Posts Tagged ‘standardized testing’

PSAT for 3-11-14: Keep up the ISAT pressure!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014



The ice and snow are not letting up in Chicago and neither is the ICE the ISAT campaign!

Please read and share this letter to the editor in today’s Tribune, which I submitted on behalf of More Than a Score.

Then sign this petition to support the teachers who are teaching instead of testing this week. It has already received over 2300 signatures!

Parents support Saucedo and Drummond teachers’ test boycott

Friday, February 28th, 2014

BNtestprepcropParents United for Responsible Education and the parent group More Than a Score strongly support the teachers at Chicago’s Saucedo, Drummond,  and any other Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Illinois teachers who are refusing to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test to their students beginning on Monday, March 3.

The hundreds of parents represented by PURE and MTAS oppose the misuse and overuse of standardized tests. We believe that Chicago schools are administering far too many tests and wasting too much precious learning time on testing and test preparation. Some tests are given just to predict how students will do on future tests. Others are unfairly and improperly used to make life-changing decisions about children, which even test makers say is wrong.

Parents are increasingly fed up with excessive testing and test prep which we believe has replaced many of the important aspects of education including the arts, science, history, civics, and spoken communication. This is why hundreds of parents at scores of Chicago schools are opting their children out of the ISAT this year. This test is being phased out this year and has no particular purpose. Unfortunately, CPS officials have responded to parents’ concerns with threats and misinformation. They claim that schools may be lose federal funds or even their accreditation if students don’t take the test.

And for teachers like those at Saucedo, who support the parents, who want to teach and not incessantly test, and who have announced their intention not to administer the ISAT this year, the attempts at intimidation are worse: CPS has threatened to fire them and revoke their teaching licenses.

We stand in solidarity with these courageous teachers who are standing up for our children and their education.

Nationwide, a growing number of parents and teachers are rising up and saying “Enough!” Chicago is emerging as a national leader in this healthy movement away from excessive testing and towards a richer, more meaningful learning experience for our children.

PURE and MTAS ask CPS to respect the decisions of parents to protect our children from test misuse by opting them out, and to honor the teachers who are refusing to give the tests as a matter of conscience and from a sincere desire to provide children with a real education, not just more test prep.

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 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


Save the Date: Standardized the Movie showing 1/30 in Chicago

Thursday, January 9th, 2014


PSAT for 12-10-13: Send us your test schedules

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

psat_logoMore Than a Score is meeting with CPS testing officials later this week. Among the items on our agenda is a discussion of the actual number of tests given in CPS schools this year. You may remember that CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced at the end of last year that the district was cutting back “15 of the 25″ district mandated standardized tests.

From what we’re hearing, though, the reality is not matching up with the claims.

For one thing, CPS has added a number of new tests – e.g. benchmark tests associated with the Common Core and additional REACH teacher evaluation tests.

This excellent post by More Than a Score’s Cassie Cresswell also points out that the cutbacks in many primary tests never happened. She writes,

Second graders will actually take more exams at many schools this year, rather than fewer. In addition to the K-2 literacy and numeracy assessments, the NWEA MAP test will be given to 2nd graders in the spring, and possibly in the winter. And so, many second graders will be taking literacy/English Language Arts (ELA) exams 13 times this year, along with 10 numeracy/math exams, and an undetermined number of REACH exams in other subjects (art, music, etc.).

Here’s an example of a school testing schedule showing a full page of tests for each quarter.

We are collecting school testing schedules in order to find out what is really happening, and to help us plan our work in the coming months. Teachers, parents and students, if you have a version of your school’s testing schedule that you can e-mail (electronic, scan, etc.) please send it to Otherwise, you can mail it to PURE c/o Siegel and Associates, 11 E Adams Street, Suite 1401, Chicago IL 60603.


Chicago united in fight for a better school system – CSMonitor

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Tribune's Brian Casella photo of closed Stewart School sign

Tribune’s Brian Casella photo of closed Stewart School sign

The Christian Science Monitor offered an excellent report on the year ahead in Chicago schools, “Chicago opens new school year: Will it be less testy than the last?

Reporter Amanda Paulson interviewed me and some other Chicago activists and got a strong, unified message:

The district’s critics are focused not only on the school closures, but also on budget cuts, a profusion of standardized tests, large class sizes, and a governance system that includes a mayor-selected school board rather than an elected one.

“It is looking to be our worst year ever,” says Julie Woestehoff, executive director of the parent group PURE, assessing the state of the public schools. But she is hopeful that the problems will be a catalyst for change. “Sometimes you have to bottom out in order to make the changes that really need to be made,” she says. “That will begin to happen because our parents are very organized, our teachers are very strong, and the community groups are working with everybody.

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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.