Posts Tagged ‘high-stakes testing’

PSAT for 3-5-13: Send me your ISAT stories

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

psat_logoThis is ISAT week and a lot of students, parents and teachers are thinking about opting out of the state tests.

PURE believes that standardized testing should be limited and that parents should have the right to opt their children out of any standardized tests.

We support SB2156, a bill to limit standardized testing in Illinois.

Part 1 of today’s PSAT – please contact your state senators and ask them to co-sponsor SB2156 and to amend it to include a parents’ right to opt out.

Parents in Illinois outside of Chicago have opted out of the ISAT. Some Chicago parents have also opted their students out of the ISAT in some grades – but since CPS uses 3rd, 6th and 8th grade ISAT scores to make student promotion decisions and 7th grade ISAT scores as a gateway to selective enrollment high schools, the opt out choice here can be hazardous.

So, PSAT Part 2 is to send me your ISAT stories so that we can continue to work to eliminate the high-stakes on the ISAT in Chicago (e-mail me at

PURE has an ongoing discrimination complaint against CPS’s student promotion policy. It was filed in December 2010, but due to CPS foot-dragging and the revolving leadership door, it has not been resolved.

Any information we can pass on to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights about the CPS policy would be very helpful right now. This includes:

  • How principals, network officials, CPS administrators, or ISBE staff have responded to questions about opting out of ISAT.
  • ISAT testing problems.
  • Anything you have in writing about ISAT test policies or procedures.
  • Letters, e-mails etc. that you have written to anyone in CPS about opting out or other test problems.

I will contact you to get your permission before sharing anything with OCR.

PSAT for 12-18-12: Share new FairTest infographic

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012


Says it all about testing on one colorful page.

Download printable version here.











More from student making anti-testing film

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Back in September I wrote about Ankur Singh, a student from downstate Illinois who reached out to me and others about a film he wants to make about how students feel about testing. Since then he has created a web site for the film and written a great post about why he feels so strongly about testing and what it is doing to education. Here’s part of his story:

I enrolled in AP English due to my great experience with English the previous year hoping it would be more rigorous and I would grow even more as a writer and as a person. I was wrong. The entire purpose of AP English was not to improve our critical thinking or our writing, but to prepare for the AP Exam in May and to get ready for college. We read great pieces of literature that I highly enjoyed and wanted to learn more about. But, instead of analyzing themes or characters our teacher would give us questions which we would have to write essays about in a 50 minute class period similar to what we would find on the AP Exam and in college classes. It frustrated me to no avail and I ended up doing very poor in AP English. And I found the exact same thing in all of my other AP classes, which seemed more focused on college preparation and standardized tests rather than genuine learning.

Ankur is still looking for students to interview for the film, so please share any contacts you have with him via the web site. His article was also posted on United Opt Out National.

Chicago pays $78.4 million fine for stupid job test

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

People are getting more and more concerned about the cost of testing — and we really have no idea what we’re spending.

But here’s a big number everyone can understand: a $78 million compensation award for Chicago African-American firefighter applicants who, according to a federal judge, were denied job opportunity as a firefighter because of the city’s discriminatory entrance test.

The Sun-Times reported:

“The 1995 firefighters entrance exam was drafted by an African American with an eye toward diversifying a Chicago Fire Department with a long and documented history of discrimination. When results for minorities were disappointing, the city established a cutoff score of 89 and hired randomly from the top 1,800 “well-qualified” candidates. In 2005, a federal judge ruled that the city’s decision had the effect of perpetuating the predominantly white status quo, because 78 percent of those “well-qualified” candidates were white.”

As for the costs of the nation’s rapidly growing test and test prep programs, we may have to look for answers to legislation like this resolution passed by the New Mexico Senate, which expresses concern that testing is eating into instructional time, and requires a report on

  • the number and kinds of tests required by various entities, such as the federal government, state government, district and school or classroom assessments;
  • the per-student cost of assessments;
  • the amount of instructional time spent both on preparing students to take assessments and on the time spent by students taking assessments; and
  • the ways in which the data are used.

Teacher Adam Heenan shared this with me after our testing panel at St Xavier last night (more on that later). He reports that the resolution passed the NM Senate and similar language was adopted by the NEA and AFT this past summer. Adam says that the proposal was written with Xian Barrett and Elaine Romero along with input and inspiration from George and Sharon Schmidt.

Check out Adam’s blog here.


Citywide testing resistance strategy session Nov 2

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

When FairTest’s Monty Neill comes to town on Friday, Nov 2, for a public forum on testing issues at 7 pm at St Xavier University, he has also agreed to help lead an afternoon citywide strategy session on anti-testing resistance – how we can work across groups, unite behind some common messages, share resources and otherwise build a strong testing resistance in Chicago.

The session will be from 2 to 4 pm on Friday Nov 2nd at the CTU office, 4th floor in the Merchandise Mart.

We realize that this timing will make it difficult or impossible for teachers to attend, but Monty will be meeting separately with the CTU as well. We are hoping that leaders and organizers for parents, education advocacy and community groups and others who would like to become more active around and learn more about testing issues will attend.

We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and brainstorm with leader of the the nation’s anti-testing movement. (The qr code above will take you to the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing, which Monty spearheaded, with input from PURE, Parents Across America, and others and which you and your group should endorse if you haven’t already!).

Please let me know if you intend to attend or if you have questions:


Please help student with high-stakes testing documentary

Monday, September 24th, 2012

I just received this e-mail and am posting it here with permission:

My name is Ankur Singh and I am a recent high school graduate from Bloomington-Normal, IL about 3 hours south of Chicago. I’m making a feature length documentary film about how standardized testing affects students. This film is deeply personal for me since I had a really negative experience with standardized testing and desperately need to find out how other students handle it and show the world’s students that they are not alone. I solely want to focus on the students’ perspective. This film will not include interviews with education experts or teachers, this film is about the students.

I was just wondering if there were any parents who were a part of PURE who have children in Chicago that had a bad experience with standardized testing who I could film. Specifically I’m looking for a student whose true capabilities and persona can’t be measured by a standardized test.

I’m just a regular student, not a journalist, who is absolutely frustrated with the way our education system revolves around standardized testing. I just want to make this film to capture the emotional impact testing has on us, which often gets hidden in the media by a large cloud of politics.

You can view some of my previous work here:

If you’re interested just let me know and I can provide more details and we can get the ball rolling. And if you have any questions or need more information don’t hesitate to ask!

Thank you,
Ankur Singh

Father of High-Stakes Testing, Paul Vallas, now opposes them

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Reuters reports that former Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas thinks end-of-year assessments are “not useful” and that it’s “a big mistake” to use them for high-stakes purposes.

Well, he needs to apologize to about 125,000 Chicago Public School students who have been flunked because of the high-stakes testing policy he started in 1996 as CPS CEO. And maybe his “education consulting firm” can figure out how those students who were thrown off-track by retention can recoup their educational losses and how taxpayers can recoup the more than $1 billion CPS has wasted over the years with Vallas’s failed student promotion policy. That kind of money would come in pretty handy right now, what with CTU contract negotiations underway.

In fact, Vallas is the Father of High-Stakes Testing. He was the first to flunk huge numbers of students every year based solely on their end-of-year Iowa test scores. You may have read this powerful story by one of the first students to be affected by Vallas’s “ending social promotion” fiasco; we’ve had it posted for a while under the Take Action menu on our home page. Read it again (or for the first time) as you consider Vallas’s apparent change of heart, according to the Reuters story:

Even some advocates of testing are beginning to publicly complain about the system.

Many state assessments are given in March or April, so they capture only what a student has learned in the first two-thirds of the school year. The results often don’t come back until the summer, too late for teachers to use the scores to guide their approach in the classroom.

“They’re not useful,” said Paul Vallas, a veteran superintendent who has helped turn around districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans and is now running the schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Vallas is hardly anti-test: He favors giving abbreviated versions of standardized tests every six weeks, all year, so teachers can monitor student progress and adjust accordingly. But a single high-stakes test? “A big mistake,” Vallas said.

“The assessment systems are not reliable,” he said. “They need to be more sophisticated, more accountable, more fair.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, CPS still uses an only slightly modified version of the old Vallas promotion policy. Our December 2010 complaint against the policy has been sitting at the U. S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, apparently just collecting dust, while CPS massages the same failed policy — a handful of changes were made at the May 2012 Board meeting, including dropping poor attendance as a factor and changing a couple of terms.

So, more CPS students will be sent to summer school in a few days and possibly flunked at the end of the summer based on assessments that are “not reliable,” in the words of the Father of High-Stakes Testing.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.