With more than one million students, the New York City Department of Education is the largest public school district in the United States. Recently, the massive school system put out a request to companies who make standardized tests to buy exams that did not include offensive or potentially distracting words and topics. What are some of these topics? You would expect terms related to violence and abuse to be on the removal list because they could offend young children. But descriptions of homes with swimming pools and expensive gifts are excluded, as are references to poverty, homelessness, and loss of employment. Any reference to religion and religious holidays, as well as to evolution or dinosaurs, is banned as well. The idea behind this list is to make the test psychologically neutral, so that the content is not distracting to students taking the test. How would this affect tests? In a word problem, a test could not ask how many Christmas presents Molly got this year, and there could not be a reading passage on the history of Hanukkah. Read the entire banned words list here. NYC is not the first school system to intentionally exclude controversial topics from its tests. CNN reports that in Florida statewide exams do not refer to hurricanes or wildfires. (Why do we use No. 2 pencils when taking exams? Find out here.) What do you think about the NYC schools asking for tamer tests?
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