CHICAGO, On Wednesday, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett sent a letter to all parents informing them that the ISAT test would no longer be used for the enrollment process in selective enrollment schools and discouraged parents from opting out of any standardized test.
The letter threatened parents that children who do not take certain tests would have to go to summer school, mandated that parents meet with principals before exercising their right to refuse testing for their children and warned that schools with low participation in testing would be punished with low ratings.
“Parents are perfectly capable of determining what’s in the best interests of their own children, and we do not need lectures from the CEO of CPS,” said Linda Schmidt of the parent advocacy group, More Than A Score. CPS policy currently requires students with high grades to go to summer school if they opt out of the NWEA MAP test.
Even though the ISAT will no longer be used for promotion policy, performance policy (school level rating) or selective enrollment admission, Byrd-Bennett discouraged parents from opting out of the ISAT, to be administered March 3rd-14th. But she made clear that parents have the right to opt students out and that students will be able to do self-guided activities during the ISAT.
“The time devoted to the ISAT was problematic when it was being used as a single measure of student and school performance. It is just as problematic now that it doesn’t hold any administrative or instructional purpose. But the fact that it is not a high-stakes test for students this year means that at least parents and students can say no to the disruption and loss of learning time that the ISAT has always caused,” said Cassie Creswell, another More Than A Score member.
More Than A Score is spreading the word to parents of their right and ability to opt out of the ISAT and will be hosting a forum on February 6th: “What’s up with Standardized Testing at CPS: Is it time to ICE the ISAT?”
Byrd-Bennett also stated that CPS reduced the number of standardized tests by 15 this year from 25 to 10, but this count includes tests like the NWEA MPG, which many K-2 students are still taking, and does not include the newly mandated, Common Core-aligned, district-designed benchmark tasks. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade may be taking anywhere from 3 to 12 of these tasks on top of the other district, state, and federal mandated tests.
Although “testing season”, as Byrd-Bennett referred to it, begins with the ISAT, it will culminate in the multi-week administration of the computerized NWEA MAP exam this spring. CPS promotion policy states that a student in grade 3,6 or 8 with a too-low MAP score will be denied promotion and forced into summer school, regardless of their grades. In November, More Than A Score released an alternative promotion policy that would rely primarily on report card grades and use standardized test scores only as diagnostic tools.
Although Byrd-Bennett’s letter claims the MAP is an important instructional tool, a randomized controlled study released by the US Department of Education last year of 32 schools in Illinois found the use of the MAP had no “statistically significant impact on students’ reading achievement.”