Using middle schoolers for anti-testing advocacy?

Superintendent Mark D. LaRoach
Vestal School District, New York

Dear Superintendent LaRoach:

I conduct research on the effects of standardized testing on student achievement. I have read over 3 thousand studies dating back a century and spanning over thirty countries. The results have been rather astounding–on average, a very strong positive effect. These results have been corroborated by hundreds of recent studies by cognitive psychologists.

Given the rabid hatred of standardized testing among many inside US public education, however, I have gotten used to routine demonizing of me and my work from education professors and advocates, …but from middle schoolers?

Would you please verify for me that the messages below indeed came from Vestal middle schoolers? I would also be interested in your perspective on this use of both public infrastructure–the email messages were sent from your server–and middle schoolers themselves for political advocacy.

Best Wishes, Richard P. Phelps


Jan 23 at 9:03 AM

Dear Mr. Phelps:

Imagine this: you’re sitting in your homeroom, anxiously waiting to get the test over with. How do you feel? Most students feel sick and tired, which just makes it more nerve-wracking than it already is. You don’t want students to feel so nervous that they vomit and have to take the test in it, do you? Would you? Most students don’t even want to go to school everyday, so why make them dread it more? Even the kids who are sick those days have to make it up, unfair. Teachers don’t like them either; they just sit staring at the room, watching kids suffer through these terrible standardized tests. A lot of people would agree with me that you should stop standardized testing.

On the Program for International Student Achievement, the United States slipped from 18th to 31st place in 2009. We want the US to be educated even without the tests. Did you know that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long term changes in learning. They should be permanent! Also, 44% of school districts had reduced the time spent on science, social studies and the arts by an average of 145 minutes per week in order to focus on reading and math. Other subjects are important too. Do you know how these tests make students feel? Standardized testing causes severe stress in younger students. That is very unhealthy for them. Some excessive testing may teach children to be good at taking tests, but they don’t prepare them for productive adult lives. We should prepare them to be productive adults.

The schools that are feeling the pressure of NCLB (No Child Left Behind)’s proficiency requirement are “gaming the system” to raise test scores, also known as cheating. It is unfair to students for the schools to cheat because not all of them do. People say things that people believe in to get on their side. Gerald W. Bracey says that, “qualities that standardized tests cannot measure are creativity, critical thinking, honesty, and so on”. Some students want that to be measured. Gregory J. Cizek says, “Anecdotes abound illustrating how testing…produces gripping anxiety in even the brightest students, and makes young children vomit or cry, or both”. That is pure torture to students. The low-performing students are encouraged to stay home. This isn’t fair to those high-performing students to take the test.

They say that most students believe that standardized tests are fair. Honestly, not one student or teacher I know thinks that the standardized tests are fair. This is because you have to sit still for over an hour taking a test that is really boring for most students. Therefore, I believe that standardized tests are not fair.

Now, you’ve read the whole email, what do you think about standardized tests? You should be thinking that you should really eliminate them. Some students vomit and have to take a vomit-covered test, gross. Please make these silly tests come to an end.

Thank you for your time,
Emma MacDonald

Emma MacDonald
Vestal Middle School
600 South Benita Blvd.
Vestal, NY 13850


Jan 26 at 9:03 AM

Dear Superintendent Phelps,

“U.S. students slipped from 18th in the world in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with a similar decline in science and no change in reading.” Schools have spent way to much time not focusing all of the important subjects in schools and focusing on just one or two subjects, from standardized tests instead of focusing on studies and curriculum. Standardized tests hmmm, standardized tests what do I think of them… Some people think they are scary or nervous they get so extreme with nerve racking tests and “they’re life is depending on it” tests it gets out of hand. Sacrameto Bee reported that ‘test related jitters especially young students, are so common that the Stanford 9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it.

Standardized tests have no point to them it is a joke for having kids take them it is only help for teachers to judge the student and make them look. Even teachers are being pressured though because if the children d bad on the tests it is crucial for them. Schools feeling the pressure of the NCLB’s 100% proficiency requirement are “gaming the system” to raise test scores.

They say that standardized tests have a “positive effect” on student achievement. But actually you are telling lies. Students believe they are not productive and improvements from these tests are rare. Because based on a “study published by the Brookings institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary. Therefore standardized tests should not be published and children should not be able to take them.

School testing to kids are things that they despise and are always worrying about failing them and not passing, or getting put in workshop classes and not living up to their parents expectations don’t put pressure on kids stop standardized tests. Just stop for a minute and think what you are doing to kids all across the world.

Thank you for your time,

Emilia Cappellett

Vestal Middle School
600 South Benita Blvd.
Vestal, NY 13850

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