Tag Archives: ISAT

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.



Was it Something I Posted?

5 Mar

ImageI happily posted Leah Putnam’s account of the Michelle Obama fiasco yesterday and was only somewhat surprised to see that it served as red meat for people that I probably wouldn’t have agreed with on 99 out of 100 political policies.  I realize for a lot of them, attacking the First Lady is convenient now, but that’s only because a unionized public school teacher like myself or Ms. Putnam isn’t around.  I also saw a lot of tasteless comments about “Moochelle” that bordered on racism or easily crossed over that line.  I do believe that telling the stories of these kids is important and I’d gladly do it again. 

There’s a part of me that’s really loving this snowstorm even as I dread making my way through ten inches of snow to get to school.  There’s just something reassuring that no matter how much pressure you want to put on these standardized tests, God, Mother Nature, Karma, chance, whatever has a way of messing up those plans.

Portland Stops the Closures

“WEEKS OF community protest paid off on February 12, when the Portland Public Schools (PPS) superintendent announced her recommendation to the school board–no school closures.

Over the last month, district officials have floated several proposals for “enrollment balancing,” all of which included closing schools that serve high-minority, low-income populations. But the latest proposal, after weeks of community protest, spares all neighborhood schools from closure.”

CPS May Sell Downtown Headquarters

“The district has requested bids from real estate brokerage firms to help sell its building and scout for a new headquarters location. CPS says it has cut 30 percent of its staff since 2009 and with a little more than 1,000 employees has too much space at its present location, 125 S. Clark St. in the Loop. Potential savings from a move were estimated at up to $3 million annually.”

ISAT Scores by Demographics

The great Jeanne Marie Olsen takes a look at ISAT scores by demographic and shows you how to read data.  

School Crisis: What’s the City’s is the City’s; What’s Yours is Negotiable

“Parents go to meetings and plead for neighborhood schools to stay open, and are promised that CPS officials will get a transcript of what the parents said. And then CPS releases a new list of closings anyway. And principals receive orders they are no longer allowed to speak to the media.”

The Night That We Were Shocked That We Were Shocked

“Our skin has become thicker

From Chicago

Thicker from the winters

Thicker from the corruption

The lies and double speak

From sacrifices demanded by our city

The violence

The violent sacrifices of our students”