The ‘harsh reality’ of how test-driven curriculum affects kids
By Valerie Strauss, Published: September 18, 2013
Here is moving testimony that a Long Island parent, Jeanette Deutermann, gave Wednesday to a committee of New York State senators on how standardized test-based education reform negatively affected her children, a second grader and a fifth grader. She also explains why she decided to opt her children out of taking state standardized tests, and create the Long Island Opt-Out group, which now has as members nearly 10,000 families.
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 10 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 to 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 8, 9 and 10 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 Opt-Out 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. Nine thousand seven hundred parents have had to educate themselves on why their elementary school children no longer enjoy going to school. Nine thousand seven hundred parents have been forced to stand up against the unethical policies forced upon the schools they love. Nine thousand seven hundred parents are tired of testing companies, rather than teachers, evaluating their children. Nine thousand seven hundred parents have had enough.