, if they ever spent any at all. Otherwise, how could they possibly think it would be a good idea to kick off the school year for our youngest children — 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds — by submitting them to standardized tests? In one school, children took six tests in September and October alone.

Just consider the physical limitations of children at that age. Kindergartners typically don’t even know how to hold a pencil correctly — that’s why they use extra-large crayons. What’s more, they don’t have the fine motor skills needed to fill in the bubbles on an answer sheet. And if they don’t know their letters and the difference between upper and lower cases, then how are they supposed to match answers to multiple-choice questions?

The mayor’s new testing regimen is already demoralizing students, angering parents and frustrating teachers, all of whom are saying enough is enough. That’s why we are launching a statewide petition calling for an immediate moratorium on all standardized testing for children in grades pre-K to 2.

The DOE’s response has, of course, been to deny the scope of the problem and instead try to pass the blame, as they always do when they are caught harming our students and schools. DOE officials have insisted that testing in grades pre-K to 2 occurred in only a handful of schools, but our reports from the field show it has in fact been much more widespread. The DOE also claimed that the State Education Department — and, in particular, State Education Commissioner John King — made the city administer the tests, but that’s an outright lie.

Fortunately for us and our students, the Bloomberg era is near its end.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Bill de Blasio, first as a member of the City Council and then as public advocate, many times over the years and firmly believe he is the progressive leader we need as we work to rebuild one New York out of the two separate cities — one for the haves, the other for the have-nots — that it has become.

We need to rebuild one school system, too, and I am absolutely confident that as mayor de Blasio will not only listen to the voices of parents and teachers, but also actively solicit their input as we move our school system forward.

For more than a decade we have been treated like strangers — or worse — in our own school system. On Jan. 1, 2014, we’ll be welcomed back as partners.

Congratulations, Mayor Bill de Blasio!