Posts Tagged ‘ISAT’

Please share this testing survey with 5th-6th grade parents/students

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

High-Stakes Testing; The Student Voice Flyer


Deadline April 23.

Dear Parent or Guardian,

I am conducting a research study entitled “High-Stakes Testing: The Student Voice” with 5th and 6th grade student in the Chicago Area. We are interested in examining the student perspective of high-stakes standardized tests. Ultimately, my hope is to learn if students feel that high-stakes testing affects them emotionally or academically. We are requesting that you allow your child to participate.

Participants in the study will be asked to complete an online survey which consists of 45 questions. Afterwards, 10-25% of the students will be selected to participate in a one-on-one interview. The total time to participate in the study will be approximately two hours. Students who participate will complete the survey online.

There are no foreseeable risks to participating in the study.

Names will be used in filling out the study’s forms, but all responses will be anonymous. No one at the school will have access to any of the information collected. Surveys will be kept on Loyola University server and will be accessible only to the researchers.

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary and there will be no penalty for not participating. All students for whom we have parent consent will be asked if they wish to participate and only those who agree will complete the forms. Moreover, participants will be free to stop taking part in the study at any time.

Loyola University Chicago’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has approved this study. Should you have any questions about the study please contact Dr. Noah Sobe at (312) 915-6954 or, if you have questions about your rights as a research participant, you can contact the Loyola University Office of Research Services at (773) 508-2689.

Confidentiality will be maintained to the degree permitted by the technology used. Your participation in this online survey involves risks similar to a person’s everyday use of the Internet.

Please print this letter for your records.

Julianna Cechowski
Culture of Education and Policy Studies
Loyola University Chicago

Teachers at Rahm’s kids’ private school support ISAT opt out

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

ICEtheISATAnnounced on CTU web site:

by Maureen Schmidt – Faculty Association President, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools  |  03/11/2014

The members of the Executive Board of the Faculty Association of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools stand in solidarity with our fellow  educators in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. We support the teachers who are currently boycotting the administration of the ISAT in several Chicago Public Schools, along with the parents who have decided to opt their children out of the test.

We believe that their firm stance demonstrates the need for a continued and participatory discussion about the role of standardized testing in schools today.

If life is a test, the Trib flunks

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Today’s Chicago Tribune editorial claims their “philosophy” is that “Life is a test.”

Wow. That explains a lot about the Tribune, doesn’t it?

We have a different take on life, and so do a lot of others. For example:

  • Life is one grand sweet song, so start the music. Ronald Reagan
  • Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others. Helen Keller
  • Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. Charles Schultz
  • Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it. Danny Kaye
  • Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, then life is like a broken winged bird that cannot fly. Langston Hughes
  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The purpose of life is to find out “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?” George Harrison

Besides, most of the Trib’s readers think standardized tests are “bogus.” If you haven’t voted in this Tribune poll yet, do it now!


Test officials getting testier about opting out

Friday, February 28th, 2014

iceISATEfforts by school testing folks to stop the opt out steamroller are getting desperate. Now they are threatening everything from teacher firings to school closure. It’s almost as if they are afraid that their test-based house of cards is about to collapse…

Here’s an e-mail sent to More Than a Score’s Julie Fain by Didi Schwartz, head of assessment at CPS, and our responses (written by Cassie Creswell and added in bold below).

From: “Swartz, Claudinette” <>
Date: February 27, 2014 at 11:46:13 AM CST
To: Julie Fain <>
Subject: ISAT opt out

Hi Julie,
I wanted to reach out on the opt out issue because I’m concerned that there are repercussions from the State that teachers and parents may not be aware of.  We’ve just sent something to principals and I want to make sure you guys are clear too.

What we’ve heard from ISBE is that because ISAT is required by both federal (NCLB) and state law (IL School Code), it’s possible that schools could lose federal funding with low testing percentages.  We’re still trying to nail down with ISBE exactly how this will be determined, but this is something that would be reviewed by the federal Dept. of Ed.

There is no evidence that the federal government will limit Title I funding due to testing opt outs. If ISBE or US Ed has evidence of this ever happening anywhere or under consideration, please have them produce it. We have reviewed the US Code and the CFR and found no references to automatic funding cuts for failure to make AYP.  Below 95% participation averaged over three years would trigger an AYP failure, but the district has not made AYP since at least 2005, and only 64 CPS schools made AYP last year.  If there were any cuts, they happened already.

In addition, there are possible repercussions for teachers from ISBE, again since this is a required test.  Depending on the circumstance, teacher actions could be reviewed by the State Certification Board with potential impact on their licensing.  There would of course also be CPS-specific consequences since test administration and a maintaining secure testing environment are considered basic job functions of CPS employees.

CTU is fully prepared to defend teachers who refuse to administer this test.  Teachers who have chosen not to administer the test understand that there may be repercussions for their jobs.  Please provide a citation for the impact of test boycotts on licensure.

Finally, the state has also indicated that this could trigger a review of school recognition status (i.e. accreditation).

If past failure to make AYP did not already trigger this, why would presently missing it, as nearly  all schools will do with 100% meets and exceeds required, trigger heretofore unknown sanctions. 

And as for the messaging around this, I think there are also a few things that need to be cleared up.

Time spent testing: I think it’s misleading to say that ISAT takes up 2 weeks of instructional time.  The total test time is 3 hours each for reading and math and 2 for science (4 an 7 only).  You can find this in the test manual here and here, on page 6.  There is a 2 week window to allow maximum flexibility in scheduling.  Students who are absent typically take make-up tests in the 2nd week, but this doesn’t disrupt instruction of other students as it is done in another setting.  The 6 or 8 hours on the test is less than 1% of a student’s time spent in school.

Disruption is far more than the 6-8 hours of testing. Even students not in 3-8th grade have disrupted schedules during the testing window; most specials are cancelled etc.  At least one school is being dismissed early (before 12) for the three days of testing.  Special ed students can take many more than 6-8 hours to test, and their teachers are lost to administering the test for weeks.  This doesn’t even begin to cover the hours and dollars devoted to ISAT prep time.

CPS does not pay for ISAT.  I saw a flyer that quoted us as spending 3.5 million on it.  I have no idea where this came from…this is a state exam.

This claim is not coming from us; nonetheless, the ISAT will cost the state $18M; $3.5M of that is for the test within CPS.

Although it isn’t used for accountability or promotion/selective enrollment, it isn’t a complete waste of time.  It is the only measure we have this year aligned to the full depth and breadth of the Common Core and the only uniform measure across the state.  While NWEA is aligned to the CCSS in terms of strand alignment, text and item complexity, it is of course only available in multiple choice.  ISAT also includes extended response items aligned to the CCSS.

 The ISAT will still be primarily multiple choice; the number of extended responses items is the same as prior years. The PARCC blueprints and test specifications call for more complex multiple choice  and more extended response items.  The newly required CCQB performances tasks are giving students plenty of practice in ELA and math in a non-multiple choice format. Furthermore, the equating procedures for last year’s ISAT to this year’s ISAT are unclear. If the CC switch is meaningful, the underlying construct of the test has changed; you cannot compare last year’s scores to this year’s without heavy equating. At best, reading will have 10 anchoring items. Math is less clear but will have to  be worse.  

Because Illinois requires ISAT, schools are expected to present all students with the test.  Students can refuse to test, but must remain quiet and not disrupt testing for other students.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett sent a letter to parents stating that they have the right to opt their children out of all tests.  We are instructing parents to tell schools they are refusing on behalf of their legally minor children and that the school should code their student as having refused the test.  It is unethical to pressure children, some as young as eight years old, to participate in activities against their parent/guardian’s wishes.

I definitely understand the frustration with time spent on assessment generally and unhealthy testing practices (bubble kids strategy, narrowly focusing on certain skills…etc).  Believe me, we are working to change this.  We have sent out messages and talked with principals and Chiefs about what it means to prepare students to do well on assessments that are aligned to the Common Core.  While you guys may be hearing about the bad practices, there are also plenty of principals and teachers that are getting the message about how high quality daily tasks that truly ask kids to think, write, defend their choices…etc are the key.

Most of us are not just hearing about bad practices; our children and, in some cases, students are in Chicago Public Schools experiencing the effects of the CPS testing policy every day.

This is a process that will certainly take time, but we’re committed to it.

We encourage you to continue to work to change the fundamental values in this district that continue to prioritize test scores above education and children.

At the same time, I hope that MTAS and the other groups you guys work with can deliver a message that fully informs parents of the facts about ISAT (and other tests) and any potential repercussions.

We encourage CPS administration to do the same.

As you know, I’m always more than willing to talk to you guys and help clear things up.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Didi Swartz
Director of Assessment | Office of Accountability
Chicago Public Schools

Opt out threats continue – UPDATED

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Rocking the ISATSprepUPDATE: The Principal of Franklin has sent an apology of sorts to parents at the school for yesterday’s letter discussed below. Kudos to her for being a big enough person to say she’s sorry – not every CPS administrator (including Barbara Byrd-Bennett) has the decency to do that. However, there are still major problems with this attempt to justify the excessive testing in our schools.

Today’s letter:

Dear Families,

First and foremost I want to express my sincere apologies for the tone of my letter yesterday. I did not intend to upset anyone and I am sorry that I did. I’ve heard from many of you since I sent that letter and now I want to clarify the standardized test information.

I am proud of our teachers. They work hard all year long to prepare our students for a variety of achievement tests—the ISAT, the Selective Enrollment test, NWEA, and others. The work that they do is not only to prepare for standardized tests but, more importantly, to prepare your children to be excellent students overall, and teach them skills, including how to take test, that will serve them well throughout their school years.

There are a number of tests that we will administer and their results are used in different ways.
·         The SQRP:  CPS has developed the SQRP to rate the schools in the system. Therefore, our scores on the SQRP will be used to rate Franklin, along with every other CPS school.
·         The ISAT:  The ISAT will still be used for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) .  The data will be reflected on our school report card. Additionally, the ISAT data is a valuable tool for our teaching staff at Franklin.  We use the ISAT data to differentiate and individualize instruction. It helps us get better at our practice and set priority goals, especially with the new Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP)  process that is happening right now.  We also know that prospective families look at ISAT, NWEA, and other data when considering schools.

I want to clarify an important point: you may opt out of the ISAT and any test. I apologize that I did not give you accurate information on this point in my letter yesterday. I also want to be clear with you on this point: my hope is that most families will allow their children to take the test so that we as a school can have all the tools available to us to help us focus our instruction, identify gaps in achievement among the diverse population for our school and work toward continuous improvement in our teaching.

Franklin is a school with so much talent. Our teachers and students achieve in both academics and the arts. We have a supportive group of parents, teachers, and community. To weather challenging times, our community can and must come together to make it work—and to thrive. I want focus on this aspect of Franklin and continue that good work. My sense of urgency yesterday was driven by my concern that if many students opt out of the ISAT, the results can change the nature of our scores on the State Report Card, not to mislead or confuse you.

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions. I hope that this note helps ease any tension and clears up any confusion from yesterday’s note. We are all in this together and I support any decision you make on testing. I know Franklin families will do the right thing for their children and for the school community.

Margie D. Smagacz, NBCT
Franklin Fine Arts Center
225 West Evergreen
Chicago, IL 60610
(773)534-8510     Fax: (773) 534-8022


E-mail sent today (2/11/14) from the principal of Chicago Public Schools magnet school Franklin Fine Arts to a parent who indicated she would like to opt her child out of the ISAT:

This letter is going to all parents today. Please send this blast to those that are buzzing right now and preparing their letter. This will seriously hurt the school.

You received a letter from Barbara Byrd Bennett, our Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools, regarding testing. First, ISAT is a required test under No Child Left Behind. Opting out of this test is not an option.

In addition, I want to clarify the purpose of the ISAT. It does provide an analysis of how our children are performing in relation to the Common Core Standards. This test will give us a baseline of what to work on with your children in preparation for the new statewide test next year.

Also, this test is linked to our Adequate Yearly Progress. We are a Tier 1 school because our children do well on the test. The more students not taking the test will mean that our status will drop to Tier 2 or 3 and put us on probation.

I understand your frustration. I understand your purpose. I realize that testing is an issue throughout the United States. However we are all held accountable for the performance of our students. Not having your child take the test will seriously jeopardize our school and staff and status.

If you would like to have a meeting regarding this assessment, please feel free to contact me.

Margie D. Smagacz, NBCT


Franklin Fine Arts Center
225 West Evergreen
Chicago, IL 60610
(773)534-8510     Fax: (773) 534-8022

The Mission of Franklin Fine Arts Center is to provide all students, including those with special needs, a foundation for progressing to higher levels in education. This foundation includes a challenging educational program that encourages students to work collaboratively, a focus on individual learning styles, the development of life and social skills, and the promotion of respectful behavior toward peers and adults. We also provide a rich fine arts education as an independent core subject as well as integrated into other curriculum areas.


Ms. Smagacz’s concerns are unfounded:

  • ISAT is not being used to determine school level this year.
  • Opting out of the ISAT is an option according to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
  • The state of Illinois allows for a student who refuses the test not to be counted in a school’s overall percentage of students tested.
  • Common Core tests are still being written – to say that ISAT is important as a way to “practice” for the Common Core tests or to judge how students will do on those tests is a poor excuse for putting children through two weeks of meaningless testing. As MTAS has pointed out, there are many other tests also being given that supposedly align with the Common Core, including the Common Core quarterly benchmark tests and the NWEA MAP.
  • NCLB requires a school to have 100% of its students meeting or exceeding state standards by 2014. No school in Chicago will meet that standard. The top scoring elementary school in Illinois, CPS’s Skinner Classical, was at “only” 97% in 2013.

Please see this More Than a Score ISAT fact sheet for more information.

PSAT for 2-4-14: Sign our petition to scrap the ISAT!

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

psat_logoMore Than a Score’s petition to scrap the ISAT has been up only a couple of days and already has over 750 signatures. Let’s hit the 1000 mark today!

And don’t forget the ISAT forum this Thursday, Feb. 6, at 6:30 at Haas Park. Speakers will include Cassie Creswell from More Than a Score, Greg Michie, CPS teacher and author, a student member of VOYCE, and CPS teacher Monique Redeaux-Smith. We’ll have opt out and other resources to share, including MTAS’s alternative proposal for replacing high-stakes testing with common-sense use of report cards. Here’s a flyer to download.

Here’s what the petition says:

We parents, students, and educators are concerned that the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) will be administered again this March.  The ISAT is not used in Chicago for student promotion, or for school performance, or for selective enrollment admission, nor is it used for teacher evaluation purposes.

By forcing our children to undergo this meaningless test, they will lose hours of valuable classroom instruction time, disrupting as many as ten school days.  CPS plans to force this test on students again at the same time that they are also required to take NWEA MAP tests, new Interim Benchmark Tests, REACH Performance Tasks, ACCESS tests, NAEP tests, pilot Common Core tests and more.

Over-testing of students has come with real costs to their education. Students need fewer tests and more access to arts, language and a broad, rich curriculum. Students need meaningful and educationally appropriate assessments, not more standardized tests.  We call on Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois State Board of Education not to give the ISAT test this year.

CPS and the State of Illinois plan to phase out ISAT and introduce a new test next year. CPS has no purpose for administering the ISAT beyond meeting a mandate to administer it. The State and Chicago Boards of Education should move to waive this wasteful test. All parents and students should be explicitly informed of their right to refuse standardized testing.  Students and families who choose to exercise the right to opt out should be treated fairly and respectfully.

For more information visit

PSAT for 1-28-14: Time to ICE the ISAT?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014


Please plan to attend this important forum next week, and share the Facebook event and flyer with your networks!

 More Than a Score presents a free public forum

What's Up with Testing in CPS?

Is NWEA the new ISAT?

More testing, less testing?

What does it all mean for opting out?

When: Thursday, February 6, 2014 6:30 to 8 pm

Where: Haas Park (2402 N. Washtenaw at Fullerton – ample free street parking)

We'll talk about:

  • the many testing changes in CPS this year,

  • how these changes may affect opting out and other testing resistance activities, and

  • better ways to assess student progress.

For more information please go to

or e-mail us at


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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.