Letter to a Third Graderby Barbara Russo
Ed.’s note: The following document is part and parcel of Mayor Bloomberg’s high-profile war on “social promotion,” which, regardless of the problems of large class size or wide discrepancies in public school funding, would measure third-graders solely by their standardized test scores.
JUNE 1, 2004
MR THOMAS L JACKSON
290 ROCKAWAY BLVD
BROOKLYN, NY 11238
DEAR MR THOMAS L JACKSON:
Thank you for attending P.S. 368 on APRIL 10 and again on APRIL 24 to sit the ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS examination (heretofore: ELA) and the Mathematics Standardized Citywide Test. We’ve reviewed your results and regret to inform you that we’re unable to offer you promotion to the FOURTH GRADE at this time.
We understand that your sister Cathy provoked you into an argument, specifically on the morning of APRIL 10, regarding whether or not you have a GIRLFRIEND. We are also aware that your classmate Jasmine, who sat next to you during the examination, may have contributed to your lack of concentration, as her stomach may or may not have been growling, loudly and urgently. We appreciate that the corduroys passed down to you from your older brother begin to itch in uncomfortable places when you are seated for long periods of time.
We sympathize with these distractions.
Nonetheless, your ELA results show a low aptitude for READING COMPREHENSION, especially with regard to decoding similar words (e.g., supper vs. super) using knowledge of basic syllabication rules. You failed to identify and to compare and contrast STORY ELEMENTS including setting, character, and sequential events. You appear unable to incorporate grade-appropriate VOCABULARY in your writing or to write legibly in cursive.
On the Mathematics Standardized Citywide Test, you demonstrated a poor grasp of MULTIPLICATION, even when the problems involved fruit such as oranges or apples. You failed to remain seated for the full hour-long period of the examination, and while the doodles in the margins of your Scantron sheet show a propensity for creative expression—we especially enjoyed the small rendering of a dog chewing on what appears to be your sister’s arm—your overall performance indicates that you are not a “fit” for the FOURTH GRADE environment. You are likely to also fail at jump rope and the production of lanyards; we suggest you cease and/or avoid the activities when possible.
We were impressed that your full name was spelled correctly at the top of your examination; however, the bold-face type with which the name was printed leads us to believe that this achievement was in fact the work of your teacher, MISS TAI.
These decisions are never made easily, THOMAS L JACKSON, but for the reasons stated above we are unable to offer you advancement into the FOURTH GRADE for the coming year. We apologize for any disappointment you may feel.
Thank you for your continued interest in the FOURTH GRADE.
ASSISTANT TO THE CHANCELLOR
THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
CC: Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein