Some Garden State parents are furious after learning their 3rd graders were asked during the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge exam, NJ ASK, to disclose a secret about their lives - and why it's hard to keep.

A Test Question Has NJ Parents Outraged

Dr. Richard Goldberg - a Marlboro father of twin boys in the 3rd grade - says the youngsters were asked "The Secret" question, and " I was kind of shocked because it was just a very - it was an outrageous question…to ask an 8-year-old, a 9-year-old to start revealing secrets in the middle of an exam - I thought was really inappropriate… these children - they want to answer the question, they want to ask it correctly, they don't want to get a bad grade- but at the same time…think about the things a child might know - about themselves or their family."

He says many other parents were also upset by the question, and "whoever put this question forward really needs to be called to account…I find it incredible that someone could not possibly understand how dangerous or how uncomfortable a question like this might be…somebody was either very stupid or very arrogant."

Dr. Goldberg adds anyone with kids in the school system "at one point or another has come across this feeling of - we know better than you do- how to raise your children- how to educate them…this crosses over all lines, it crosses over all ideologies - many parents told me their children were really uncomfortable with the question - I think at some point parents need to stand up and say this is really not going to help the children in furthering how they're going to be successful in the future - and this was a perfect example."

Child psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias agrees.

He says this is not what educators should be asking 3rd graders who are taking an official exam.

"A question like this is really fraught with problems - one is issues of confidentiality, of privacy…it's inappropriate to be encouraging kids to tell their secrets - in a forum like this - without knowing where the information is going."

He adds "I think it's bound to cause a lot of anxiety in some kids - 3rd graders tend to be very rule-governed so if an authority figure asks a question on a test - most would feel obligated to answer it…let's say there are secrets about abuse or drug use or things like that - then what's the responsibility of the school in terms of reporting it…I think a question like this, for the family, the child the school opens up a whole can of worms that I'm not sure people really want to deal with in this way… if the school finds out anything that might hint at abuse - they're responsible for reporting it…you never really know how the kid is reading this question - it's ill-advised to ask a question like this."

A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education says any question that goes on the NJ ASK test is first developed with a test group -Measurement Inc.- they administer the NJ ASK test….then it's reviewed by a New Jersey Department of Education expert - a content expert - and then it goes through a teachers advisory group - to see is it appropriate, etc - if it passes through that, they do test groups - for a couple of years - field testing - they review the results, and if it passes then it goes on as an actual test question…about 4 percent of kids got this question - it doesn't count in their score - it's in the field test phase - it will be reviewed then decision will be made -- questions don't go on tests by accident - they're reviewed after 2 years."

He declined to speculate on why a question about secrets was on the exam in the first place.


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