NYC schools nixes list of test words to avoid

Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education on Jan. 16, 2012 in New York City.
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(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - New York City's Department of Education has decided to drop its list of words to avoid on school assessment tests.

Companies that want to come up with school tests used to measure student progress were being advised to stay away from a range of topics in the questions they put together. On the list of subjects to avoid were creatures from outer space, junk food, vermin and birthdays.

The Department of Education had said the list was a recommendation, not a ban, and was meant to make sure tests don't contain any biases or subjects that could distract the students.

The department on Monday released a statement saying it will "continue to advise companies to be sensitive to student backgrounds." It says the decision to drop the list of words was made after "the reaction from parents."

CBS station WCBS New York reported school officials had been worried certain words or topics might cause students to feel uncomfortable.

The original request was to remove about 50 words from city-issued tests. Some seemingly benign words like "dinosaur" made the list because dinosaurs suggest evolution, which creationists might not like, WCBS reported.

For example, the word "halloween" was targeted because it implied paganism and "birthday" might have offended Jehovah's Witnesses who do not celebrate them. "Poverty" and words that suggest wealth were also on the recommended list of words to avoid.

On Monday, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the New York City Department of Education was trying to provide some guidelines  so "test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests."