Kathleen Jeskey Tells Canby, OR School Board: “I am a conscientious objector to this test.”

Kathleen Hagans Jeskey

“I am a conscientious objector to this test.”

A brave teacher, turned conscientious objector, has stood up to tell her Canby, Oregon School Board she objects to the Common Core state test called the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). Kathleen Jeskey gives us a first hand report of the event, which was fully supported by their local union.

Christopher Bangs, Canby Education Association (CEA) President and 25 teachers stood WITH Kathleen taking a strong stand against the SBA on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at their local school board meeting.  They asked the school board to pass a resolution against the SBA as Portland has and to hold a work session about the test.

Kathleen has put her job on the line for children, but feels parents have a role to play as well.

“At least the parents know how we feel.  It is up to them, I think…(the district) can’t fire the parents.”

Like the #Renton4, the teachers in Canby invited their school board members to take the practice tests which can be found here.  They too asked the district to tell parents they could opt out and CEA president stated he is opting his own kids out, as did Kathleen’s partner who also spoke out at the meeting.

CEA President, Christopher Bangs stood up before Kathleen spoke, speaking for the entire association to say that the SBA is flawed, going further to say he was opting his own children out of the SBA test.

A Canby high school AP teacher spoke to say how horrible this was for his kids too, as it is using up the time they need to study for tests that actually matter.  A number of teachers who were unable to attend the meeting turned in letters to the school board as well.

Twenty five teachers attended the event standing in solidarity against the SBA, five more turned in letters to the board, and a total of four teaches spoke to the school board.  Kathleen reported:

We got zero push back when we said we were doing it.  We got nothing but support from our union.  I am so glad we did this as a union!

Here is Kathleen’s Letter of Professional Conscience, which can also be found on the Badass Teachers Association blog site here.  (Thank you to  Kathleen Hagan Jeskey and Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs for permission to print this here.)

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.

~ Kathleen Jeskey

Subsequent to taking this courageous stand,  Kathleen reports they have heard nothing from their district.  Stay tuned for updates here as we will continue to report on the progress.

You can find out more about opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced or PARCC Common Core tests at United Opt Out.  Click on your state for more information.

What do you think?  Have you taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment practice tests yet? Have you invited your school board to take the practice tests?  Your legislators?

5 thoughts on “Kathleen Jeskey Tells Canby, OR School Board: “I am a conscientious objector to this test.”

  1. I would say that we were all standing together rather than that anyone stood behind me. Chris Bangs definitely was our association leader and spoke out not only about all of our objections to the test, but spoke as a father who will be opting his own children out of the test. Chris stood up to speak first, and all of us in attendance stood up behind him. 🙂
    I would love for my teaching partner to have her comments and her name made public as well as Chris’s comments, but I am not sure they are comfortable with that. I am asking and if so, maybe we can see those comments here later.
    I love this blog post. I just want to make sure people understand that it was all of us, even those who did not speak or write a letter but just showed up and stood while we spoke, that helped make this a strong statement by our teachers. Everyone involved deserves credit, even if they aren’t willing to try and draw a lot of attention to this action or themselves.
    Thank you so much for helping us draw attention to this national issue.


    1. We will make that clear with a revision and update the blog, Kathleen. Thank you for the clarification. Our point was more about the physical solidarity. 😉


  2. What a brave and thoughtful teacher who has devoted her life to the students in her classes, not for fame and certainly not to make a lot of money, but to move them forward realizing their potential. She and many others like her have been the targets of a commercial private war on public education. Teachers can stop this private invasion of public schools by standing with Kathleen. Parents can stop this private war on our kids and teachers by opting out.


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