Tag Archives: Standardized Testing

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.



Dirty Tricks in CTU Campaign

14 May

ImageI just got off the phone with a friend of mine who was not happy about what happened at his school today.  He said that he got a call from CORE on Sunday that they wanted to bring somebody out to the school to speak.   Sunday night he set it up with the principal, he put up posters, and informed teachers.   He arrived early at his school to meet the CORE representative.

He was surprised to see Tanya Saunders-Wolff and Mark Ochoa walk in the front door looking for the union meeting.   They told the clerks in the office that they set it up in advance, which was a lie.  The delegate was unable to come to the meeting because she had another conflict in the morning.  However, she approached the representatives of the Salvation Caucus and told them that there was a CORE meeting today, but that she’d be happy to schedule them for later in the week.

They weren’t happy, but then the CORE representative told them that they could attend the CORE meeting.  The delegate said that would be wonderful, but that she didn’t want a debate.  The CORE representative would speak first and then the Salvation candidate.  Supposedly, things went smoothly at first, but soon developed into a shouting match after some serious false accusations by the Salvation Caucus that my friend had direct knowledge was untrue.

I don’t know what Saunders-Wolff and Ochoa believed they would accomplish with that behavior, but it definitely strengthens my confidence in voting against them.

Barbara Byrd Bennett Scandals Continue

“The Cleveland investigation “triggered extensive firings, $4,000,000 worth of cost savings, the repayment of $729,000 in ill-gotten state transportation funding, a criminal indictment, an outside performance audit, an Ohio Department of Education investigation, and the hiring of a private firm to reform the management of the transportation department. During the course of this investigation, Cleveland voters overwhelmingly defeated two school levies. CEO Byrd Bennett ultimately announced her resignation.”

Chicago Teachers Union to Ramp Up Protests Against School Closings

“The bigger picture here is the safety of the children,” Fortè said. “There are over 11,000 homeless students that are in these schools. When you close these schools that are safe havens for our children, how do they get to school?”

Mayor Emanuel’s FOIA Policy: Don’t Ask Because We Won’t Tell

“Krell figured CPS had done research on the longer school day because, like every parent in the system, he’d received a letter from Jean-Claude Brizard, then the CEO, claiming that “our elementary school students are receiving 22 percent less instruction time than their peers across the country.” So he sent CPS a FOIA request asking for “the reports, statistics, comprehensive city-by-city analysis and other documents that back up the statement by Mr. Brizard.”

Why I Boycotted the Prairie State Test

“Under so much pressure to raise its Prairie State test scores, the administration tried to take advantage of the promotion policy and demote a third of the junior class, just to keep us from taking the test and bringing down the school’s scores. I was having challenges at school but the last thing I would have expected is that my school system would demote me instead of supporting me.”

It’s About the Kids

Rangel: Hello. And thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about the kids.
Levy: While I am very busy, I can always make time to talk about the kids because, as I like to say, it’s all about the kids.
Rangel: Would you like to hear about the various ways that UNO is *crushing* the achievement gap and putting kids on a path to 21st century skills and prosperity?
Levy: Boy, would I! I am investing in the future of minority kids in Chicago because I dream of a day when the financial services sector will not be dominated by the children of prosperous white people.”

Could Cash for DePaul Arena be Coming Out of Public School Funding?

“Word leaking out of City Hall indicates that a big chunk of the financing for a new DePaul arena would come from the pot of cash that robs millions from public schools.  This would be very controversial because Emanuel is on the point of closing 54 schools.”

Mystery Bureacrat Leaves Philadelphia for Chicago

2 Apr

Doresah Ford-Bey just resigned as the head of Philadelphia’s charter schools, or as they like to call them Renaissance schools.   She completed a Broad fellowship like JC Brizard did, which is not a good thing.  Her reason for resigning?  She said, “I was presented with an opportunity I could not turn down,” with the Chicago Public Schools?   What will she be doing?  I don’t know, but I do know that we’ve been drawing 18 month wonders for a few years now.  In a year and a half she will probably be running another school district somewhere.

Urban Prep was in the news again for their 100% college acceptance rate.  I hate the way they’re held up as a shining example, but on the other hand I am proud of any young men who can overcome obstacles to succeed.  I find that reporters tend to cover this story every year without any analysis or without bothering to look at the many students who are counseled out before reaching senior year and that bothers me.

3 years have now passed since the first class at Urban Prep graduated in 2010.   We really should be able to see if the 107 young men that graduated that year are on pace to graduate after 3 years of college.  I would think a reporter with some gumption could tell us how these kids are doing.  In about 15 minutes today, I found the name of 8 graduates from that first Urban Prep class, but I wasn’t unable to find anything very recent about the students.  One student was a great track athlete as a freshman and another seemed to be doing well at the beginning of his sophomore year at Fisk in Tennessee, but the trail goes cold there.  If anybody knows any of these alumni, how are they doing?

For the Tribune’s Eric Zorn, Calling Racism Racism is just a Bargaining Gambit

“Sleeping through the story about book banning is one thing. Missing a chance to mock people who speak against racism?

Zorn’s not putting that off until tomorrow. He’s a reporter on the job, a man on a mission.”

Standardized Testing Overkill at CPS

“A CPS spokesperson acknowledged to me that parents could opt their children out of tests, but then added in a written statement: “We encourage parents to fully understand the purpose of each assessment and the role that it plays in helping teachers and principals provide targeted academic supports to each student based on their individual needs. . . . Assessment is not the only tool but it is a critical one.””

Welcome Back from Spring Break, CPS Teachers!

“Any way you look at it, the mayor’s making hundreds and hundreds of you reapply for your jobs. It’s all part of his plan to woo the best and brightest teachers to come teach in Chicago so they can get fired.”

Lane Tech Blocks Student Protest

19 Mar

ImageCPS blocked the student protest at Lane Tech over the censorship of the graphic novel Persepolis.  The protest was widely publicized so it shouldn’t really be much of a surprise, but if you want to avoid the impression that censorship makes you jackbooted thugs, I have to wonder if blocking a peaceful student protest is the way to change that image.

CPS Chief Didn’t Listen at All

” Many of you legislators were at these hearing, as were numerous reporters. CEO Byrd-Bennett did not attend any of the hearings. No one who actually was there would agree with her statement. This just proves what the community has been saying all along:”

The Making of the “Other” Chicago

“Oakland won’t educate its way out of poverty and crime. Catch 22: political scientist Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, from neighboring UC Berkeley — who spent nine years in five poor New York and Los Angeles neighborhoods (and ten years before that researching street gangs) — explains in his 2008 book Cracks in the Pavement that ghetto schools don’t work mostly because students (and teachers!) don’t expect anything decent awaiting for them in the labor market, so think it hopeless to make the effort.”

Where is Rahm Emanuel’s Brain?

Does it then make sense to hold a teacher accountable for a student’s test scores if that student has a home that is “not right”? I mean, you would have to be brainless doofus to propose, for example, using test scores to evaluate teachers if you believed that if a “home is not right, nothing else in the classroom can supplement it.

R.I. Adults Took a Standardized Test and they Didn’t Like It

“We’re trying to teach students twenty-­‐first century skills— how to speak, how to use technology. That’s not what this test measures.  It’s not an accurate measurement of our students.”

The Other Shoe is About to Drop in School Closing Mess

12 Feb


The other shoe is about to drop in the school closing mess.   Tomorrow, we should know exactly who is on the closing list and that will be a do or die moment for the Chicago Public Schools.   Parents, students, and teachers have been out in force to meet the closing hearings head on.  Parents have demanded to be heard and came out in great numbers, but many of those parents will probably find out that their schools have been spared.  When that happens, how the react will make all the difference.  If they retreat home and breath a sigh of relief, they will be picked off themselves in a year or two.  However, if they fight things begin to look very interesting.   I hope we learn from that famous Martin Niemoller quote and don’t continue to allow ourselves to be picked off one at a time.

No More Auction Blocks, No School Closures

“Through the closing of neighborhood schools and the opening of charter schools, CPS has forged an alliance with corporations that have been allowed to greedily hijack funding that is targeted for our children. And, as a result, our children’s schools have been sabotaged. Yet, CPS has chosen to create a false narrative of “school failure” and “underutilization.”

Will CPS Move Students with Autism Again

“CPS counts three small classrooms dedicated to autistic students as regular classrooms, meaning that by downtown’s calculations, “those classrooms should have 90-something kids there. That would be impossible,” said McClellan Principal Jospeh Schoffner. And while local school leadership have appealed to CPS to take the autism program at McClellan into account, they’ve received thus far only a letter from the District saying it was “very much” taking into account the school’s concerns. About a quarter of McClellan’s student body is made up of special education students. Further worrying both parents and faculty at McClellan is that just a few years ago McClellan was a receiving school for Abbott students what that school was closed a few years back.”

As CPS Mulls School Closings, Study Finds CPS Already Has Plenty of Vacant School Buildings

“As the Chicago Public Schools system prepares to shutter more schools, a study released Monday concluded that Chicago is already awash in vacant school property for sale, with 24 shuttered CPS sites on the market plus about as many old Catholic schools for sale or lease.”

School Closings  A Civil Rights Issue, Activist Jitu Brown Tells Feds

“Yet Brown hopes that by showing a consistent pattern of race-based closings across the nation, he can get the federal Department of Education to impose a moratorium on school closings or at least exert pressure against them. “They say they don’t have the power to do a moratorium at the federal level,” he said. “But you’ve inspired the culture of school closings through racist policies. You can inspire school closings. You can also inspire a different direction.”

Good Luck Finding the Documents that Explain CPS Longer Day

“For all we know, they never had any documents in the first place and Brizard really was just making the stuff up as he went along. Or maybe they produced tons of reports—filled with smoking guns that say what the mayor knew and when he knew it. Maybe those reports are now sitting on Mayor Emanuel’s bed stand—you know, so he can read them every night before falling asleep.”

CPS: All Testing, All the Time

“Students who are struggling academically get tested even more than their classmates, because the beatings will indeed continue until the morale improves, or something to that effect. Just last week select students were pulled out of my fourth and sixth grader’s classrooms, to take, yet again, the MAP test, one of many standardized tests. All students took this particular test earlier this year and now, some students had to take it again. No one announces why these kids are being pulled out to retake this test, but the entire class knows why. They certainly aren’t getting pulled out to go to Disneyland. May as well shine a big follow spot on them as they leave the room “this kid did not score well in reading or math.” It’s humiliating for the students, but CPS will get their tests scores and isn’t that what is really important here, the scores?”


Parent Calls Out Barbara Byrd Bennett

7 Feb


I found a great CPS story on Chicago Now of all places.    I feel that CPS made a huge miscalculation in delaying the closing announcement.  The problem is, it’s energizing whole communities.  I saw at the first meeting, CPS was blaming the teachers union for the raucous crowd, but the CTU doesn’t have that many active members and after the last 10 years, there just aren’t that many people of color working for CPS.  It will be interesting to see how this will work out.  I see CPS trying to drive a wedge between West Side and Southwest Side parents, but if the communities remain united, this will be a very interesting couple of months to watch.

Dear Barbara Byrd Bennett, We’re Talking.  Are you Listening?

“It doesn’t really look very good right now. Even that shameful, distressing, disheartening event masquerading as a community forum on Monday night isn’t helping. Things might look a little better for you people right now if anyone, anywhere had actually ever made an effort to have a real conversation with the people whose neighborhood public schools are being treated as pawns in a crazy chaotic board game. If anyone had actually sat down with the leaders of the schools you want to close, listened to them, and brainstormed together about the best way to go about this right-sizing.”

CPS Counseling Director Under Fire for Alleged LGBT Insensitivity

“If Elkins’ allegations are to be believed, it would appear Karpouzian’s unsubstantiated homophobic comment “that gay people were going to hell” is also intertwined with her religious perspective. Upon review of the Everlasting Love episodes available on YT, however, none of the titles directly address LGBT issues, and the select episodes viewed did not uncover any homophobic comments, religious-based or otherwise.”

The Chicago Leadership Collaborative

CPS employees received this link in an email today.  Just looking at this site is very enlightening.  It’s scary to think of a dozen TFA members fresh off 2 years of teaching and a year Harvard becoming CPS principals.

Chicago Parent and Activist Jitu Brown at Journey for Justice Hearing in Washington

Jitu Brown talks about his trip to Washington.  I am so impressed with this man. The more I listen to him, the more he impresses me. 

Superintendent Dr. Walter Milton Jr. Has Withdrawn his Application

“Dr. Cheatham is a top candidate, and we are impressed by her work. In her time there, Chicago Public Schools have made significant strides in improving student achievement, and the schools that Dr. Cheatham specifically supervised made gains above the district average. Dr. Cheatham brings a depth of experience addressing the challenges of an urban school district and making improvements in the face of high need and dwindling resources. Those are the skills and expertise that we are looking for as we continue our path to improving achievement for all students.”

Chicago Parents and Teachers Unite Against Standardized Testing

“Parents of Chicago Public Schools students passed petitions today outside 37 schools, calling for CPS to drastically reduce its reliance on standardized tests. The parents, members of a coalition called More Than a Score, also want CPS to fully disclose the cost and purpose of the 22 tests currently administered in the district.”



Beautiful Sentiments from a Deeply Flawed Politician

3 Feb

I’ll freely admit that I’m a few days behind on the news.  It’s been one of those weekends, where I didn’t want to think about CPS until the last possible moment, which for me was Sunday morning as the Super Bowl would eat into my normal Sunday evening preparations.  Today’s news (such as it is) centers around Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick who goes out of his way to praise his Chicago Public School teachers.  It makes me wish he showed that same passion for his own Massachusetts public schools teachers. 

Deval Patrick’s Public School Legacy

“Patrick lives in a mansion in Milton now. His daughter went to Milton Academy. But his tendency to mention his old Chicago teachers by name has become a bit of a joke among political reporters. There was Mrs. Eddie Quaintance, his sixth-grade teacher at Terrell Elementary, who taught her class to count in German and took them on a field trip to the Chicago Lyric Opera. There was Mrs. Threets from third grade and Mrs. Weissenberg — the first white teacher Patrick can recall — from seventh.”

CTU President Karen Lewis on the Death of King College Prep Student Hadiya Pendleton

“The prevalence of violence on our streets is starting to reduce the wonderful qualities that kids like Hadiya possess—qualities we all want in our children—to homicide statistics. As an educator, I empathize with the teachers for whom the aftermaths of these incidents are grave daily realities. We’re living in a society that’s completely out of kilter. Our children feel disrespected and their outsized response is violence. They’re given no methodology for learning how to cope with their anger.”

Will the Standardized Testing Boycott Spread to Chicago

“The teachers questioned the validity of the test, Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). They also said MAP “subtracts many hours of class time from students’ schedules each year,” and clogs the school’s computer labs for weeks, making them unavailable for other educational purposes. “This especially hurts students without computers at home,” the teachers wrote.”

Network Officers Ordering Principals to Stop Parent Protests

“The formula for heading off real community engagement during the hearings is straightfoward, and familiar to anyone who has attended a Chicago Board of Education meeting since the Emanuel administration took over in June 2011 — flood them with Power Point nonsense and then walk out when anyone talks about the real world. According to the CPS script, the hearings are supposed to consist of the Power Point presentations, followed by closed (to the media) “focus groups” which are being paid for by the Walton family (that’s the anti-union Wal-Mart family, for those not paying attention).”