Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Teachers at Chicago’s Saucedo Scholastic Academy vote 100% to boycott ISAT test. Teachers’ union has their backs: 100%.

“This morning teachers at Maria Saucedo Academy voted unanimously to boycott the ISAT test. This follows on the heels of yesterday’s press conference by parents who have opted out of the test. They represent a reported 500 parents who have opted out district-wide” (Fred Klonsky’s Blog). 

Press release from the Chicago Teachers Union:

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) supports teachers and parents at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy who announced today their intent to boycott the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT). Teachers have collected more than 300 opt-out letters and the student council voted to encourage all students to opt out of the exam. Should these courageous educators face disciplinary charges by the district, CTU vowed to mount a strong defense of this collective action.

Saucedo’s action stance against the ISAT could spark a teacher and parent-led movement to “opt-out” throughout the Chicago Public Schools system.

“The Saucedo educators have taken a bold step in refusing to administer a test that is of no use to students and will be junked by the district next year,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has already said the ISAT will not be used for selective enrollment, and therefore this serves no purpose other than to give students another standardized test. We know that parents all over the city are opting their children out of this unnecessary test, and we commend them for doing what is in the best interests of their children.”

The ‘low stakes’ test is expected to be administered over the course of eight days in all elementary schools starting March 3rd. Formerly used to help qualify 7th grade students for selective enrollment high schools. The district recently issued a memorandum to teachers stressing the value of “rigorous, high-quality assessments,” in measuring student progress. The ISAT, however, is not aligned to any CPS curriculum, and in Chicago, it is no longer used to measure student progress, school performance, promotion, or for any other purpose.

For the last decade, since the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ISAT test has been the primary lever used by CPS for its destructive, destabilizing policies of closures and turnarounds. System-wide, the ISAT has infected the vigor and breadth of curriculum as teachers and students became stymied by the requirements of a narrow test-based approach to learning. NCLB has now been panned as a broad failure, but with the transition into more new tests, CPS threatens to double-down on the failed policy of standardized-test based accountability.

Standardized testing and the Eugenics movement by Karen Lewis

Many people who are convinced that standardized tests are reliable and valid indicators of student learning are not only sadly mistaken, but they are often people who also support policies that harm children, teachers and schools. This is unfortunate for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that unions, think tanks and other entities no longer pursue alternatives—multiple measures...

What many people do not know is that the use of standardized tests has its origins in the Eugenics movement, where basic tenets assert that certain races are inferior to others biologically and intellectually. From our 21st century perspective, we can look back in horror, but we have to be clear about the original purpose of standardized tests. 

The original IQ tests were designed by French psychologist Alfred Binet for benign and limited uses: a) on young children who were not developing “normally”; b) as “general” tools to make “general” decisions, not a precise measurement for precise decisions; and c) to signal when a child needed more help in their intellectual development. Unfortunately in the United States, IQ scores were posited to be fixed and innate, and were promptly used to rank and sort individuals by race and ethnic background. Businesses, government agencies and educational institutions used IQ tests to justify placing certain people into certain jobs and excluding them from others.

While the Eugenics movement died an ignoble and deserved death, the leftover love affair with standardized testing has gotten completely out of control. In a society fascinated by statistics, we are often compelled to reduce everything to a single number. Those of us who work with children know that there are so many characteristics that cannot be quantified. We also know that educators are the best positioned and best trained to judge what our children know, what they don’t know and what we must do to support their learning. 

No test written from afar—that doesn’t give us immediate feedback and is not aligned to the curriculum—can ever provide us with the information we need to adequately help our students. We should resist every opportunity to steal our time, resources and professional judgment to satisfy the insatiable data monster that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have created.

Ask yourselves whether you want to be part of a legacy born of the unholy alliance between the concept of “natural inequality” and the drudgery that has been imposed on many of our classrooms. Do your own research and let’s start to have the discussions on what is fair, equitable and good for our children.

Dear Illinois Teachers: 

A Question: How about uniting and boycotting Mastery Manager, Response to Intervention, Common Core, and Race to the Top…? 

glen brown

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