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Rally Against Testing

With New York school districts recently mandated to adopt Common Core Learning Standards and begin a regular series of rigorous assessment testing to gauge teacher effectiveness, many parents are up in arms over the fact that traditional education as we know it might changed forever; and, many are charging, not for the better.

While many parents raised their voices in anger over the time taken away from teaching in favor of test preparation and creativity in the classroom replaced by standardized lesson plans, one woman went out the schools and attempted to effect a change.

Jeanette Deutermann, a Bellmore mother, started an organization called Long Island Opt-Out as a way to educate parents about the new problems now facing 21st century students in New York State; problems, she said, that changed her own son from an enthusiastic and joyful student to a stressed and apathetic one.

“Everyone has a role to play in this fight,” she said at a recent Educational Summit meeting held at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library last week. “It was about me trying to figure out where parents stand on this, and what we can do to help educators fix what’s wrong right now.”

Deutermann maintains that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has forced these changes upon hapless school districts who have been actively fighting the change; she also alleges that the adoption of the Common Core is nothing but a cash grab for the companies that designed many of the new testing protocols and materials.

Deutermann’s plea to parents is loud and clear- that they need to opt their children out of these new teacher assessment tests; tests whose scores in no way reflect their children’s actual grades, but whose preparation steals valuable education time and financial resources from the children and the school districts they attend.

“If enough people opt out of the testing, that will stop it dead in its tracks,” she said. “We have to send NYS Education Commissioner John King a message.”

Plainview resident Michael Bruno, of the Plainview Coalition of Plainview-Old Bethpage Parents and Educators, spoke about another troubling aspect of the sweeping changes taking place in the NY educational system- data mining, or the sharing of confidential student information with private corporations.

“This information includes medical records, property status, your child’s picture, race, economic status, disabilities, and other sensitive data,” he said. “Plus, once they do collect that data, they admit that it’s insecure, both in its transmission and its storage.”

Currently, Bruno said that there is no reliable way to opt out of this practice; the information is being gathered by a company called inBloom, Inc., and is being given to Pearson Publishing to assist with the development of future testing.

“I urge you to call your Senator and make your voices heard about this practice,” Bruno said.

Deutermann called the troubling results of recent Common Core reading and math exams, held for grades 3-8, “bogus,” stating that they amount to a smokescreen by NYSED to conceal the real issues at play concerning children and their education.

“Seventy percent of students failed these new, more difficult exams,” she said. “But these scores are neither reliable nor credible, and are arbitrarily set to create the illusion of failing schools to justify these changes...this is just putting money in people’s pockets, plain and simple.”

Jane Finklestein of Levittown attended the meeting that evening, and said that Deutermann and her Long Island Opt Out group has been a boon to parents going through the hardships of modern education with their children.

“When it came to the state assessment tests, parents were petrified...we didn’t know what to do,” she said. “However, Jeanette was amazing in helping us and getting the questions answered that we needed...the whole situation was new to us, and we were getting a million different messages from the administration and other people, but we kept on it, got the facts, and our principal was very accommodating in accepting our opt-out letters, and this year we had over 100 students opt out of testing.”

Plainview resident Suzala decried the shift from fluid creativity in the classroom to a standard, “one size fits all” approach that seems more concerned with rote memorization than with actually educating.

“I’ve been meeting with a bunch of parents to discuss the curriculum and the testing...with the changes in the curriculum, my eighth-grade son, who is in an advanced math class, couldn’t answer my fifth-grade daughter’s math questions,” she said. “The kids are wasting time on useless assessment testing instead of actually learning and being creative, and I’m very angry about that.”

To learn more, visit the Long Island Opt-Out page on Facebook.