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- Teaching a Superpower - September 22, 2016
- Essentially, I am a Teacher - August 30, 2016
- A Chicago Teacher's Dream - January 22, 2016
- A Career in Crisis - August 27, 2015
- Classroom Community and Rock-Paper-Scisssors - July 22, 2015
- The Art of Teaching - June 22, 2015
- Parent tip: Beyond Sounding It Out - June 4, 2015
There is another battle this week between parents and teachers against Chicago Public Schools and it centers on testing. Threats from the board include disciplinary action against teachers including the revocation of teacher certification. Next week, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) is administered to grade school students across the city and state. The test takes place for up to five mornings depending on the grade level. Many Chicago parents have opted out of having their children take the test. Earlier this week, the teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy announced they were opting out of administering the test. The Chicago Teachers Union called this an act of civil disobedience and the right thing for students. CPS responded by sending the following notice to principals:
"The Chicago Board of Education will discipline any employee who encourages a student not to take the (Illinois Standards Achievement Test) or who advocates against the ISAT on work time for insubordination and for any disruption of the educational process."
The letter also states,"teachers encouraging students to opt out of the ISAT could see their certification revoked by the state certification board.”
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey called CPS’ threats “really absurd and harmful” and about the revocation of a teacher’s certification, he added, “We’re not taking that as an idle threat.” The union lawyers were already looking into the matter.
“We’re disappointed. We think that they’re spreading misinformation. The Illinois State Board of Education has never – to our knowledge – revoked certification for a teacher for refusing to administer an exam, and yet the district’s making that claim. They’re scare tactics,” Jackson Potter CTU spokesman stated.
Adding fuel to the fire, Friday afternoon, the teachers at Thomas Drummond Montessori School announced that they “respectfully decline to administer the ISAT this year.”
The movement for parents to opt out of testing has been nationwide. Chicago students are heavily tested. Kindergarteners to second graders take minimally eleven standardized tests throughout the year. Third through eighth graders take between 13 and 27 tests. High School students take as many as 28 a year.
Parents who opted out were quite upset to see a notice from the Chicago Board of Education via More Than a Score Chicago stating all students must be presented with testing materials and be read the directions. Students who refused to test must remain silent while other students were testing and not engage in any activity that may disrupt the test. Parents were upset because children, some a young as 8 years old, should not have to decide to take or not take a test after their parents opted them out. They also should not have a test booklet put in front of them.
The reason for the fight over the test needs a little history. Until recently, the ISAT was used to determine a child’s progress and promotion, as well as, school performance. The ISAT, taken by third to eighth graders, is being phased out next year and will only used to measure Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). This year AYP is set at 100%, meaning, on average, every child will make a complete year of academic progress. Most see this as an unattainable number.
It is now being largely viewed as a low-stakes test although it is still a state law that the test be administered. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools said in a statement: “The district is committed to administering the exam and expects all CPS employees to fulfill their responsibilities to ensure we are in compliance with the law.” According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Byrd-Bennett also told principals that schools with low participation rates on the ISAT may lose federal funding.
In the past, Byrd-Bennett has said that “the test, which is aligned to Common Core Standards, provides educators an important first look at how well their students are doing on these more rigorous expectations.” This is questionable as test results are not received until the very end of the school year. She has also been quoted as saying that the test helps students to become 100% college ready.
The test takes between six and eight hours, depending on the grade level. It is administered over five day but generally two weeks are allocated to it to accommodate IEPs and absences. The new high-stakes test, NWEA-MAP, begins following week two of the ISAT testing.
The battle rages on as testing begins next week and as both sides draw their lines in the figurative sand. The statement from the teachers at Drummond Montessori gives five reasons for not giving the test.
First, the test is only used for AYP and as it is set at 100% it is “unlikely any school will meet its goal.”
- Next, the test takes away two weeks of instructional time.
- Third, the test unfairly discriminates against children with IEP as it covers content is not aligned with their individual goals.
- Fourth, because it is directly followed by the high-stakes NWEA-MAP it puts undue stress on the students.
Finally, the ISAT is “antithetical” to the school’s Montessori philosophy. They finish their statement by saying: We do not take the decision lightly. We are professions who care deeply about the state of education in our country and we cannot continue to participate in a practice that harms our students and is not used to drive instruction.
Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, expressed support of the teachers who are declining to give the test. "Facing the threat of discipline or termination, these brave teachers are standing up for what they believe is best for their students, no matter the personal consequences. It is nothing short of a profile in courage,”
The battle continues.