City students will go straight from a week of vacation into two weeks of high-stakes tests, and while many educators are not happy that the state moved the English and math exams earlier this year, one Queens elementary school is spending the time off doing something about it. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
School's out this week, but it's business as usual at P.S. 15 in Springfield Gardens, Queens. Almost all third through fifth grade students have been showing up each morning for class, and the subject is test prep.
"I thought it would be important for them to stay on the regular schedule. Especially getting up in the morning, it's very essential, and still doing the schoolwork, which would maintain the momentum," said P.S. 15 Principal Antonio K'Tori.
Maintaining momentum is particularly important this year, with longer state tests right after vacation.
"This keeps them sharp. It keeps them warm for the real thing," said a P.S. 15 teacher.
At P.S. 15, they say doing test prep during vacation actually means they do not have to do as much during the school year.
Of course, the tests carry a lot of weight. They determine whether students move on to the next grade, their teachers' ratings, and the overall letter grade of each school. But a growing number of parents and teachers are worried all the pressure has led schools to focus on test-prep at the expense of real learning.
This week, students are getting a lot more individual attention. Just third, fourth and fifth graders need to prepare for the tests yet almost every teacher is working. The principal says the $30,000 in overtime pay is worth it.
"We are a 'B' school at this time. We are truly working to get an 'A.' And we cannot get the 'A' without the teachers working very hard, without the administration working very hard, without the children working very hard," said K'Tori.
The Department of Education says about 25 schools are offering test prep this week, but the extra tutoring is usually just for struggling students and only for a day or two. The program at P.S. 15 is different, with whole grade levels involved.
With games and an early dismissal, some P.S. 15 students even say they are enjoying themselves.
"I like being in school because my favorite subjects are math and reading. And I like to do reading because I like to read books, and I like multiplication," said a student.
Test prep hasn't damped the third graders' enthusiasm, so hopefully two weeks of exams won't either.