Friday, February 20, 2015

 Tonight I am informing you that I am a conscientious objector to this test

By:  Oregon BAT and BAT Leadership Team Member Kathleen Jeskey

I’ve been a teacher since 1987. Since coming to Canby in 1999, I’ve helped implement Backpack Buddies, a dental screening program, and canvassed for at least two levies. I have never shied away from hard work to make a difference in students’ lives, and have always had high standards for them and myself. I have never been resistant to change that I believe will help them.

I am disturbed by what is going on in education right now. Local control is being taken away. Top down mandates have subverted the democratic process. Among those I find most troubling is over reliance on test scores and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment in particular. 

Not all teachers give state tests. That falls heavily on elementary teachers. We know our students well. They spend seven years with us. We understand their strengths and weaknesses. We know a lot about their lives. We know that this test will be incredibly difficult for many of them. “Frustration level” is a term used to describe text so difficult for a child that he may give up. This test is at frustration level for many. It will especially harm the most at risk and fragile who already struggle. Belief in one’s self is necessary for success. We spend so much time trying to build them up to believe in themselves as learners and for many, all these tests do is crush them.

The test is not developmentally appropriate. The length of the test alone is problematic. Eight and nine year olds will be testing an average of eight hours and are expected to use new on line tools and type in extensive answers. Again, I’m speaking of third graders, many of whom do not have computers in their homes. In addition to inappropriate tasks, time is taken away from learning and schedules are disrupted for weeks. 

Test results are not available in a timely or useful manner. We will not get results until at best near the end of the school year and are not allowed to see student answers to analyze errors. Nor will their next year’s teacher be allowed to see that information.

In the past we could tell the state if a question was flawed (no correct answer, was confusing, or incorrectly translated). There is no longer a mechanism to do that, and we are not allowed to discuss any test items that may be incorrect or poorly constructed; at all; with anyone; not even our supervisors. And I am concerned with the quality of this assessment. It seems that development has been rushed and established ethical practices have been ignored. 

And it costs a lot. Our kids have lost so much: elementary PE and band, middle school sports and foreign language, high school art courses, the list is long. How many things could they get back if we stopped spending so much money on testing? 

And then there’s the whole data thing: What’s collected? Who sees it? How is it used? How is it protected? 

Giving this test when the state says that up to 70% will fail weighs heavily on my conscience. I would never give a test in my class that I knew most students would fail. That is not good practice. The failure rate for Special Education students and English Language Learners will be even higher. States that have already given Common Core tests, have had failure rates up to 97% for those groups. This is a civil rights issue. I am reminded of the literacy tests in the old South. 

And someone is making a lot of money off the new tests and curriculum. Testing and curriculum giant Pearson gets more profit if we all buy the same thing as opposed having choice from a variety of curricula and assessments. T-shirt companies could make more money, too, if they could make us all buy plain, white t-shirts but then we’d all be wearing the same plain, white t-shirt. 

There’s a lot wrong and not much time here. 

I request that the board hold a work session around standardized testing that teachers and parents could attend to discuss this further. 

Also, tonight I am informing you that I am a conscientious objector to this test. As a professional career educator, I believe our students deserve better. 

This being said, please select one of the options below. Thank you. 

___-->__ Kathleen Jeskey, your concerns are noted and valued and you will be allowed to opt out of administering the SBA without any retribution.


___-->_ Kathleen Jeskey, your concerns are noted but administration in this district requires you to administer the SBA despite your objections and the harm, outlined above, that you believe SBA causes.


  1. Thank you, Kathleen, for your boldness and sincerity, and expecially, for standing up for our children. You are so admired!!


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