Archive for December, 2008

The Standardized Test vs. The Crayon Box

Looking at USA Today’s op ed letters, “Learning at home,” is a response to “Schools teach for tests,” which argued that curriculum is often overly-focused on standardized tests and the test taking skills required. Ms. Joane S. Johnson commented about the lack of creative, out-of-the-box education imposed upon her high-achieving first grade grandson. In “Learning at home,” Heemyung-Hwang countered Ms. Johnson, saying that “it isn’t the schools’ job to teach creativity,” and that educators today should be focused on standardized testing and getting our students on a level where they can compete with “the rest of the world.”

In a recent school visit to Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary in East Harlem, CSF staffers saw how “creative education” was working to improve and support existing curriculum focused on standardized test preparation. MCHR has a thriving (and that word doesn’t even give it justice) music program in which all students participate in vocal music and/or violin classes twice a week. And, students also have the opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing classes (just like the movie!). And, the school participates in Creative Classrooms, a visual arts program that brings professional artists into schools to engage students in the visual arts. And, MCHR incorporates the Extended Day Program to give teachers and students the necessary time to do staff development, and increase student-teacher work in areas where extra time is needed. MCHR teachers specifically use this time to prepare their students for the NY state standardized tests—and it pays off. In 2008, 100% of 4th and 8th graders passed the New York State Mathematics, Social Studies and Science Exams. And 97% of 4th graders and 100% of 8th graders passed the New York State English Language Arts Exam. So the goal of high test scores is not incompatible with a creative, well-rounded education after all.

Philanthropy Provides Strong Returns

See this article from today’s Wall Street Journal for an update about Philanthropic Collaborative’s report on the value of philanthropy to society. Contrary to a California congressman’s claim that foundations are getting a $32 billion tax exemption that could be earmarked and spent by the government, the new report shows that charitable giving actually adds as much as $145 billion to tax coffers a year. Merry Christmas and many happy returns!

Meet Yesenia


Yesenia is a 3rd grader and CSF recipient we met recently at Sacred Heart School in the Bronx. We interrupted her music lesson (picture thirty 8-year-olds practicing the recorder) to ask her a few questions in the hallway.

CSF: How long have you been at Sacred Heart?

Yesenia: Since Pre-K.

CSF: What can you tell us about your teacher?

Yesenia: Ms. Murray, she’s funny.

CSF: What do you do after school?

Yesenia: Go home and do my homework.

CSF: What’s your favorite thing to do at home?

Yesenia: Play with Barbies. My Barbie’s name is Hannah Montana.