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Op-Ed: For One Sixth Grader, NJ ASK Is a Misguided Waste of Time, Money, and Effort

Because she couldn't opt out, this student simply made up her own answers for the state test

I am a 6th grade student who recently took the NJ ASK. I am protesting this unnecessary test. I wished to opt out of the test, but my parents were unable to take me to school halfway through the day after the test. Because I could not opt out, I have instead decided to protest the test by creating my own answers and disregarding the prompt. I do not mean to disrespect anyone by doing so, and if I do, I sincerely apologize.

I believe that these tests are being used to unfairly evaluate teachers. They were not created to evaluate teachers; therefore, they should not be used to evaluate teachers as they currently are.

The students do not always do as well as they could, because of being put under extreme amounts of pressure and having high stress levels. Also, some of the material in the test has not yet been covered. For example, we just entered our geometry unit in math, and we aren’t even halfway through. We were told that there will be geometry on the test, something we have not learned in class yet. The teachers’ careers are impacted by this test. If their class does poorly, they will be accused of being a bad teacher, with no regard for how they actually teach.

What's more, the students are unable to see what they did wrong. It does not help to get back a simple score. How are we to improve if we are unaware of what we need to improve on?

Another thing, the students are expected to care about the test, when it really has no academic effect on them as students. They do however, get very stressed out during these times because they believe it has an academic impact on them. The test has no affect on grades, class placement, graduation, or individual learning in my school district. Unfortunately, many students believe that this test determines their classes, graduation, and they think that if they do poorly on this test, their GPA and classroom grade will drop.

These tests do not truly measure the intelligence of the student. Some students are exceptionally bright, yet they do not comprehend English writing as well as they could.

English is a difficult language to learn, and these students are expected to know it within eight months. They find these tests difficult, and do not do as well as they could have. Although they are given excess time, it doesn’t help.

I have parents who occasionally speak Swahili around the house. When I don’t understand them, I sit there trying to figure out what they said. The problem is, I don’t know it, so no amount of time helps. It only gives more stress, and a feeling of self-worthlessness. This is how they feel.

Also, it makes the school seem as if it doesn’t care for its students much. The only time the school shows any concern for student health is when there is a large test coming up, that impacts the school.

This is a waste of taxpayer money. Taxes our parents pay are not as much being used for what we think it is, but for the shipping, grading, and manufacturing of these tests. Not many people would want to pay for something like this. It is a complete waste.

The rules of the test are ridiculous from a student's view. I understand why they were all put in place, but they don’t all seem very necessary. We are expected to stay in our seats for three hours straight, and if we need to get water, or use the bathroom, we need an escort to walk us there. If we need to sharpen our pencils, get a tissue, or go to the nurse, it is difficult to find a way to do so without being silenced. If someone sneezed no one would say, “Bless you” or “Gesundheit.” That person would most likely be shushed. I believe that these rules are preposterous.

I feel that standardized testing is wrong, and if I am the only one who will do anything, then let it be. On the open-ended questions, I created my own answers. The options were A, B, C, and D. I drew and filled in bubble E, or colored in none of the bubbles, or all. On the open-ended questions I didn’t read the questions. I simply wrote, for each one, an essay about how ineffective the NJ ASK is, or something as equally pointless as the NJ ASK.

I know that there may be consequences to the school, but I am standing up for what I believe in. According to the constitution, I have a right to protest things I find morally wrong. I feel that I must make it known how terrible these tests really are.

I would like to say that my decision to protest the NJ ASK is not a reflection of my parents or teachers. They are in no way affiliated with my protest.

Enclosed below is a list of reasons why a few of my friends and I are protesting the standardized test of New Jersey referred to as NJ ASK.

Why we’re protesting the NJ ASK

  • It unfairly judges students and teachers;

  • Stress;

  • It takes up valuable learning time;

  • The students learn nothing from it;

  • It is completely pointless -- it doesn't affect anything;

  • Not everything on the test is in the curriculum;

  • Teachers' jobs depend on the score;

  • Not every student is fully able to take the test, but they are forced to;

  • Students are expected to sit still in their seats for three hours straight (without using the bathroom or getting water);

  • The rules are ridiculous;

  • It messes up over a week of school;

  • It makes the school seem uncaring -- the one time the school cares about student health is when teachers gain something from it;

  • It’s unfair to English-language learners and people with disorders such as dyslexia;

  • It is a waste of taxpayer money.

Most of this information is based on the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district. Things may vary slightly in different districts.

Casey Larkin is a 6th grader at Grover Middle School in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district. She lives in Princeton Junction.

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