Chicago parents, teachers boycott standarized test; union supports them

The Chicago Teachers Union said that it is standing with parents and teachers boycotting a standardized test that they describe as a low-stakes test that interferes with learning. The union said that it is prepared to “mount a strong defense of (the parents’ and teachers’) collective action.”

More than 500 parents at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, a pre-K through 8th grade public school, have signed opt-out letters saying that their children will not take the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT), which Chicago public school students are scheduled to begin taking on March 3.

On Tuesday, February 25, Saucedo teachers announced that they had voted unanimously not to administer the test.

“We are taking this step of civil disobedience because we love our children and students,” said Sarah Chambers, a Saucedo teacher at a media conference announcing the unanimous vote. “The unjust regime of over-testing and over-testing is inhumane. (The boycott) is one step towards reclaiming humanity, and the joy of learning and education.”

On February 27, Chicago Public School boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that teachers who refuse to administer the ISAT could have their teaching certificates revoked.

The ISAT, which takes eight days to administer, is being phased out of use. This year will be the last year that it will be given.

ISAT is being replaced by the Northwest Education Association Measure of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP), which Chicago students will take later this year.

According to CTU, “The ISAT . . . is not aligned to any (Chicago Public School) curriculum, and in Chicago, it is no longer used to measure student progress, school performance, promotion, or for any other purpose.”

“The Saucedo educators have taken a bold step in refusing to administer a test that is of no use to students and will be junked by the district next year,” said Sharkey. “Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has already said the ISAT will not be used for selective enrollment, and therefore this serves no purpose other than to give students another standardized test.”

Sharkey also said that parents at other schools have signed opt out letters excusing their children from taking the test.

More Than a Score, a coalition of parents and teachers, has been urging Chicago parents to sign opt out letters, which, so far, more than 1,000 parents have signed.

At the February 25 media conference, Derlina Smith, a Saucedo parent, explained why she joined the opt out movement.

“Our kids need to be learning while they’re at school. They do not need to be over-tested and stressed about a test that does not matter,” said Smith. “It will be discontinued next year, so why does CPS feel as though it’s necessary?”

According to school administrators, schools are required by the state to administer the ISAT.

The state this year paid Pearson, a company that develops and markets standardized tests including the ISAT, $18 million for the test. Chicago Public Schools’ share of this payment is $3 million.

CPS administrators are saying that the ISAT won’t disrupt learning during the two weeks it is administered, but a post on the More Than a Score Facebook page suggests otherwise:

Disruption caused by the ISAT is far more than the 6-8 hours of testing. Even students not in 3-8th grade have disrupted schedules during the testing window; with specials cancelled so that teachers may proctor exams, etc.  We know of at least one school that will be dismissed early (before noon) for the three days of testing.

Special ed students who need testing accommodations can take many more than 6-8 hours to test, and their teachers are lost to administering the test for weeks.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the hours and dollars devoted to ISAT prep time over the months preceding the tests.

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