My name is Jeanette Deutermann. I am the parent of a fifth grader and a second grader. I became
involved in this movement almost before it could be called a movement. I became involved when
the high-stakes testing and the test driven curriculum it creates, significantly changed my ten year
old’s attitude towards school in profoundly negative ways. He went from a child who looked
forward to school in the morning and would return home talking about the projects and
interesting things that went on in the classroom, to a child who cried at night, had stomach aches,
and begged to stay home in the morning. This behavior began abruptly during the middle of his
third grade year, two months before his first state assessment. The behaviors continued until the
day I told him he would not be participating in the 4th grade state assessments, a little over a year
later. The relief on his face told me all I needed to know about what was causing his dramatic shift.
But he is not out of the woods just yet. The months and months of inevitable test prepping and
lack of adequate time for teachers to fit in any inspiring, passionate, and creative lessons in the
months leading up to the exams, will still be a challenge to overcome. There are tens of thousands
of stories just like mine, some much worse, from across Long Island and throughout New York
State. Parents are waking up the the harsh reality of what a test driven curriculum means for our
children. It is how we woke up that is most disturbing of all. We were not sought out by activist
groups. We were not approached by educators looking to protect their jobs. We were not bought,
coerced, forced, or manipulated. We were just being parents. We saw our children crying at night
over months and months of test prepping homework. We heard our children say, “please don’t
make me go to school”. We saw our eight, nine and ten year olds wake in the middle of the night
asking, “What will happen if I do bad on the test?”. On test days we watched our children break
out in hives, refuse to eat, throw up, lock themselves in school bathrooms, shake, sob, and lose
their smiles. These are not isolated instances, but an epidemic.
My research into high-stakes testing and data mining, has led me to create the Long Island OptOut group. We have over 9,700 Long Island families who have joined, and well over a thousand
students who refused last years assessments just on Long Island alone. People say to me “Wow!
Almost 10,000 people! Isn’t that amazing?”. Frankly, no; It is not amazing. What these numbers
mean, is that 9,700 parents have experienced the same heartbreak I have, while watching the
effects that excessive high-stakes tests have on their young children. 9,700 parents have had to
educate themselves on why their elementary school children no longer enjoy going to school.
9,700 parents have been forced to stand up against the unethical policies forced upon the schools
they love. 9,700 parents are tired of testing companies, rather than teachers, evaluating their
children. 9,700 parents have had enough.
When students test scores are tied to a teachers evaluation, you change the relationship between
the teacher and the student. Even the best teachers, who try not to focus on the fact that his/her
students scores can end their career, are affected by this harmful practice. Can you imagine the
pressure that puts on a young child who loves their teacher? I’ve been contacted by thousands of
teachers, too afraid to speak publicly, who tell me stories of horror from their classrooms, and
what these test are doing to their teaching styles and to their students. Stories of kindergarten
children who begin crying when the teacher takes out her timer because they know it is yet
another local exam they will be administered. Stories of special education students begging
through tears for their teacher to PLEASE just help them to understand a word they do not know
so they can answer a question on the ELA assessment. Or the third grade teacher who herself broke down crying when telling me that she feels responsible for the abuse to her students when
administering hours upon hours of developmentally inappropriate tests to seven year olds who are
being set up to fail. The State Education department will say that they do not understand why the
children are reacting this way, when they clearly warned them ahead of time that most of them
would fail this year’s assessments. In fact they predicted that only 30% of our children would pass,
before the test was even given. The SED used phrases such as “jump into the deep end of the
pool”, and “rip off the band-aide”. After the damage was done, the SED tells children “not to feel
like failures”. But that is exactly what our state’s young children feel like. Young children spent
three quarters of their year test prepping daily, attend early morning test prepping classes for
months leading up to the tests, and are subjected to pep rallies and school songs which include
lyrics such as “we will score fours”. The day of the tests arrived. Students across New York State
sat in front of a test that they did not understand, and could not complete. They left the tests
feeling like failures. They were labeled failures by the SED. This was not a failure of our schools,
but of the State Education Department’s mandates that are choking the life out of our students,
teachers, and schools. The SED tells us they have set the bar high to align with the path to college
readiness. Why is it then that hundreds of eighth graders across Long Island scored one’s and
two’s on the eighth grade math test, yet when taking the algebra regents two months later, scored
above 80, meeting the state’s college ready standard! It just doesn’t make sense. How can we tell
an eighth grader they are not ready for ninth grade, but they are ready for college? The bar for
proficiency has been set artificially high.
This needs to end, and we cannot afford to wait. Parents have been backed into a corner. We
allowed changes to happen in our schools through this regents reform movement without
realizing the damage that was to come. Many have said these reforms will fail by their own right.
But by then, the damage to my children will have already been done. My 10 year old is already
counting the years he has left before he will no longer be forced to go to school. “College and
career ready” will be of no use for the tens of thousands of students who will burn out long before
their college days are upon them. Inferior teaching to the test practices that dominate the school
year are a direct result of tying teacher evaluations to our children’s test scores. Through the
regents reform movement, the education system of New York, which has once been a source of
pride for teachers, parents, students, and citizens, is now one of fear, anger, humiliation,
depersonalization, frustration, and sorrow. This movement to end high-stakes testing and data
mining is growing rapidly. I have had close to a thousand new members join just over the past few
weeks. We are committed. We are organized. We are not going away.
New York State’s children need you to save them; and they need to be saved now. Help us stop
high-stakes tests tied to teacher evaluations. Help us protect our children’s private records and
data. Help us save our public education system. Please help us restore the love of learning to our
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
MISCONCEPTION #2: How one performs on tests is an accurate measure of one’s learning.
From: Research Brief #1: “Testing Today in Context”, CReATE, February 2012
Standards-referenced assessments should be measuring the performance of a student in relation to curriculum standards, not in relation to the performance of other students. Using norm-referenced scores for these purposes would render it mathematically impossible for all students to achieve success, and a large proportion of our students would be guaranteed to be held back at each testing threshold. After all, 50% of students will always score below the 50th percentile, even if all students achieve unprecedented mastery of the material.
…the fact that the test was developed to be norm referenced means that each item is tailored for half correct/half incorrect responses, and countless items that better assessed the standards were rejected. Some scholars posit that the variance of responses in norm-referenced test items is only achieved by requiring knowledge that is not part of the standards, information that students gain through their out-of-school experience and is not learned in the classroom—no matter how hard the teacher and pupils work.
…Another fundamental principle in psychometrics is reliability, which is most simply defined as “the consistency with which a test measures whatever it’s measuring.” Test developers work very hard to ensure that their products are reliable. However, it is an undisputed fact in the measurement field that no test is completely reliable. In other words, “some degree of inconsistency is present in all measurement procedures.” Psychometricians conceptualize this as the difference between a test taker’s true score (a perfectly accurate reflection of ability, necessarily hypothetical given the limitations of measurement) and their attained score on a test. The difference is called “error of measurement,” and it is a component of every test score.
Because measurement experts understand the limitations of tests that have just been described, there is universal agreement in the field on a caveat for their use: No big decision should ever be made based on single test score. This principle is espoused by test developers, academic bodies and professional associations alike, including the National Research Council and the National Council on Measurement in Education.16 Attaching high stakes to any single test breaks one of the most fundamental rules of psychometrics.
IN FACT, a recent study from The National Bureau of Economic Research released this study, “The Effect of High School Exit Exams on Graduation, Employment, Wages and Incarceration” finding a higher link between low h.s. exit exams and increase in incarceration.
Parents need to know that NYS has already contracted and transferred sensitive private student information to the Gates Corporation (managed by Joel Klein) inBloom.
Class Size Matters has proposed a bill #A.7872 with a growing number of State Assemblymen sponsors that will give parents the right to opt their children out.