Jeanette Deutermann did not intend to become the leader of the most effective testing opt-out organization in the United States. She was a suburban mom trying to figure out why her son no longer wanted to go to school.
The year that Long Island Opt Out began, her son was an unhappy fourth-grader with school anxiety that was increasing every day. During February 2012, Jeanette Deutermann began investigating why her son, who once loved school, so much now hated it.“
I saw it emerge a little bit during testing season in third grade,” Deutermann said. “But then the test anxiety became constant in fourth grade. After speaking with teachers and parents, I knew it was the testing.”
The 2011-12 school year was the first year that teachers in New York State were to be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Anxiety across the board was running high. She read a letter signed by over one-third of New York’s principals that explained why evaluating teachers by test scores would have unintended negative consequences on students. Jeanette began to connect the dots, and she realized that high-stakes testing was the reason that her child and his education were falling apart.“
I had to speak out and let other parents know. I felt like a whistleblower — I did not have a choice,” she explained.
Her son, she decided, would not take the test. In order to organize other like-minded parents, she began a Facebook group — Long Island Opt-Out. It started out small — the first year, 1,000 students on Long Island refused the test. Membership in the group ballooned to over 16,000 in year two. Today, Long Island Opt Out has over 23,000 members.
Opt Out has spread across the state of New York like wildfire. In the spring of 2014, between 55,000 and 65,000 students refused to take the Grades 3-8 Common Core tests, with about half of those numbers coming from Long Island. In 2015, the number was in excess of 200,000 test refusals — which meant that 20 percent of all possible test takers’ parents said, “not my child.”