The end of the semester at Stony Brook university is rapidly approaching. With the pressure of finals and graduation, one would expect for food consumption to increase around campus.
However, taking a quick look at the different dining halls all over campus, it seems as if not much eating is going on. In fact, a lack of meal points is currently forcing students to look for alternatives to feed themselves.
According to the Faculty Student Association, over 6,000 students are currently enrolled in one of the four residential meal plans the university offers.
The FSA website also states that “ Resident students, who live in a residence hall or area designated as non-cooking, must enroll in a resident meal plan regardless of class year or tenure at Stony Brook.”
This leaves most students with four meal plan options to choose from. Naturally, more than half of those students have enrolled in the cheapest meal plan option, the Bronze plan.
This plan which costs $1,930 per semester offers a total of 1325 points. This equals to about $10 per day.
However, according to James Lekstutis, a student resident assistant in Roosevelt quad, a single meal in any of the dining halls on campus costs about $9. This leaves students with a dollar to spare for the rest of the day.
According to Campus Dining Services Marketing Manager, Carly Shephard, the Bronze meal plan is not targeted to full time resident students. “There are some students who work for campus dining and get discounts or free meals, the bronze plan would work for those students.”
More expensive meal plan options are available for students, including the silver, gold and platinum plans, which offer a larger amount of meal points.
However, in an effort to reduce the costs of attending college, students prefer to deal with the cheaper option, even if it means restricting their diets.
Student Iftear Naser, says at times he restricts his food intake up to a single meal per day in order to budget his meal points throughout the semester.
Alternatives to buying food in the dining halls include attending club meetings and events that offer free food, cooking easy-to-make food, surviving on noodle soup and mac and cheese or visiting the food pantry located in the union building.
According to Shephard, campus dining is constantly working to help students with low to no meal points offering a variety of promotions and events such as midnight breakfast, strawberry fest, and discounts in certain products at the dining halls.
“We need to educate students,” said Carly Shephard, ” and Campus Dining is currently working with those who need our help,” she added.
In the wake of announcements that Stony Brook’s Student Union would be vacated by January 2016 to make way for renovations, questions arose on the fate of the many clubs and organizations that occupy offices throughout the building.
Rooms 081 and 049 in the basement currently house the Craft Center, which holds frequent events that according to Andri Achilleos, 21, a double-major in studio art and art history, allow students to “relax and get away from the stress of work and classes,” and the Ceramics Center, where students, faculty and members of the local community gather to mold everything from sculptures to dishware.
The plans to relocate the two spaces, according to employees and frequenters of the Craft Center and its services are non-existent.
Also being lost to the Union reconstruction is the Student Activities Center Art Gallery.
According to Samantha Tracy, president of Stony Brook’s Fine Arts Organization, the space is being vacated to make way for the offices of the religious organizations that are currently housed on the second floor of the Union.
“I had to tell the future president and the future members that I’m not sure if you’re going to have a gallery space and be prepared to not have one,” said Tracy. “A huge learning tool in the art world is being able to look at your fellow students’ artwork and to share ideas. So now you have this matrix of ideas from other cultures, from other artists, from people of different ages and different skill levels, and you can walk around and you can talk about it and discuss concepts. Just that visual stimulation is a huge process in learning. That sharing of ideas really benefits Stony Brook and the Stony Brook community.”
This has raised concern amongst students and employees of the Craft Center and Art Gallery, who argue the value of having organizations and events like the Craft Night and student galleries on campus.
Along with Samantha Tracy and Emily Brownawell, a senior studio art major and avid user of the Ceramics Center, Achilleos began two petitions for the Craft Center and Art Gallery to raise awareness of the situation among the student body, reaching 1,200 signatures and earning the Craft Center administration a meeting with Dean of Students and Assistant VP of Student Affairs Tim Ecklund, who heard the case for maintaining outlets like theirs on campus.
“We didn’t start the petition as craft center employees, but as students,” said Achilleos. “We can actually show that students care.”
The case Achilleos and other advocates for finding a new place for these outlets is the necessity for stress relief provided by artistic endeavors.
“I definitely know that a lot of students, especially with the Craft Nights, come here to destress and to relax,” said Mikaela Batista, a graduate student in the Art History program who recently started working in the Craft Center.
According to Kate Valerio from Stony Brook’s Health Education office, the stress relief afforded by art is very real.
“There are definite health benefits to finding ways to distract yourself and use your hands” said Valerio. “[Health Education] has utilized the Art Gallery in several ways to support destressing of students. We’ve hosted poetry night in the Art Gallery among other events. Finding ways to utilize your hands has a definite stress-relieving effect.”
Batista said, “[The Craft Center] is just a great place to come and be creative. You don’t have to be an artist to enroll in a class here or learn or to meet new friends. I think that should be something that’s valued here, especially for students.”
This April, Stony Brook University hosted its largest ever Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). A total of 33 events took place in just 22 days to inform students and the community on how to prevent sexual assault.
Student groups and university organizations collaborated to hold a variety of sexual assault awareness programs. Each event took its own unique approach in teaching students on how to prevent sexual assault, or power-based violence.
While one or two presentations a week about sexual assault awareness is typical for Christine Szaraz, the Prevention and Outreach Counselor for the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), she attended up to four events each day in April.
“I’ll never say no to these presentations because it’s taken my entire career here at Stony Brook to see the level of demand for these kinds of services reach this peak,” said Szaraz.
Reported rape decreased in Suffolk County and New York state in 2012. But, sexual assault reports increased at Stony Brook that year. According to an SBU campus police report, there were 17 sexual assaults at SBU in 2012, which is five more than in 2011 and 10 more than in 2010.
In addition, the recent scandal of SBU alumna Sarah Tubbs who sued the school for “deliberate indifference” for how it handled her sexual assault case has drawn more attention to the topic of sexual assault on college campuses.
“I think what may contribute to the idea that the level of intensity around violence has increased, or maybe there’s more violence than there ever was is the media attention and presence,” Szaraz said.
She discussed how sexual assault goes beyond the physical attack commonly associated with rape. She said that people today are more educated on what actually qualifies as rape, which is when someone has sex with a person who simply says no. This has led to more people identifying and reporting sexual assault.
“If someone thinks that rape is this really narrow limited set of circumstances, it’s just a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife or a gun, then you’re not going to see a whole range of circumstances that legally qualify as rape even if it’s happening right in front of you,” said Szaraz.
Matthew Sacco, a senior English major at SBU, tried to inform students that sexual assault can manifest itself in more subtle ways. He is the president and founder of Students United for Action (SUFA), and organized a campaign called “Light in the Dark” where members inform students about how to intervene as a bystander witnessing sexual assault. During the evening of Thursday, April 23, SUFA members taped glow sticks to pamphlets with information about bystander intervention and handed them out to students.
The glow sticks were intended to invite more students to hear the members discuss their mission, rather than trying to gain their attention by simply giving them a piece of paper. The Student Union was their main destination where crowds of sororities and fraternities huddled around the entrance, waiting for their rides to attend house parties off campus.
“After doing this outreach for a very long time, you understand when someone is ready to have a conversation or even when having a conversation about sexual assault is triggering someone’s personal experiences,” said Sacco, who spent the night handing out glow sticks to students and engaging them in conversations about the mission of “Light in the Dark.”
“It’s been really amazing to be a part of this because I’ve had so many great conversations with people and I think it’s been really amazing empowering advocates who really didn’t know how to address the issue.”
A core theme of SAAM was emphasizing that sexual assault doesn’t discriminate whom it affects.
“Sexual violence is not about women, it’s about community,” said Dr. Smita Majumdar Das, CPO Assistant Director. “Men, women, everyone is equally impacted by violence. So, when we’re looking at a community, we’re looking at how we as a community change our norms and step in when violence occurs. It’s about you, it’s about me, it’s about everyone to play our part in this.”
Tanya Barbot, a junior psychology and sociology double major, volunteered to help SUFA with their “Light in the Dark” event. She sought to inform both male and female students about the issue of bystander intervention.
“There’s a lot of people who are afraid to step in because they feel like they don’t really have a say in what’s going on or they’re afraid of the repercussions of what can happen,” Tanya Barbot said, as students chattered around her in their fraternity or sorority groups. “But, they need to understand that they need to protect other people.”
“Light in the Dark” wasn’t the only event on SBU that looked to spread sexual assault awareness. On April 27, junior english major, Christine Publik, hosted an event titled “50 Shades of Grey Areas” in the H Quad on campus. She used the event to tackle the important issue of how to define sexual consent, and to avoid the “grey” areas.
“Consent is defined by SBU as a negation or the act of saying no,” said Publik. “Rape culture, victim blaming and what people think consent is in general is really important for me because the policies are there, but there are so much more in between like the ‘grey’ areas.”
Publik’s event title is a play on words in reference to the highly acclaimed and controversial book and movie adaptation “50 Shades of Grey.” The story drew attention to abusive relationships, which is closely associated with domestic violence and sexual assault. Some argued that the relationship between the two characters falsely portrayed a positive BDSM relationship. Hence, Publik’s use of the title “50 Shades of Grey Areas.”
Additionally, groups of students gathered on the afternoon of April 14 for a march through the SBU academic mall. This event was called “Walk in their Shoes,” and was hosted by one of the campus sororities and Megan Smedley, an internship consultant at the SBU Career Center. Participants shouted, “Stop the violence, stop the silence,” catching the attention of many onlookers with their energy.
With the wide array of sexual assault awareness programs that took place this April, Szaraz plans to host even more events next year. She compared the amount of focus students gave to sexual assault awareness when she graduated from SBU in 2003 to the attention the topic draws today.
“So, what I’m seeing is the temperature generally having come up if we’re looking at warmer being better and more people getting involved and engaged,” said Szaraz. “When I was a student, I would say that the temperature was rather cool. It was tepid water. But, now the water is really warm. I don’t think we’re simmering, but we’re approaching that simmering point.”
Carey Legett, known by his nickname Chip, is a geology graduate student, studying planetary surface compositions using methods such as near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, but trying to communicate his work to the public is a challenge, he said.
“What we’re doing is so narrow and specific of a type of study and field that even other geologists aren’t familiar with this technique,” Chip said. “So the fact that, to someone that doesn’t have any science training at all that this is difficult to explain isn’t surprising.”
An explanation of his work can be understandable, as his work progresses, reading a graph depicting light wavelengths and color may raise eyebrows.
As for Professor Timothy Glotch, who proposed the project to NASA and receives funding from it said the challenge of communication may be with scientists themselves.
“I think the basic problem is that scientists spend too much time in their own heads,” Glotch said. “You don’t spend a lot of time about, ‘oh how do I tell somebody else about it?”
Glitch added that scientists use time to try to work on “problems that you want to fix.”
Scientists do get assistance on communicating their work to the public through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
Gone are the days of overhead projectors and the screeching noise of chalk on a chalkboard. Now is the time for Apple TVs and iPads to teach, increasing mobility for college and university professors and bringing more interaction between students and professors, and students and their fellow peers.
Stony Brook University is among the many schools in the country with technology beginning to take center stage and the University is wasting no time. Newly-opened Frey Hall is the technological hub of the school, utilizing Apple TVs in all four of the lecture halls in the building and designing a classroom that may look like it did 100 years ago, but is technologically advanced for 2015.
“The vision for the learning spaces at Stony Brook is supporting teaching practices that already exist but envisioning the ways that faculty want to engage students in the future and power a lot of that through really smart design and the use of technology whether it’s existing or emerging technologies,” the University’s Chief Information Officer Cole Camplese said.
According to Camplese, the classrooms of the future need to support three things in order to be successful. Really good wireless, different kinds of ways for faculty to interact with students and more flexibility.
This, in turn, will allow professors to teach as they please, whether it is to continue to stand in front of a class and lecture, or to walk around and engage their students while using the technology present, something Camplese strongly encourages.
“I think the future of teaching looks less like drill and practice, lecture and repeat, and doing more of that stuff out of the classroom and have time in the classroom to participate and do stuff,” the former Penn State Senior Director of Teaching and Learning with Technology said.
The goal for technology going forward is to be more of an aid in assisting students to learn. At a young age, students are put into groups by sitting at tables, making them work together and work as a team. As students got older, it was more singular in nature, with teachers having students do a lot of the work on their own.
Camplese wants to get back to the good old days.
“Learning is a social enterprise, and we do it better when we do it together,” he said.
There are some downfalls to it, however, as chemistry professor Joseph Lauher describes for his class. He has to use clickers, or quick answering devices to send answers to his laptop, because the phones have one significant downfall to them.
“They just simply aren’t fast enough,” Lauher said. “For what I’m trying to do with my class, they just are not fast enough. Would I love to just use the phones [for both the quizzes and clickers]? Yeah! But it isn’t fast enough yet.”
The big thing that the technology is going to do is unite students and bring back collaborative learning. This takes education back in time when in reality it is moving forward.
“It returns us to a time when technology wasn’t the driver of a classroom,” Camplese said.
As time progresses, Camplese wants to create a diversity of workspaces, where professors can use this technology as much or as little as they please. But the possibility of them being there is what he hopes will entice the professors to use it and realize that there is something there.
“The chalkboard challenged teachers in a way that computers are doing that now,” Camplese said. “It unlocked all of these potentials that scared the heck out of students.”
Well, right now, technology is unlocking a lot of potentials that is scaring the professors instead. But down the road, it will be a great innovation that the teachers will enjoy.
New York has become the 23rd state to open its doors to medical marijuana. Back in July of 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a limited medical marijuana bill. Supporters in New York are frustrated with the bill’s restrictions and how long it is taking to go into effect.
On March 24, U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen. and Don Young along with U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Kirstin Gellibrand and Cory Booker introduced the CARERS Act, which would prevent the federal government from controlling or interfering with the state medical marijuana laws.
Hintz wants this bill to pass for her daughter, Morgan. Morgan is four-years-old and suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that causes frequent and dangerous seizures.
The medications prescribed to Morgan have not only been ineffective, but have also given her terrible side effects. Doctors have suggested the use of cannabidiol oil, a form of medical marijuana.
Hints wrote a letter on change.org urging more people to co-sponsor the bill.
“Congress is lagging far behind the American people on this issue and it’s going to take all of our voices to change the status quo,” Gellibrand wrote in response to the letter.
Hintz is just one of many families who have a loved one suffering from ailments like this.
CNN has been reporting about medical marijuana a lot lately. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent, wrote a piece last month about how it is “time for a medical marijuana revolution.”
Marijuana at the federal level is still considered a schedule I drug, which is defined a drug with no currently accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse.
“Marijuana, it doesn’t kill people, you can’t overdose on it. However, it has been scheduled as a class one drug for whatever reason,” Matt Elmes, a PhD student at Stony Brook University who conducted a study on marijuana said. “In recent years it has been a lot easier to study it and it seems to be easier and easier, so I think there will be a lot more studies coming out on the effects and benefits and how we can use this drug.”
Many medical marijuana advocated are unhappy with the restrictions that were put on the bill in order for Cuomo to pass it.
“It is the compassionate care act, but many people now refer to it as the Cuomo care act,” Brian Batrowny, a member of the New York Cannabis Alliance, said. “He refused to sign it [the bill] until there were several provisions made.”
The most notable provisions that Governor Cuomo made were that he eliminated ailments that were initially on the bill to receive medical marijuana as a form of treatment and to use medical cannabis it needs to be extracted into an oil form‑not smoked and not an edible.
Here’s what the medical marijuana law does say: A patient who has been certified by a doctor to use medical marijuana will register with the New York State Department of Health and receive a patient I.D. card. Specially approved organization can dispense the medical marijuana to these patients—under the Department of Health’s supervision.
In order to receive this treatment, one must have what the state defines as a “serious condition.” Some of these include, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and managing epilepsy.
One of the major issues for advocates now is the bill is taking a long time to come into effect.
Hintz spoke at a press conference at the end of April with her daughter about how mothers who have children with epilepsy often obtain medical cannabis illegally, which makes them technically criminals.
“How much longer do you want to delay,” she asked Cuomo.
New York’s medical marijuana program is set to begin next year.
In a press release on April 28, from Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried he addresses this issue. The release talked about how the bill came 298 days after Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law.
“To date, not one patient has received medical marijuana, and at least three children who might have benefitted from this well-known form of medical marijuana, have died since the bill was passed,” the press release reads.
Since July, advocates have been pressuring the Cuomo Administration to create an interim emergency access program for those who are suffering and may not be able to wait the amount of time that the Governor needs to get the medical marijuana program up and running.
Representatives like Gottfried and all behind the CARERS Act, have been doing that they can in the mean time to help.
“The failure of the Cuomo Administration to act in the face of the suffering of the terminally and critically ill and the deaths of at least three young children is unconscionable,” Julie Netherland, PhD, deputy state director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said.
“Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways,” Distraction.gov says on their homepage. “In 2013, 3,154 were killed in distracted driving crashes.”
The website lists a number of things someone can do to distract themselves from driving a vehicle. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association counts text messaging while driving the worst distraction because texting draws in a driver’s manual, cognitive and visual attention.
According to a survey done by the NHTSA, 660,000 people use a cell phone at any given time while they’re behind the wheel. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute also conducted a study in 2013 on distracted driving and they found that looking down a cell phone doubles the risk of a car accident.
When looking further into the numbers, studies find that over 10 percent of drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were reported to be driving distracted at the time of the accident. Distraction.gov’s main goal is to use facts about distracted driving paired with real-life stories from people involved in a distracted driving-related accident to raise awareness about the subject.
“We know that awareness is not a solution by itself,” Lori Millen, a marketing specialist at Distraction.gov, said.
Millen said she believes that texting and driving is more a selfish, behavioral thing. She said the NHTSA has been embedding more videos and messages into YouTube videos and other groups in order to target more younger people.
When brought down to a local perspective, Stony Brook University is taking some of the same steps the government is taking to thwart young drivers from using their cellphones while driving. The initiative the university has been taking is mainly headed by the campus police department.
The campus police have ticketed more drivers on campus so far this year than they have in the past two years. Assistant Chief of Police, Eric Olsen, said this is because officers have been deliberately trying harder to catch people using a cell phone while driving before they cause an accident on or around campus.
He said university police are trying to educate people away from the act and that the last option is enforcement. As of March 31 of this year, campus police have given out 12 summonses to distracted drivers. This time last year, only 7 summonses were given out.
Olsen said there have not been any deaths and few injuries caused by an act of distracted driving. The most severe accident occurred by Stony Brook Hospital when a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and contracted a brain injury. In this case, the pedestrian was the one who was distracted and didn’t see the car at the cross walk.
“There are a higher percentage of people walking than driving,” Olsen said. “But driving is more dangerous.”
Along with raising awareness on distracted driving, campus police have also included distracted walking into the initiative as well. They have installed messages on the pavement to thwart walkers from walking and looking down at their phones. So far, there are two pavement messages on campus, one by the Life Sciences cross walk and one by Tabler Quad. Both signs send a short and sweet message to “LOOK!” before crossing the road.
There are also cell phone applications that campus police have been promoting to students. AT&T Drive Mode is one of the apps students can use to drive safer. The app automatically replies to any text messages that are sent to a cell phone user when they are driving and silences all phone notifications. The app even turns on as soon as a car is in motion.
Campus police are not alone in their efforts to combat distracted driving. Stony Brook’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership offers a distracted driving curriculum to local high schools. The goal of the Center is to educate Long Island youth before they begin to drive so that the numbers of texting and driving incidents on the Island decrease.
The program is directed by Dr. Carlos Fidel who started teaching about distracted driving after some students suggested it to him. Within the center, Stony Brook doctors and professors put on a two-day lecture on distracted driving, complete with facts and statistics, videos and driving simulators, for these high school students.
“From the high school teachers, from what the students tell the high school teachers, I think it’s been successful,” Dr. Stephen Smith, a cardiology professor and member of the Center, said. “We’ve gotten a lot of letters and emails indicating the students continue to talk about it. They felt the presentation was great and they feel that it has made an impact.”
Dr. Smith has been participating in this program since it first started. He said the data on the program’s success has not yet been recorded to officially gauge the success of the distracted driving curriculum. The program mainly works with high-needs school districts around Long Island. So far, the Center has not done anything directly for the university.
“The whole idea behind the program is saving lives,” Smith said. “And it’s young people’s lives.”
It seems new trends come left and right, whether it being the latest hairstyle, blue being the new black, or the never-ending latest diet fad.
A new fad among some women to hit the scene is tight lacing, or better known as waist training. This is the practice of wearing a tightly laced corset to slim your mid-drift.
There are various reasons why women would put their bodies into such extremes. One in particular is to hopefully lose inches off of their waist. While other popular goals is to maintain an hourglass shape or to help lose post pregnancy weight.
With this, one would be reshaping their ribcage to the desired silhouette.
This is new but not so. Corsets were first worn by male and female Minoans of Crete, though it did not become popular until the 16th century France and remained a fashionable dress until the French Revolution. Though, wearing a corset during these times were for different reasons.
Women would wear them to push up their breasts so they would peek over the corset, creating a bustier look, as well as a less rigid bodice.
As time passed, style had evolved. Until the 1840’s were the desire for a tighter silhouette was desired. It wasn’t until the late years of the Victorian era that medical reports and rumors claimed that tight lacing was fatally detrimental to health.
Then again, in the late 1900s the small corseted waist was no longer fashionable. That is until now, in the new millennium, the trend has been reintroduced.
Waist training today works as so, first one is recommended to do research. Find out exactly what goal they are trying to achieve and the severity they are willing to go.
Then there is finding out the corset preference. There are a few, such as, brocade, cotton, leather and satin. What they all do have in common is that they are steel boned, helping to keep a maintained shape in the corset.
Tiffani, a team member and video blogger for the Orchard Corset Blog, says that there is no one answer when you will see results. Numerous factors contribute to results. It all depends on your commitment. How many hours and days you wear the corset, and if you are incorporating diet and exercise.
It is advised that to have proper results you must incorporate all of this.
With popular celebrities such as the Kardashian clan and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who swear by this based on their social media updates, their adoring fans are easy to follow.
Jessica Alba, another believer of waist training, revealed to Net-A-Porter magazine that she “wore a double corset day and night for months,” to help rid her post pregnancy weight.
Now whether this works or not, the most important question to ask is, is it safe?
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of OBGYN at Yale School of Medicine, says once you take the garment off, your body will return to its usual shape. It’s also uncomfortable, restricts your movements, and if you wear it really tight, it can even make it difficult to breathe and theoretically could cause rib damage. There are plenty other statistics about this but I am not going to list them all just yet.
This also plays into a psychological sense. Meaning, using the media to convince women they should portray a certain body image.
Psychologist Marci Lobel this can help produce eating disorders in women. Some studies, such as “The Thin Ideal,” show that girls in the second grade, who see their moms and women in the media striving for this “perfect body,” begin to develop body image issues at a younger age. Claiming that they hate their bodies, want to lose weight and are already on a diet.
It seems that at the end of the day there is going to only be two things to get your body into a slimmer shape, diet and exercise, or just be happy with who you are.
Teachers have always used assessments to drive instruction. Tests help teachers determine comprehension of the material, monitor strengths and weaknesses and identify whether or not topics need to be retaught, modified or enriched. Testing is a way to monitor their teaching, as well as their students’ knowledge.
During the 2012-2013 school year, in response to the Common Core Learning Standards, a new type of high stakes testing was implemented across the country, to all third through eighth grade students. A high-stakes test is any particular exam that is a single, defined assessment, has a clear line drawn between passing and failing, and has something at stake, with direct consequences for passing or failing.
In reality, these tests are more likely to affect teachers than students.
The test is graded on a basis that is almost too simple and leaves more questions than answers. Math and English Language Arts are the only two subjects these students are tested on, and they are graded on a scale of one to four, with the passing score of three or four, being determined after all exams have been scored.
There are 180 topics to be taught each year, which means a new topic to learn each school day. Joseph Rella, PhD, superintendent of the Comsewogue School District in Port Jefferson Station, NY, said this leaves little to no time for learning about any other subjects, such as social studies and science, and does not allot time for snow days and assemblies.
Jeanette Deutermann, founder of the Long Island Opt-Out Movement and mother of two from Bellmore, NY, said her son experienced stomach aches while in the fourth grade because of the pressure he felt to do well on these high stakes tests.
“I had the doctor check him out, and I asked if we should be running tests. They ran a blood test to try to find out what was going on, if there was something physically wrong,” she said. “And what they concluded was that it was stress, anxiety. This was a couple months before the test. The stomach aches stopped the day I told my son he wouldn’t be taking these tests.”
Elementary and middle school students are being taught for a test, leaving them stressed and confused. In some cases, students were so set on doing well on these exams that it caused actual physical illnesses.
In response to these high stakes tests that were stressing out children, both in and outside of the classroom, making them hate going to school, Deutermann discovered there was a way to prevent students from having to take these tests, which is how the Opt-Out movement got started on Long Island. Opting out simply means the student will not sit for these exams.
What began in upstate New York quickly became popular across the state. According to the New York State Allies for Public Education, it is very simple for parents to opt their children out, or refuse the high stakes tests.
All parents have to do is download the refusal letter, which is available in numerous languages. This letter thanks the school district’s administrators for their dedication to the schools, but states that the child will not participate in the testing, and should be graded as though they refused to take the tests. The letter also asks that an alternative activity be in place for children who are not being tested.
A main concern of the parents and teachers is that teacher evaluations are based on the students’ performance on these high stakes tests.
And although parents do have concerns, there are still students across Long Island who are taking these tests. Our inquiries for comments from these parents in school districts across Long Island have gone unanswered.
For years, teachers were evaluated based on observations of their teaching style, lesson plans and effectiveness in the classroom. As of right now, 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation comes from these tests – 20 percent for state tests, and 20 percent for local tests (which districts can choose not to do). The other 60 percent is based on observations done by the principal or supervisor. As part of the new state budget, which passed April 1, 2015, Gov. Cuomo has pushed for the high stakes tests to have an even greater impact on teacher evaluations.
Many argue that putting students through all of this stress and anxiety for an exam that is used to evaluate teachers, not the students taking them, is unfair. Some supporters of the Opt-Out Movement say they believe that students are being used as pawns in the governor’s war on teachers.
The Comsewogue School District has been at the forefront of the Opt-Out Movement since it began in 2013. This year in Comsewogue alone, 82% of third through eighth grade students did not take the reading tests and nearly 85% did not take the math exams.
“I will never be put in the position where I cannot help a child,” said Dimino. “As a New York state teacher I am required by state law to be a mandated reporter for child abuse. This, in my opinion, is child abuse. I believe that I contributed to that last year and in the years past when I did administer these tests.”
Dimino says she feels so strongly about the Opt-Out Movement that she is willing to risk losing her job.
“I refused to administer the tests with the full understanding that the district [Comsewogue] can choose not to reassign me,” Dimino said. “This district chose to reassign me, but the district could have chosen to write me up for insubordination and filed charges against me.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, an avid supporter of the Common Core curriculum and the high-stakes testing that go along with it, has said that the tests do nothing for the students taking the tests.
“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo told parents. “They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count.”
By saying this, it has only angered parents more.
“What sparked a lot of this movement this year and a lot of the explosion of the Opt-Out Movement was Cuomo declaring war on the teachers,” said Deutermann. “That’s the part that he he just has never understood. You cannot hurt teachers without hurting kids. You can’t do it to one without doing another.”