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Take Your Kids to Work? Not This Year, New York Says

March 16, 2012

This year, don't take your kids to work.

That's the advice from the state Education Department for adults hoping to bring their third- through eighth-graders to their places of business on April 26.

For the past 20 years, the fourth Thursday in April has been an unofficial day for students to get a taste of the professional world from parents, grandparents and other adults. But this year, education officials have been unable to find another time to schedule a statewide math exam for those grades, a department spokesman said. The same scheduling conflict exists next year, too.

Students in the grades unaffected by the scheduling of the state math exam will receive an excused absence, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Education said.

It's a "sad irony" that many New Yorkers are being told not to participate this year, said Carolyn McKecuen, president of the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Foundation. That's because New York teachers and parents, along with the Ms. Foundation for Women, started the annual event two decades ago to inspire girls to finish their schooling and pursue a career.

"Here we are preparing to celebrate and give all the accolades to New York City and the state; we're getting in touch with the girls from the first one and seeing where they are now…and now most of the kids in New York won't even be able to participate," McKecuen said. The foundation, which moved to North Carolina, started including boys in the event in 2003.

The event is now known as Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day. The foundation estimates that 37 million people will participate this year at 3.5 million workplaces nationwide. McKecuen said she has received scores of phone calls and emails from devastated and angry participants erroneously blaming the foundation for the scheduling conflict. "It's always been the fourth Thursday in April," she said. "Everybody knows this."

Tatiyana Weinstein had planned for her grandson to go to work with his grandfather next month until she noticed the scheduling conflict.

"This is so upsetting you won't believe it," said Ms. Weinstein, 62, who works in the bursar's office at New York University. "I used to be a teacher in the Soviet Union so I know this would do so much good for him. I take this very personally."

Not long after, Weinstein and her husband immigrated to the United States in 1991, their daughter tagged along with her father, a handyman at Amalgamated Life Insurance, now based in White Plains, N.Y. Now the daughter has a master's degree from Harvard University and works for a nonprofit in Mexico. This year was supposed to be Weinstein's nine-year-old grandson's turn. But standardized testing comes first.

"He will never, ever miss a state test," she said of her grandson, a third-grader at a Brooklyn primary school. "But I don't understand why the school cannot change the date."

An Education Department spokesman said religious holidays and new teacher evaluation system deadlines precluded moving the test. The exams, taken by 3 million students, take place over three days instead of two this year.

"We had unusual challenges this year in our schedule," the spokesman said. "We drew the schedule several times. Foremost in our considerations were any conflicts with religious holidays."

That excuse doesn't satisfy McKecuen, who said a similar problem arose in New Jersey but Garden State officials changed the test to accommodate the annual rite.

The New York education spokesman said "next year there may be some flexibility" to change the date of the state tests.

Jeremy Smerd writes for Crain's New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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