The Forgotten Testimonies on High Stakes Testing in NJ

Promoted by Rosi

In early 2015, as part of the Department of Education’s Study Commission on the use of Student Assessments in NJ, 223 citizens of New Jersey delivered public testimony on high stakes testing.  The testimony gathered as part of a listening tour and has been since blatantly ignored.  No report was published.  No mention of these testimonies since.  The Department had promised a report, and almost a year later, nothing.

Heartfelt, heartbreaking, personal, and impressively well-composed, these testimonies give us insight into the perspectives of the people most affected by the toxic environment caused by high-stakes testing: parents, teachers, and children.  We cannot let these perspectives fade away, we cannot let ourselves be dismissed by the Department of Education, an arm of our supposed democracy.  These testimonies deserve our attention, these words should be heard.  If the DOE won’t do their job and publish a report, I will.

So, as I read each and every one of these testimonies, I had to pause to share them.  I’m poring over hundreds of pages of well-researched facts, stories, emotional points of view, and I’m furious. People really worked hard to write and deliver these perspectives, for heavens’ sakes, they should be read and shared.

If this whets your appetite for more, all testimonies are online. I will have a full report out soon.  In the meantime, here are some excerpts from our amazing, well-informed citizens.  The DOE would love nothing more than to pretend these voices don’t matter, but they do.  They really do.

Here are some excerpts from the testimonies:

“Education these days no longer allows for creative expression or exploring interests on a whim.  Remember field trips?  The farthest my child travels with his class these days is to the computer lab to familiarize himself with PARCC practice tests and to improve his typing ability.”  — Amy First-Toland, parent

“To speak of children in grades K-8 as being either ‘college’ or ‘career’ ready is preposterous.  They are developmentally unable to be either.” — Christina Krauss, parent

“My student, a senior… added that we should have SAT prep courses built into their schedules, so that students could do better on the SATs.  To her, the path to success is simple- you need a class specifically to prep for a given test…. The problem is that she has internalized the haphazard, disjointed approach imposed on our school…. It’s just an accepted part of the school culture now that everything is driven by tests.”  — Brian Rock, social studies teacher

“I a livid with the state’s blind sanctioning of the unproven and extremely disruptive PARCC testing.  NJ has the best public school systems in the country.  I live in a high performing district which the state is singlehandedly dismantling.”  — Lisa Reppert, parent

“Children are under enormous stress and pressure… they will be forced by this board and the commissioner of education to triple the amount of testing time and will not have to endure 9 hours of testing over a 9 day period, every year, year after year.  The Bar exam is only given once in a lifetime and is only two hours longer than the 4th grade test. Let that sink in.  Imagine taking the bar exam every year.”  — Liz Mulholland, parent and former teacher

“The government has found a way to gather personal data about our children… Student data will be stored to help the government ‘guide’ our children toward ‘approved’ career paths.” — Elizabeth Nisi, parent

“Our students are already set up to fail this test… a teacher may not focus on one subject of interest to her students, or pause for discussion, or for answering questions.  She simply has to move at a rapid pace to cover all topics on CC and meet the requirements of the test.” — Laura Begg, parent

“High stakes testing like PARCC are taking all the joy and creativity out of learning.  Children should come to school excited about learning and curious about the world.  Instead, school is turning education into meaningless training to pass exams.  The teachers are stressed and the children sense their stress and then the children become more stressed… Teachers can no longer teach creatively and spend extra time on topics and subjects students would be interested in learning.”  — Linda Bacon, affiliation unstated

“I have my Master’s degree in reading and I personally found many of the questions to be misleading and difficult to negotiate online.  I can only imagine the level of frustration that my students will face when I found myself squinting from mental exhaustion after only seven questions. It is a tedious test and very demoralizing.”  — Lisa Ferrell, teacher

“Social studies teachers do not aspire to simply create good test takers but to create active citizens who will promote our shared goals of democracy.  Do we aspire to improve our test scores because we aspire to the economical and political realities of those countries?  Which country in the world has produced more, has the highest GDP, been the most innovative and led the world in its fight for freedom and equality? We would argue that a focus on test taking skills… are limiting our ability to encourage the creativity, problem solving, and communication skills that will continue to lead the world.”  — Noel Baxter, President of the NJ Social Studies Supervisors Association

I will continue to post excerpts until the final report is complete.  Thanks to all who ventured out on those cold days, your testimonies are not forgotten!



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