Become a Catalyst member

Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to catalyst-chicago.org by e-mail

catalyst-chicago.org feeds

Current Issue

Drugs in schools

Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

Teachers at Saucedo say "No" to state tests

With nearly 40 percent of their students already opting out of the ISAT, teachers at Saucedo Scholastic Academy—a high-achieving magnet school—took the bold step on Tuesday of voting to refuse to administer it.

In only one other instance—at a high school in Seattle last year—have teachers in one school made a unified group decision not to give a mandated test. National opponents of standardized testing applauded the decision and said it will send a signal across the country.

Late Tuesday, CPS officials released a brief statement, saying that employees who don't administer test will "face appropriate disciplinary actions." They did not specify what actions may be taken against employees.

"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 statement, which was attributed to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-BennettWe also continue to encourage parents to support their children taking the exam, as the results help teachers tailor instructional planning for the following year."

The statement also noted that Byrd-Bennett has "maximized instructional time" by reducing the number of standardized tests and lengthening the number of hours students are in school.

ISAT testing is conducted for eight hours over two weeks, starting on March 3. Testing opponents have already launched a drive to urge families in CPS to “opt out” of the ISAT, which is being administered for the last time this year.

Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo, says that teachers were emboldened by parents and the student council, which voted unanimously against taking the ISAT. She said that all the 3rd through 8th-grade teachers voted to participate in the boycott.

“Our students are tested and tested,” she said on Tuesday, just hours after the vote. “They cry over the test. They get nervous over the test.”

Chambers said Saucedo teachers were not going to tell the principal until after school, but that the principal so far has been quiet on the opt-out issue.  

Saucedo teachers are hoping that other CPS teachers will join them. Saucedo is a Level 1 magnet school in Little Village.

The Chicago Teachers Union is supporting the Saucedo teachers and vowed to fight any repercussions that might the teachers might face. The union would “mount a strong defense of this collective action,” according to a press release about the vote. 

In general, teachers are “disgusted and overwhelmed” by the amount of testing that they are required to administer, said Norine Gutekanst, organizing coordinator for the CTU. The ISAT, the NWEA-MAP and REACH exams are required and, in addition, network chiefs and principals have teachers administer extra tests.

The CTU estimates that CPS elementary students spend anywhere from 11 to 21 hours on testing.

"Nation will be watching" the latest salvo in the testing battle

This year, parents and teachers are especially critical of the ISAT. As the district transitions to the new Common Core Standards, the ISAT is being phased out. Next year students will be taking a standardized test based on the Common Core, called the PARCC.

To get students, parents and teachers used to the Common Core, CPS is using the results of the NWEA-MAP as a basis for important decisions, such as which students are promoted, how schools are rated academically and for teacher evaluation. 

As a result, many have concluded that the ISAT is a waste of time. “We think it doesn’t make any sense for teachers to have repercussions for not administering a test that doesn’t mean anything,” Gutekanst said.

However, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has insisted that the ISAT is important. She issued two letters to parents urging them not to opt out of either the NWEA or the ISAT.

Byrd-Bennett and district officials point out that the ISAT is still used for the federal government’s accountability system under No Child Left Behind. They say that the district could lose out on federal funding if less than 95 percent of students take the ISAT or if too many schools fail to meet the federal benchmark, called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Those who favor opting out of the ISAT point out that AYP has become meaningless. This year, the law calls for 100 percent of students to meet standards on tests in order for a school to meet AYP—something that no school accomplished last year. Since 2001, only 11 schools have had all their students meet standards.

Cassie Cresswell, a leader with the group More than a Score, said it is now time for parents to stand with the Saucedo teachers and any others who refuse to administer the test.

“One thing is that CPS can really do nothing to a parent or a student who opts out,” she said. “But for a teacher, it is a much bigger deal. It might be seen as insubordination.”

Cresswell said that parents in 38 schools have opted out of the ISAT. At Saucedo, 300 of about 790 3rd through 8th graders opted out--the largest number--though about six or seven other schools have significant percentages, Cresswell said.

Cresswell and national anti-standardized test advocate Robert Schaeffer point to what happened in Seattle last year as an example for what could happen in Chicago. In Seattle, teachers refused to administer the NWEA-MAP test. Because parents rallied around them, the teachers did not face any consequences.

Schaeffer said the Chicago teachers could have an even bigger impact than the Seattle group, because CPS is such a big player in the education world.

“The nation will be watching,” he said

54 comments

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Try that on the Westside

They should all be removed. I t should not be optional if students take achievement test to gauge how much they learned in a given learning cycle. This is wrong on every level.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

CTU has a responsibility

To make sure these teachers administer the test. They have already made their point and shined the light of the local news on this issue.

Hannah wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

This type of testing is pointless

Newsflash: our schools were better BEFORE high-stakes testing.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Students take between 11-25 achievement tests per a year

The point is that students do take achievement tests and way too many of them. These teachers are not calling for an end to ALL achievement tests. They are questioning the number and refusing to give 1 of many in favor of actually teaching their students. Standardized testing takes up way too much class time within CPS. I wonder how many hours/days of standardized testing happen at the University of Chicago Lab school. I'm guessing they don't take between 11 and 25 high stakes tests because they are focused on teaching and learning.

retired principal ll wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

good for saucedo! and this next statement not really true

(Joel) Hood said that the ISAT will provide teachers with results that could help their instructional planning for next year... When do teachers get isat scores mr. hood--do you know? If you did-you would not say this.
(btw-its nwea ,mr hood) by the time isat scores are distributed its too late to plan anything. isat nclb is meaningless-obama is going to hold funding for chicagos poor since they did not take a test? nope. Its a sin to give since it stops teachers from teachng as they use nwea data, what students, teachers and schools are judged on. might think that this is sabotage on cps part to get schools to score lower by taking away instructioanl time for a lame-duck state test

retired principal ll wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

actually just the opposite-ctu stands for student progress here

face it--they are correct in this battle

Northside wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

NWEA

Can we do this for NWEA NEXT!!at least the ISAT was secure...and ALL kids had the same condiitons to take it!!!!

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

you can be dead right

Pedestrians are correct when they cross a busy street in a crosswalk, but they better look left right left before crossing. PATs who refuse to give this exam may find a world of problems. This is insubordination and that is serious at CPS.
Shame on you retired principal, you know better and I am sure you have seen CPS law in action. Don't ever take them for granted. If you do it might be the end of your career.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Opting Out

There is an issue at stake here that's larger than just opting out. To be admitted to any college, students must test to get in. While I do agree that CPS can go the extreme with testing, there should be no clause to opt out. It sends a poor, irresponsible messageThe parents without the social capital to opt out are often forgotten. This is blatant insubordination and heads will roll. I guarantee it.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

I support their decision

I think the teachers are doing the right thing. CPS told us they weren't going to test the early grades and guess what? My kindergartner came home with a score report showing he has taken the MAP test TWICE already this year. So obviously CPS has no idea what is happening with testing in their own district. Some schools are testing nonstop. When are the teachers supposed to be presenting new material? If it isn't one test it is another, and the next two weeks are out because of ISAT. Kindergarten doesn't take ISAT, but they still suffer because of it. They can't make a peep in the building, walk in the hall or have special classes for two weeks. That's a really great environment for 5 year olds (NOT).

Someone has to stand up to CPS about these stupid tests. I want my child in school to learn, not to fill in bubbles for some bureaucrat's useless spreadsheet.

Hannah wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

bigger than insubordination

This issue is bigger than just "getting in trouble;" what these teachers are doing is called "civil disobedience." This is definitely a situation where the "rules" have gotten out of hand... they're no longer fulfilling a useful purpose... instead, they doing more harm than good. The teachers may not be "right" legally, but they are "right" morally.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Easy to say, when someone

Easy to say, when someone else will lose their job. The Saucedo Teachers have made their point. CPS diplacedbteachers at 50 some schools with the last round of closings. Do you really believe this can be ignored?

Hannah wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

This is why what they're

This is why what they're doing is such a gutsy move... they're risking a lot by doing this... COURAGE... and sometimes it takes COURAGE to do what is right.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

I agree very gutsy and

I agree very gutsy and courageous. But not worth your career. They have made their point and the press has told their story. The union cannot defend their actions. And since these are the kind of people the children need, go to work and give the test.
Live to fight (raise awareness) on future issues.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

I agree very gutsy and

I agree very gutsy and courageous. But not worth your career. They have made their point and the press has told their story. The union cannot defend their actions. And since these are the kind of people the children need, go to work and give the test.
Live to fight (raise awareness) on future issues.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Caution and clarity

I object when adults use kids as pawns in their political pursuits. Parents, and parents alone, have the obligation to determine what is best. It is incumbent on advocates of both sides of the argument to be mindful of the greater picture. The discourse, in my opinion, is objectionable and offensive to me as a parent. The tone by both sides does not reflect civility nor any sense of integrity. They appear to be harsh stamenents designed to belittle opposing positions in a disrespectful manner. All the things attempt to guard my child against. I am asking us all to please be aware that our children, as it affects them, are watching. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Not entirely true

There are over 3000 nationally accredited colleges that have a "scores optional" application. Check out this recent news report from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/18/277059528/college-applicants-sweat-the-sat...

Ferris wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Do this, do that. Don't ask why!

This is a response to "anonymous" and "anonymous." Stick with me, OK? Everything in this post is for a reason -- and it's all for you, my nameless, faceless friends...

I'm a teacher at Saucedo and above all else, I pride myself in teaching critical thinking. That doesn't matter right now. It's tax time and there's this new tax form that everyone is asked to fill out. It's called form US245042859452-B. It'll take you about 5.75 hours to complete but you MUST fill it out!!!!!! You can't E-file it and you need to post it in the mail by April 15.

There is no law saying that you need to send this form and once it arrives at the IRS, they've said that they will not look at it when it gets there.

So, Mr./Mrs./Dr. Anonymous or whatever you are...

You want to take some time out of your schedule and fill that [not so] little form out? I can watch you fill it out! I've got over 10 years of experience watching students do things like that!

Totally different from the ISAT, huh? I don't think so. I teach MY students to THINK! What would you say to ANYONE who spent more than ONE SECOND struggling through, checking over, folding up, stamping, addressing, and mailing form US245042859452-B? What would you say to them, Anonymous? THINK!!!!!!!

If you can't accept the reality of the current over-testing debate, then perhaps you would be willing to do such a thing as waste a colossal amount of time on US245042859452-B and other similar forms! To that end, I'll be happy to sit there and proctor as you complete it. If you need my help, just meet me at the Caribou Coffee at Clark, just north of Wellington. I won't know who you are (because you're a COWARD, hiding behind "Anonymous"), but you'll have an easy time picking me out of the crowd! I'm the one brimming with pride and self-confidence because I and 100% of my fellow teachers at Saucedo voted to bow to the wishes of the parents and our own common sense!

Should I be fired? Should the CPS or CTU FORCE me to administer this time-wasting, soon-to-be obsolete test?

Hannah wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Ferris - In solidarity!!!!

Ferris - In solidarity!!!! ^0^

urbanteach wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Let us be clear

The teachers and parents in this case are not opting out of the NWEA. The assessment that BBB has explained will be the determining factor to promotion, selective enrollment, school leveling and value-added teacher ratings.
The argument that we exist in a society that deems standardized assessment scores as evidence of knowledge and learning is not in question here... that assessment still stands.
If the argument is that assessment helps define practice well we have plenty of those to chose from... just check out the CPS assessment calendar. It if full of a bevy of assessments starting in pre-k that measure growth and identify need. ISAT is redundant and will fill our calendar with useless testing dates.
Please note that between assessing students there must be time to teach those identified needs.

Don wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

I feel sorry for the PATs.

I feel sorry for the PATs. 39-1 would have been an anonymous vote. 40-0 is not anonymous.
It's great CTU members have become so concerned about instructional time. How about getting real radical and provide more instruction for the same pay?

Oscar wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Ferris - The Savior of Overtesting

You are fighting an noble yet unwinnable cause. I will not stand with my peers or the union over this. It is blatant insubordination. If you feel your career is worth it, drive on. My children will test. You are not the authority to prove your freaking message with the children of others.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Ferris-I am not anonymous but

Ferris-I am not anonymous but I would be happy to buy you alot of coffee! You and your fellow teachers are an incredibly dedicated group, those students are lucky to have you.

George N. Schmidt wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

Anonymous nonsense -- as usual

The amount of disinformation allowed because some blogs and websites permit anonymous and pseudonymous commentation is again exemplified here. The Saucedo teachers have taken a public stand against a form of child abuse, and those who are preaching and prattling against them are, as I've said often enough, cowards. If you have an opinion, why are you afraid to say it in a forthright way, and in your own name. American democracy was not established and elaborated by cowards hiding behind anonymous shieldings.

Imagine if the Declaration of Independence had been signed "Aonymous," or "Don", or "Name withheld by request...' That sure would have sacred away the British imperialists.

Active Teacher wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago
Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

It never ceases to amaze me

It never ceases to amaze me how frightened some people get when others defy authority.

Anonymous wrote 25 weeks 6 days ago

What a waste of precious education dollars

I can't think of a bigger waste of CPS's time and money than giving the ISAT this year. No one will ever see or use the scores. Teachers don't get scores back until after the school year is over. CPS says it is useful as a practice for next year's test, but is it necessary to cancel regular school for two weeks and spend millions of dollars just to give a practice test? Taxpayers should be screaming. I'm sure CPS thought "Well we know it isn't legally necessary this year but we can't just NOT have a test!" Even though the score sheets might as well just go into the garbage for all the good they'll do.

northside wrote 25 weeks 5 days ago

ISAT silver lining

The ISAT is about the only thing we do at my school that I know for sure...every other thing I do at my school is random and changes as we go along. I can't be accused that I didn't do it right or at the right time....I can't be given a surprise "informal" observation or told my work is sub par...hard to explain...but if you work at CPS with a tough principal you may know what I mean!

retired principal ll wrote 25 weeks 5 days ago

good point here-is cps so test crazed, possessed, addicted

they just keep piling the tests on at torture of students, teachers, parents and the loss of weeks of precious instruction time?
do any board members own stock in these testing-corporate entities?

Lisa R wrote 25 weeks 5 days ago

Insubordination?

The one issue I have is why didnt the Saucedo teachers form a united front with all teachers with support from the CTU? I am a parent who has opted out. I hope all parents opt out so we can stand up with the teachers. Saucedo teachers are now my heroes. Thank you for being bold, and standing up for your students. We need more teachers stirring the pot.....parents please opt out!!!

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more