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[Susan notes: Here's a letter from a mom, a leader in the growing grassroots movement against high-stakes testing, who points out that kids, not statistical anomalies, are what counts.]

Published in Education Week

To the editor

In his Commentary "Does High-Stakes Testing Hurt Students?" (Feb. 5, 2003), Laurence Steinberg does his level best to throw statistical stones at the controversial new study by Arizona State University researchers that suggests high-stakes testing may be doing more harm than good. Mr. Steinberg pulls out the old "coin toss" example of drawing probability from chance occurrences as a way to prove that the results of the study are not to be trusted.

I would like to remind him that high-stakes- testing days come with their own series of coin tosses for each and every student. Did the students get a good breakfast, or were they rushed out the door? Did their parents yell at them or give them a big hug on the way out? Are they in peak physical condition, or are they destined to throw up all over their test booklets? There are thousands of kids all over the country suffering unnecessary feelings of anxiety, depression, and failure because they lost a coin toss or two.

Mr. Steinberg might see these children as statistical anomalies; I view them as victims of child abuse. If Mr. Steinberg can tolerate this kind of needless emotional suffering as an acceptable cost of a testing experiment he admits might never bear any fruit, I would suggest that psychology may not be his true calling.

Sue Allison

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