Tag Archives: CPS

Boycotting the ISAT: Your Own Personal Decision

3 Mar

I have heard through the grapevine that a teacher at my school is seriously considering refusing to give the ISAT test on Tuesday.  Through that same grapevine, I’ve heard that another 2 teachers may be interested in doing so if they weren’t alone and I am seriously considering making it 4.  It’s a tough decision.  I like my school and my principal.  My only real problem is with CPS.  However, this is a chance to really make a statement about the over testing that we’re forcing on our students instead of teaching them.

Barbara’s Byrd-Bennett’s own email explains just why this is such a waste of valuable time.  She wants us to give these tests in part because next fall, we’ll be able to see what some $10 an hour worker in a mini-mall who was evaluated on how many tests he graded thought of our students’ writing.  There will be no information about where they were strong or weak and the students will have moved on to a new class, but that seems to be the only academic value of the test.  The state has already made it clear that schools won’t lose funding because of low testing rates.

So, what do we as educators have to weigh?  For me, it’s my home and my family.  I can’t afford to lose my job.  However, I know that if we have solidarity, the chances of this having much of a negative impact on my career are greatly reduced.  If this were a movie, this would be our Henry the fifth moment.  This would be the time when all the Hispanic children in Los Angeles walk out of their school or when Norma Rae shuts down the factory.   We really have a chance to strike a blow for sanity in CPS’s testing policy.

Parents throughout the city and suburbs are opting out and it’s becoming a real avalanche of non-participation.   We can stand and we must stand.  I’m not sure if I can do it and I agree that it’s an individual’s choice, but I don’t want to be the person who meekly went to the back of the bus or turned around because British troops were blocking the road.


The Time to Make a Stand on Testing is Now

28 Feb

ImageI have been in semi-retirement from the blog lately, but I received an angry email in my mailbox today from none other than Barbara Byrd-Bennett.  It seems like once every couple of weeks, she feels the need to write to me to let me know just how much she thinks of the teachers of the city of Chicago.  The email was nice enough to include some “Facts” and “Repercussions” for me to ponder.


  • The time spent on the ISAT is less than 1% of the entire school year. 

The test at my school, is taking 4 days.  During those 4 days, the students will be having two test sessions.  Special education and ELL students will be testing practically the entire time.  During this time there will be no gym, library, music, computers, or art.  During this time upper grade students will not be having their departmental classes.   This is 4 days completely disrupted.  Plus makeup tests.  If 4 days of missed education are no big deal, why are we making up the snow days?


  • The test DOES NOT take up the entire 2-week window as some would claim.  It takes about 3 hours each for reading and math, and 2 hours for science in only grades 4 and 7.  (See here and here—page 6, and here—“ISAT Summary” for more details).  The 2-week window allows for maximum flexibility in scheduling at the school level, and for make-up testing of students who were absent.  Make-ups do not interrupt the instructional time of other students as they are conducted in a separate room.  
  • ISAT is not a drain on the CPS budget because CPS pays nothing for it.

Even if that is true, the state is paying big bucks for this and that’s money that isn’t going to CPS.  Also, you’re paying teachers and support staff to watch kids fill in bubbles rather than teach.  That’s a waste of resources.

  • Although ISAT will not be used for accountability, selective enrollment or student promotion, it is not meaningless.  It will be completely aligned to the Common Core standards in both the range of skills assessed and the depth of student-response expectations in writing.  This will provide educators an important first look at how well their students are doing on these more rigorous expectations.  Other current assessments do not offer this depth of information.

So next year, at some point, teachers will be able to see how students that they no longer have in class did on a test without any information on what kind of problems they got right and what ones they got wrong.  The writing is 1 day out of four.  Furthermore, the writing is scored by people in a mini-mall making $10 an hour.  Their evaluations don’t fill me with confidence.


  • Federal and State law require all students to be assessed in grades 3 – 8.

OK, so what are the Benchmark Tests, the multiple NWEA tests, and the REACH assessments for?

  • Schools with low testing participation are in jeopardy of losing federal funding as this test is a required component of NCLB.  
  • ISBE may review the accreditation of schools with low testing percentages.
  • Low percentage participation will also affect AYP status.

Isn’t this the year in NCLB where students don’t make AYP unless 100% of their students meet or exceed?  Good luck with that.

  • If an individual teacher refuses to administer the test, you should direct that teacher to swipe out and leave the work place.  You should direct another employee to administer the test.

Because all schools have plenty of teachers with nothing better to do.  I’m sure that if, say 20 teachers refused, a school could do great.  It almost makes me just want to use my 3 personal days this week,

  • Notify your staff that:

The State Certification Board may take action to revoke the certification of any employee who encourages a student to boycott the ISAT.

That, of course, would be up to the state.  Would they revoke the certification?  They can try, I suppose.  I don’t see it.

The Chicago Board of Education will discipline any employee who encourages a student not to take the ISAT or who advocates against the ISAT on work time for insubordination and for any disruption of the educational process. 

If parents or students make unsolicited inquiries regarding testing or opting out, staff shall explain that the ISAT is required by state and federal law and Board policy, and shall refer the questioner to school administrators to address any further inquiry or request.

I believe that they can require that I do not encourage my students to opt out on work time, but they certainly can’t make me tell parents or staff that their child is required to take the test, when that simply is untrue.

It is critical that all parents, students and staff understand these potential repercussions.  While employees may voice their opinions on matters of public concern, they have an obligation as government employees not to undermine or interfere with state and federal law and with Illinois/CPS Testing policies by encouraging students to opt out.

Breaking the law?  Just a little over-dramatic.  However, every time BBB sends something like this out and it makes the news, the parents learn the truth anyway.   And that is the scariest thing for CPS.

Please direct any additional questions about testing policy to Didi Swartz (773-553-1161 or cmswartz@cps.edu).  Please direct questions on potential repercussions to Tom Krieger (773-553-1193 or tkrieger@cps.edu) or David Ruhland (773-553-2321 or druhland@cps.edu).


Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Despite promises to the contrary, testing continues to expand.  They are taking a considerable amount of teaching time away so that a perhaps the one day they do the writing tests, there may possibly be data generated that next year will possibly be useful to someone.  I’m sorry, you don’t lose weight by weighing yourself and you don’t cure a patient by taking their temperature.  Testing is big business and that is the true force behind this ridiculous and abusive over-testing.


Is Your School Built on a Native American Burial Ground?

18 Sep

ImageThere are a few things I’ve learned from watching movies that I think provide valuable lessons for anybody thinking of running an urban school district.  It may be easy to slam this easily acquired knowledge as being insufficient.  We’re sending a whole lot of people off to run big school districts whose knowledge comes from watching Freedom Writers.

The first thing I learned is that you never build on an Indian Burial ground.   IF you do this, your school will undoubtedly be haunted.  If you have seen Poltergeist, you can already see some of the liability issues with students getting trapped in television sets and being chased by ghosts who want to do them harm.   Fortunately, I am reasonably confident that CPS would not knowingly build a school on a Native American burial ground.

Building a school on an old toxic dump would also be a horrible idea.  If you watch movies like Erin Brockovich you are probably more worried about students and teachers developing serious maladies,  If you watch movies like The Toxix Avenger, you are more concerned with rampaging students who are mutated by the toxins.  Unfortunately, CPS seems ready to ignore reports of toxic waste in order to construct a build a new school near the Indiana border.  A new school is seriously needed in the area to fight overcrowding, but I would like to think that safety would be a consideration.

Rahm Emanuel Discusses Plans to Build School on Possibly Toxic Site

“Preliminary environmental tests conducted last year at the proposed construction site found unsafe levels of chemicals in the soil and a leaking underground gasoline storage tank, reports the Chicago Tribune.”

Emanuel Defends School Additions, Improvements after CPS Closures

“It marked the third straight day that a mayor who closed nearly 50 public schools, most of them on the South and West Sides, has announced plans to build new schools and expand existing ones.”

Singing the Praise of CPS Teachers (Despite Everything)

“I asked folks if they had any good stories from their schools, and parents were happy to oblige. You know why? Because most folks love their schools. They love the community culture of their schools. They love the opportunities the schools offer. They love the kindness, empathy, and professionalism of their teachers. They love their grant-writing, penny-wringing, hope-clinging principals who never say die.”

State Board of Education Could Lift Cap Size for Special Ed

“A possible vote could lift those limits, and mean that a teacher could have 17 students requiring special attention in a class of 35. That idea scares Laurie Viets, whose 4-year-old son is autistic, and goes to Beard Elementary School on the Northwest Side. The school exclusively serves special needs children.”

The Hidden Truth Behind Teach for America’s Political Empire

“At a college-wide block party on Aug. 29, grad students and local teachers passed out leaflets reading, “Why would CEHD partner with an organization that claims that working class students of color do not need well-trained, career teachers?” Several were approached by the dean, who called the leafletting “inappropriate” and threatened to call campus security if they didn’t stop.”

Did This Little Election Strike a Big Blow to Education Reform

“The Vallas allies who lost last week were Democrats endorsed by the state Democratic Party and town Democratic committee and backed by the mayor. In a nearly 10-to-1 Democratic city, the primary winners are all but guaranteed to win the November elections and team up with Working Families Party members to form an anti-Vallas majority on the nine-member school board.”

Those Slippery Charter Schools

30 Aug


I have several objections to charter schools.  I don’t like diverting public tax dollars from neighborhoods schools to schools full of uncertified teachers whose tack record is worse than the public schools they bill themselves as an alternative too.  As a tax payer, I frankly hate the lack of transparency in charter schools.  Public money gets poured in and we hope it gets to the students.   However, in case after case from Green Dot, to Imagine, to UNO we find malfeasance that would never be acceptable in a public school.

The city of Chicago is relying on the smoke and mirrors of charter school budgeting to confuse its critics who believe that charters got a diamond mine and neighborhood schools got the shaft.  However, a look at their own budget shows that while neighborhood schools lost millions, charters got an $80,000,000 increase in the new budget.

The newest snake to be exposed to sunlight is Aspira whose Philadelphia actions give a good picture of the people behind the charters.

Charter Operator Owed Its Schools Millions, but No One’s Checking Its Books

“Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania owed large sums of money to four Philadelphia charter schools it runs, according to an independent audit of the organization’s finances as of June 30, 2012, that was obtained by City Paper. According to the report, which was produced for Aspira and completed in April, the nonprofit was running a deficit of $722,949 as of last June and owed the publicly financed schools $3.3 million. That’s in addition to millions of dollars in lease payments and administrative fees filtered to Aspira and entities it controls with no oversight. ”

For the Record: Art Charters and District-Run Schools Treated Equally?

“Increases aside, charter schools are getting, on average, $600 for elementary schools to $900 for high schools more per student in their total allocation than district-run schools get, the Catalyst analysis shows.”

Closures and Chartering Aren’t a Formula for School Reform

“Chicago’s record on charter performance is parallel to the poor national one. Educational policy research shows that charter schools in Chicago and nationally result in lower student test scores, higher teacher turnover, worse rates of uncertified teachers, lower teacher pay and higher administrator pay, and increased racial segregation.”

Dreaming in the Face of CPS Reality

I dream of a time when the voice of the people is heard and respected, understood not to be a mob but a thoughtful citizenry, and given some small heed when it comes to policy-making about our own children.

CPS Dumps ‘Probation’ Label for Schools Not Making the Grade

““Half the schools in the district fell into Level 3,” he said. “A school might be progressing in Level 3 and never get out of that level,” said Josserand, who was part of many focus groups. “Having five levels allows us to be more focused in our interventions [and] allows us to be even sharper in our focus to make sure we’re working with schools most intently with those supports.”

Chicago’s School Board Deals with Budgets, Closings, and Charges that it Violated Open Meetings Act

“Chicago’s Board of Education passed a $5.6 million budget Wednesday and also approved a new way to rate the district’s schools. Outside, protesters called for board members’ ouster. WBEZ education reporter Linda Lutton discusses those issues and charges that the district turned people away from the meeting in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.”

Have Our Standards Lowered that Much?

28 Aug

ImageThe longer school day was called a success by some because it was indeed longer.  The first day of school was called a success because no students were shot in a safe passage zone in front of the media.  I am sure that sending our children to school in August when it’s 95 degrees in many CPS classrooms will be considered a success because school did in fact start a week earlier.

If you are a parent, and you are fed up with the way CPS is ignoring you, Mayor Rahm has the following advice, “You have a disagreement [about school closings]? The court has spoken to that…If you want to make a statement, go to the courtroom.”

Rahm has proved that like the Earth, logic can be round.  Fortunately, 50 years ago Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and a generation of leaders didn’t wait for the courts to make progress.  I’m sure Rahm would tell them with the gift of hindsight that the court has now ruled on the Voting Rights Act, so don’t waste their breath.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Don’t Boycott, Send You Students to School on Wednesday

“For parents to put out that fire for learning out by yanking their kids out of school would be a shame, he said, especially after, what he called “one of the best-ever” opening day attendance records in CPS history.”

Parents Fuming About CPS School without Power

“It’s because they’re still doing construction in the building,” said Jeanette Taylor, president of the Local School Council at Mollison. “They closed Overton back in June. This building should have been ready. That’s the problem.”

Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) said CPS was supposed to tell ComEd it added air conditioners so the utility could install a higher-performing transformer to handle the increased load of needed power.

“This did not happen,” Dowell said.

North Side Students, Parents to Join CPS Boycott, Protest

“North Side Action for Justice, a group founded by residents from Uptown and Rogers Park, said it has a bus picking up parents and students at James McPherson, John McCutcheon, Joseph Brennemann and Mary Courtenay elementary schools Wednesday morning for a rally outside the Board of Education and a march to City Hall”

“Judging from the entire allocation to each school, charter schools appear to have the advantage: More than 70 percent of charter schools are getting the same amount or more for each student than they did last year, a Catalyst analysis shows. Meanwhile, only about 10 percent of district-run schools are holding steady or seeing an increase, and most of those are welcoming schools that got extra resources under the district’s school closing program.”

CPS Increases Charter Funding by $85 Million, Students Outraged

25 Jul


[In the initial report, I listed the amount the charters school funding was increased incorrectly as $33,000,000.   As parents poured over the budget, they have accounted for an increase of just under $85,000,000]

CPS is quite fond of calling for shared sacrifice, but sacrifice is certainly not being shared evenly in the new budget.  Selective enrollment schools have had their budgets raised by $7,390,000 and charters find themselves $33,000,000 richer.  Meanwhile, neighborhood schools find themselves gutted.

The one thing today is I saw and heard students speak up like never before.  They were militant, but even more importantly they were passionate and they were eloquent.  As usual, Asean Johnson dropped some truth on the Board, but there was a lot more than just him.  2 years ago, we saw the teachers beginning to fight back. Last year, we saw the parents.  Now, I think we’re seeing the students.  I have to say, if this is the quality of graduate that CPS is producing, we’ve done something right.

Alderman Maldonado’s Office Makes Robocall Calling Ames Gang-Infested

“Here is a copy of the voicemail I received tonight from someone from Alderman Maldonado’s office offering a poll about having a military school at Ames School in the Humboldt Park / Logan Square area of Chicago.”

What is Malicious Reassignment

“This is a tactic that can be labeled as “malicious re-assignment.” It is used to give a not so gentle signal to a veteran teacher that it is time to leave. We see it happen on several occasions. First, when a principal or administrator believes someone’s teaching methods are “too old-fashioned” and their years of experience and craft knowledge are not valued. Another is when an educator is considered too expensive and the administration would like to them to retire early. Or last, when a tenured teacher becomes too vocal about union or social justice issues. It’s an attempt to silence.”

CPS Budget Cuts: Rahm Rejects Ordinance to Divert TIF Funds Back to Schools

“The ordinance cites the $457 million TIFs skimmed off property tax revenues in 2012 — money that would have gone to the schools and other public bodies — and says any leftover funds should be used to address the “deep and unsustainable cuts in virtually every neighborhood elementary school and high schools.”

Chicago Students Disrupt Board of Education Meeting

Students are not going to take it anymore.

Letter of Allegation Regarding the Closing of 49 Elementary Schools to United Nations

“The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (on behalf of itself and the undersigned organizations and individuals) requests that you investigate and take preventative measures to address the potential domestic and international human rights violations that may result from these school closings.”

Chicago Public Schools Begin to Trickle Out the Hush Money

18 Jul

ImageAs hearing continue on the school closings, CPS has begun to trickle out hush money to North Side Schools who have been complaining loudly about the budget cuts they’re getting hit with.  Of course it wouldn’t be a normal day in CPS without somebody who knows something warning about the dangerous situation CPS is creating.

Expert: Chicago School Closings Will Endanger Kids

In response to such concerns, the district has said it will expand its Safe Passage program, which stations adults to stand watch along key school routes and then alert police of any problems.

But Hagedorn said he didn’t believe that would eliminate the risk to students.

“There is no way someone walking with them will protect them from a bullet,” he said.

Mayor Rahm to North-Side Parents: Hush Your Mouths and You’ll Get Your Money

“And now, out of nowhere, it turns out he’s got enough money on hand to give three north-side schools $100,000 each—if they just shut up about all the other cuts in town.”

Court Hears from CPS Parents

This is an ABC-7 report on the hearings going on over the CPS school closings

What You Need to Know About CPS Budget Cuts

To think of it another way, CPS has lowered total budget expenses at least 22% by making cuts to central office. Central office accounts for only about 5% of the overall CPS budget.

Or, think of it like this: in the last six years CPS has completely eliminated central office 5 times over.”