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Do High Stakes Tests Cause Children to Commit Suicide to Escape the Stress?

> July 24, 2017 UPDATE <

“Middle School Suicides Double As Common Core Testing Intensifies”

“The suicide rate among 10-to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014 – the same period in which states have increasingly adopted Common Core standards and new, more rigorous high stakes tests.”

My original post continues from here:

First from FairTest – November 2013:

  • Laela Gray, an eight-year-old Florida girl, became a poster child for high-stakes testing trauma after she was told she could not advance to fourth grade because she scored 181 instead of 182 on the third grade state reading test
  • Many teachers say pressure to prepare students for more rigorous Common Core tests means the youngest children are now required to do work that is wildly age-inappropriate.:
  • Common Core tests are meant to be harder to pass. In New York State, scores from the first administration of Common Core-based exams dropped dramatically from the previous year’s test results. Drops were particularly enormous in districts serving large numbers of English language learners and students with special needs.
  • Even kindergarten is no longer a refuge from the test preparation craze. New York kindergartners are bubbling in standardized exams based on Common Core math standards so there is test data to use for their teachers’ evaluations. Their teachers report that many of these young children don’t even know how to hold pencils yet and don’t understand how to fill in bubbles on test answer sheets.

And from rethinking schools.org we discover, “Under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted or revised their standards and began testing every student, every year in every grade from 3 – 8 and again in high school.”

Then there is this from The Washington Post: For the last year a revolt against high-stakes standardized testing has been growing around the country, with teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and students speaking out about the negative impact on education of this obsession.

Now, let’s look closer at child suicide rates:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says, Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2013, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 10.9 per every 100,000 in that age bracket.

But if you click on the previous link and scroll down to Suicide Rates by Age from 2000 to 2013, you will discover that the suicide rate of children aged 15 to 24 were not always 10.9. In fact, in 2000, the suicide rate for ages 15 to 24 was 10.2 and for the next three years, the suicide rate declined to 9.9; then 9.8 for 2002, and a low of 9.5 for 2003 before it leaped to 10.3 for 2004 and started to climb right along with the corporate education reform agenda and the high stakes tests linked to the No Child Left Behind (2001) and then the Common Core Standards (2010).

After the Common Core appeared in 2010 followed by its high stakes tests, the childhood suicide rate climbed to 10.5 and then to 10.9 where it held steady for three years in a row: 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The suicide rates for children that were less than age 14 has also climbed since 2000 when the rate was 0.5—a rate that held steady or dropped until 2013 when the rate shot up to 0.7 per 100,000 children for the first time.

In this post, I want to demonstrate the dramatic increase in child suicide rates to discover how many children are committing suicide due to the alleged stress caused by No Child Left Behind (NCLB – 2001) and Race To The Top (RTTP -2009) in addition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS – 2010) and the PARCC tests that followed.

In 2000, the U.S. Census reported there were about 41 million children ages 5 to 14, and 39.1 million children ages 15 to 24. In 2000, 205 children ages 5 to 14, and 3,988 young adults ages 14 to 24 committed suicide.

Thirteen years later, in 2013, the U.S. Census reported that there were 40.9 million children ages 5 to 14 and 43.5 million young adults ages 15 to 24. In 2013, 286 children ages 5 to 14—a dramatic increase of 39.5 percent since 2000—and 4,741.5 young adults ages 15 to 24—another dramatic increase of 18.9 percent since 2000—committed suicide.

If we look at the numbers starting with 2011 when the child suicide rate hit 0.7 and/or 10.9 per 100,000, an additional 243 children ages 5 – 14 and 2,260.5 young adults ages 15 to 24 committed suicide possibly because of the added stress caused by NCLB, CCSS and PARCC.

What else can possible explain the DRAMATIC increase in child suicide rates? Could it be the divorce rate that leads to broken families? Let’s find out. In 1980, the annual divorce rate was 5.2 per 1,000, but in 2000 it was 4.2, and by 2009, the annual divorce rate was down to 3.5. With these dramatic drops in the divorce rate, how can we blame the increase in childhood suicides on divorce, and in 2012, the CDC reported that the divorce rate was down to 3.4 per 1,000 total population? Infoplease.com and CDC.gov

Darn, if we can’t blame it on the divorce rate, what do we blame it on—the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere?

The answer is simple: Children, starting in kindergarten—where these high stakes testing are also appearing in some states—to 12th grade, spend most of their time second to the time spent at home where they sleep about a third of the day in addition to spending several hours of their free time daily outside of school having fun texting their friends, social networking, playing video games and watching TV—while they are stressing about those tests that might cause their favorite teachers to be fired and their local public schools closed.

Let’s look closely at what was happening to the public schools starting in the 1980s to 2013 to learn how this happened.

First—there was the fraud behind A Nation at Risk, a report released in 1983 during the Reagan years in the White House (Have you ever read The Enduring Lies of Ronald Reagan?). This was the beginning of the alleged claims that the public schools were failing our children and the nation was at risk. But in 1990, the often ignored Sandia Report offered proof that A Nation at Risk was misleading and that the public schools were actually improving.

Second—on May 19, 1999, President Bill Clinton said the government has to do a “far, far better job” with the $15 billion it sends to schools every year, and Clinton announced he was sending Congress his blueprint for how to spend those funds. “We know fundamentally that if we are going to change the way our schools work, we must change the way we invest federal aid in our schools,” Clinton said, and the pressure on children, teachers and the public schools increased even though NAEP Reading and Math tests that first started in 1969 revealed steady annual improvements in the test scoresDiane Ravitch says, “The point here is that NAEP scores show steady and very impressive improvement over the past twenty years.” – For the details, read Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

Third—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) mandated the impossible: All children must be college and career ready on time by high school graduation even though no country on the earth had ever achieved this goal and has never tried. In fact, the United States is one of the top-five countries in the world for the ratio of college graduates, and there are almost three qualified applicants who are college graduates for every job that requires a college degree. Why do 100% of 17/18 year olds have to be ready for college?

Fourth—President Obama’s Race to the Top made the demands on the public schools worse.

Fifth—adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;

Sixth—building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;

The results:

High Stakes Tests Make Kids Sick – UFT

The Alliance for Childhood revealed that parents, teachers, school nurses, psychologists, and child psychiatrists reported that the stress of high-stakes testing was literally making children sick. – EdWeek.org

TeacherBiz.com says, High-stakes tests: bad for students, teachers, and education in general.

The Alliance for Childhood reports that “There is growing evidence that the pressure and anxiety associated with high-stakes testing is unhealthy for children–especially young children–and may undermine the development of positive social relationships and attitudes towards school and learning. … Parents, teachers, school nurses and psychologists, and child psychiatrists report that the stress of high-stakes testing is literally making children sick.”

Who do we hold responsible for the deaths of thousands of children pressured to take their own lives? If you want to discover who these monsters are, I suggest you read Common Core Dilemma and A Chronicle of Echoes by Mercedes K. Schneider.

Then there is the testing industry. Learn about The Testing Industry’s Big Four from KQED’s Frontline.

PBS says, “Even without the impetus of the No Child Left Behind Act, testing is a burgeoning industry. The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College compiled data from The Bowker Annual, a compendium of the dollar-volume in test sales each year, and reported that while test sales in 1955 were $7 million (adjusted to 1998 dollars), that figure was $263 million in 1997, an increase of more than 3,000 percent. Today, press reports put the value of the testing market anywhere from $400 million to $700 million.”

In addition, The Washington Post reports Big education firms spend millions lobbying for pro-testing policies.

Are high stakes tests that rank and punish public school teachers and close public schools really about improving education or are they about increasing profits for big corporations in this age of legalized avarice and greed?

“It’s probably safe to say that statewide assessment will not produce any startling revelations about what can be done by teachers with pupils to help children learn more effectively.”  – Beers and Campbell (1973)

What was true in 1973 is still true today!

To learn more about the problems of using student test scores to evaluate teachers, click on this link that will take you to an Economic Policy Institute report on this issue.

“Because education is both a cumulative and a complex process, it is impossible fully to distinguish the influences of students’ other teachers as well as school conditions on their apparent learning, let alone their out-of-school learning experiences at home, with peers, at museums and libraries, in summer programs, on-line, and in the community.

“No single teacher accounts for all of a student’s achievement.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal FREE Promotion July 2016

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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