Posts Tagged ‘standardized tests’

Stupid PARCC Tricks

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Entertainer 5Tuesday night’s More Than a Score Forum was great. CPS parents Julie Fain, Chris Ball, and Sherise McDaniel, and teachers Michelle Strater Gunderson (CPS) and Paul Horton (U of Chicago Lab School), powerfully covered topics including testing and school closings, alternative assessment, opting out, and Common Core. Thanks also to Carolyn Brown who emceed.

Chris’s presentation on sample questions from the PARCC Common Core tests was a highlight – both in Chris’s humorous presentation and in the amazing absurdity of the questions themselves which, as Chris pointed out, are the ones they WANT us to see. (PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is the consortium that is writing the Common Core tests Illinois will use beginning next year.)

Everyone at the forum felt that more people need to see the sample questions and judge for themselves whether these are the “better tests” that Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised us.

The example I will share today is a simple one. A third-grade test includes a story about creatures who were having a bad day. It includes this sentence: “And they were cross — oh so cross!” One question asks what the word “cross” means in the story. The choices are:

a) excited

b) lost

c) upset

d) scared.

Here’s how defines the adjective “cross”: “angry and annoyed; ill-humored; snappish: Don’t be cross with me. Synonyms: petulant, fractious, irascible, waspish, crabbed, churlish, sulky, cantankerous, cranky, ill-tempered, impatient, irritable, fretful, touchy, testy.”

Apparently the wanted answer is “upset,” which does not appear as any of the choices above. It’s just not a very good synonym for “cross.”

But third graders are supposed to choose a “right” answer that the dictionary doesn’t even suggest.

Don’t even get me started on the Pinkerton Pig fiasco. Check out Chris’s PARCC PowerPoint here.

Better tests? Makes me feel kind of “testy.”

Gated communities for already advantaged students

Monday, April 28th, 2014


Today’s story by Chicago Sun-Times Watchdog reporters Tim Novak and Chris Fusco exposes the imbalance of white students in Chicago’s four north side selective enrollment high schools, and the fact that the disproportionate number of white students has become even more lopsided since the courts ended the Desegregation Consent Decree in 2009.

Sun-Times figures show that white students made up an average of 41 percent of freshmen admitted to Jones, Whitney Young, Northside Prep, and Walter Payton over the past four years, compared to 29 percent in 2009. The overall enrollment of white students in CPS is about 9%.

I met with Novak and Fusco as they were preparing the story. I made the point (which did not specifically end up in their story…) that test scores unfairly act to keep low-income students out of selective enrollment high schools, since test scores are most closely aligned to economic status.

But their analysis showed that the system is even more insanely unfair. For 80% of the applicants, test scores are factored in with census tract data in a 4-tier system that actually forces students from households with an average income of $42,000 near 95th and Halsted to compete with the test scores of Gold Coast students whose families make over $300,000 per year.

How do you suppose that match-up usually turns out?

Back in 2009, we recommended that the selective enrollment high school process factor in actual family income, not community income, and that it use income level to offset test score advantages of white and higher-income students. Even cynical PURE didn’t suspect the extent to which CPS seems to have actually rigged the system.

Pander Prep

Mayor Emanuel’s proposal to locate a new Obama College Prep on the north side rather than the south side where the President worked and lived — and where the most under-resourced and least popular selective enrollment high schools are – is just one more example of the utter cluelessness of Chicago’s white power elite. One point of mine that did make it into print in the Sun-Times story is that the explosion of the most attractive selective enrollment “seats” on the north side didn’t happen until after race was removed as an criteria for acceptance.

Whose schools???

PSAT for 4-22-14: Speak out on testing!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

psat_logoThe date and time have been finalized for the subject matter hearing on testing sponsored by the Illinois Senate Education Committee, and you are invited!

The hearing will take place this Friday, April 25, at 2:30 pm at the Bilandic Building, 160 N LaSalle Street in Chicago, Room 600.

This is our chance to share our concerns about testing with our state legislators. If you want to speak, fill out a witness slip here (be sure to check that you are FOR or a proponent of both bills).

The specific bills under consideration at this hearing are sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, who represents communities in the far southwest side of Chicago and southwest suburbs:

  • SB 2156 (Chicago only) allows no more than four tests per year – two state standardized tests, and two tests to “comply with the Evaluation of Teachers” statute.
  • SB 3460 would prohibit the administration of tests to children enrolled in kindergarten through the second grade “for any reason other than diagnostic purposes.”

Our friend Jim Broadway, of State School News Service, says that these bills “faltered, missed their deadlines and have been sent back to the Committee on Assignments, which is the graveyard for Senate bills that never advance out of the Senate.” However, bills are never really dead in Springfield, and you can bring up any other testing issues as well. Let’s not let this opportunity pass by without a strong showing from Chicago parents!

PSAT for 4-15-14: Mark your calendars – MTAS forum April 29

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

MTASflyerlogo4-14It’s spring break for many, and I imagine a lot of you are worn out from slogging through the latest round of ice and snow to get to the post office to file your taxes, so I’ll go easy on you today.

Take out your calendars (I still do this with my actual personal hand and an actual pencil), find Tuesday, April 29, and mark in the More Than a Score forum at 6 pm at Union Park in Chicago.

Here’s what we’ll be talking about:

  • Why the NWEA is a bad high-stakes test.
  • How some children can safely opt out of NWEA.
  • Opting out legal issues.
  • What we can do in Springfield and at home to change state testing laws.
  • The connection between tests and school closings/turnarounds.
  • The next wave of tests: Common Core and PARCC.
  • Our alternative – what’s wrong with report cards???

We’ll provide user-friendly information, handouts, flyers, and how-tos.

Child care and translation will be provided.

Questions? Email us at

University educators support CPS teachers refusing to test

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Apple 34UPDATE: Number of endorsers is up to 210


February 28, 2014




As university faculty whose responsibilities include preparing future educators, we support the action of teachers at the Saucedo and Drummond elementary schools in Chicago who are refusing to administer the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). Over a decade of research shows that an over emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests narrows curriculum, creates social and emotional stress for students and families, drives committed teachers out of the profession, and turns schools into test-prep factories with principals forced to comply as overseers—especially in low-scoring schools. We understand assessment as the process of gathering evidence about learning, from multiple sources, so that teachers can better support student learning. The ISAT, in contrast, contributes virtually nothing. CPS no longer uses the ISAT for promotion, graduation, or eligibility for selective-enrollment schools and is phasing it out after this year. It is not aligned with Common Core State Standards—which, regardless of how one sees them, Illinois has already adopted—and does not help teachers improve student learning. The pre-service teachers with whom we work are demoralized about a future of teaching in such a test-driven atmosphere. We teach our students—future educators—to stand up for their students, families and communities, and to take principled stands for social justice. That’s what the Saucedo and Drummond teachers are doing. We applaud them and stand with them.

(To add your name to this list, email with your name, university affiliation, and department)


  1. Pauline Lipman, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  2. Rico Gutstein, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  3. Asif Wilson, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  4. Daniel Morales-Doyle, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  5. Eleni Katsarou, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  6. Arthi Rao, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  7. Joshua Radinsky, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  8. Irma Olmedo, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  9. David Schaafsma, University of Illinois at Chicago, English Department
  10. Kenneth Saltman, DePaul University, College of Education
  11. Joel Amidon, University of Mississippi, School of Education
  12. Nicole Marroquin, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Art Education
  13. Wayne Au University of Washington—Bothel, Education Program; Rethinking Schools
  14. Bill Schubert, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  15. Federico Waitoller, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  16. David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  17. Danny Martin, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  18. Ann Aviles de Bradley, Northeastern Illinois University, Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies
  19. Eomailani Kukahiko, University of Hawai’i, College of Education
  20. David Stinson, Georgia State University, College of Education
  21. Minerva S. Chávez, California State University, Fullerton, Department of Secondary Education
  22. Katy Smith, Northeastern Illinois University, Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies
  23. Gail Tang, University of La Verne, Department of Mathematics
  24. Craig Howley, Ohio University, Patton College of Education
  25. Rodrigo Jorge Gutiérrez, University of Maryland, College of Education
  26. Erin Turner, University of Arizona, Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies
  27. Tom Pedroni, Wayne State University, College of Education
  28. Donna Vukelich Selva, Edgewood College, School of Education
  29. Michelle Fine, City University of New York, The Graduate Center
  30. Maria McKenna, University of Notre Dame, Department of Africana Studies
  31. E. Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
  32. Noah De Lissovoy, The University of Texas at Austin, Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction
  33. Eugenia Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, University of South Florida, Department of Secondary Education
  34. Bree Picower, Montclair State University, College of Education and Human Development
  35. Beatriz S. D’Ambrosio, Miami University, Dept. of Mathematics
  36. Celia Oyler, Teachers College, Dept. of Curriculum and Teaching
  37. Jesse Senechal, Virginia Commonwealth University, Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium
  38. Ira Shor, City University of New York, The Graduate Center
  39. Thomas G. Edwards, Wayne State University, College of Education
  40. Christine Sleeter, California State University—Monterey
  41. Jessica Shiller, Towson University, Dept. of Instructional Leadership and Professional Development
  42. Deb Palmer, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  43. Maren Aukerman, Stanford University, Graduate School of Education
  44. Christine Yeh, University of San Francisco, School of Education
  45. A. Lin Goodwin, Teachers College, Columbia University
  46. Stuart Chen-Hayes, Lehman College, School of Education
  47. Lee Bell, Barnard College, Program in Education
  48. Diane Horwitz, DePaul University, College of Education
  49. Gary Anderson, New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
  50. Patrick Camangian, University of San Francisco, School of Education
  51. Antonia Darder, Loyola Marymount University, School of Education
  52. Lesley Bartlett, Columbia University, Teachers College
  53. Sandy Grande, Connecticut College, Education Department
  54. Michelle Gautreaux, University of British Columbia, Dept. of Curriculum Studies
  55. Kathryn Herr, Montclair State University
  56. Emily Klein, Montclair State University
  57. Craig Willey, IUPUI, Indiana University School of Education
  58. Swapna Mukhopadhyay, Portland State University, Graduate School of Education
  59. Kiersten Greene, State University of New York at New Paltz, School of Education
  60. Stuart Greene, University of Notre Dame, Department of English and Africana Studies
  61. Horace R. Hall, DePaul University, College of Education
  62. Lois Weiner, New Jersey City University, Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education
  63. Gustavo E. Fischman, Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
  64. Amy Feiker Hollenbeck, DePaul University, College of Education
  65. Rebecca A. Goldstein, Montclair State University, College of Education and Human Services
  66. Enora Brown, DePaul University, College of Education
  67. Sangeeta Kamat, University of Massachusetts—Amherst, College of Education
  68. Stephanie Farmer, Roosevelt University, Dept. of Sociology
  69. Ron Glass, University of California, Santa Cruz, Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable California
  70. Karen Monkman, DePaul University, College of Education
  71. Lisa Edstrom, Barnard College, Barnard Education Program
  72. Daniel S. Friedrich, Columbia University, Teachers College
  73. Marjorie Siegel, Columbia University, Teachers College
  74. Alan Singer, Hofstra University, Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
  75. Barbara Winslow, Brooklyn College, Secondary Education
  76. Maria Hantzopoulos, Vassar College, Dept. of Education
  77. Sharon Whitton, Hofstra University, Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
  78. Jim Brown, Wayne State University, College of Education
  79. Linda McSpadden McNeil, Rice University, Center for Education
  80. Matthew Weinstein, University of Washington-Tacoma, Secondary Science Program
  81. Victoria Trinder, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  82. Marie Ann Donovan, DePaul University, College of Education
  83. Rosalyn Baxandall, City University of New York, Labor School
  84. Amira Proweller, DePaul University, College of Education
  85. Judith S. Kaufman, Hofstra University, Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
  86. Gregory Smith, Lewis & Clark College, Graduate School of Education
  87. David Forbes, Brooklyn College, School of Education
  88. Lois Weis, University at Buffalo, SUNY, Graduate School of Education
  89. Monica Taylor, Montclair State University, College of Education and Human Services
  90. Norma Lopez-Reyna, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  91. Gloria Alter, DePaul University, College of Education
  92. Miguel Zavala, California State University, Fullerton, Department of Secondary Education
  93. Barbara Madeloni, University of Massachusetts Amherst, School of Education
  94. Arnold Dodge, Long Island University/C.W.Post Campus, Department of Educational Leadership and Administration
  95. William Ayers, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education (retired)
  96. Peter Taubman, Brooklyn College, Dept. of Secondary Education
  97. Susan Gregson, University of Cincinnati, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services
  98. Jackie Wiggins, Oakland University, Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance
  99. Tema Okun, National Louis University, Dept. of Educational Leadership
  100. Bill Hoecker, DePaul University, College of Education
  101. Judith Gouwens, Roosevelt University, College of Education
  102. Carl B. Anderson, Penn State University, Dept. of English
  103. Mari Ann Roberts, Clayton State University, Dept. of Teacher Education
  104. Isabel Nuñez, Concordia University, Center for Policy Studies and Social Justice
  105. Renee A. Middleton, Ohio University, The Patton College of Education
  106. Regina Sievert, Salish Kootenai College, Division of Education
  107. Jennifer Alexander, Richard J. Daley College, Business Department
  108. Sunshine Campbell, The Evergreen State College
  109. Marvin Hoffman, University of Chicago, Urban Teacher Education Program
  110. Chris Brown, University of Texas at Austin, College of Education
  111. Nancy Lesko, Teachers College, Department of Curriculum and Teaching
  112. Florence R. Sullivan, University of Mass., Amherst, College of Education
  113. K. Wayne Yang, University of California, San Diego, Dept. of Ethnic Studies
  114. Elizabeth Meadows, Roosevelt University, College of Education
  115. Benay Blend, Central New Mexico Community College, Humanities Dept.
  116. Nekaiya Herring, University of North Dakota, Dept. of Social Work
  117. Karen Graves, Denison University, Department of Education
  118. Lilia Monzo, Chapman University, College of Educational Studies
  119. Karen Gourd, University of Washington, Bothell, Education Program
  120. Jeff Bloom, Northern Arizona University, College of Education
  121. Aisha El-Amin, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  122. Eric Toshalis, Lewis & Clark College, Graduate School of Education and Counseling
  123. Diane Levin, Wheelock College, Early Childhood Education
  124. Brian Horn, Illinois State University, College of Education
  125. Scott Ritchie, Kennesaw State University, Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education
  126. Ann K. Schulte, California State University, Chico, School of Education
  127. William T. Trent, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Department of Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership
  128. Morna McDermott, Towson University, College of Education
  129. Susan Roberta Katz, University of San Francisco, School of Education
  130. Susan Wray, Montclair State University, Dept. of Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education
  131. Sandra M. Gonzales, Wayne State University, College of Education
  132. Cindy Lutenbacher, Morehouse College, Dept. of English
  133. Mark Nagasawa, Erikson Institute
  134. Wendy Luttrell, City University of New York, The Graduate Center
  135. Mary Rapien, Bristol Community College, Division of Mathematics, Science and Engineering
  136. Carolyne J. White, Rutgers University, Department of Urban Education
  137. Isaura B. Pulido, Northeastern Illinois University, College of Education
  138. Bill Watkins, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  139. Michelle Parker-Katz, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education
  140. Barbara Morgan-Fleming, Texas Tech University, Curriculum & Instruction
  141. Emma Haydée Fuentes, University of San Francisco, School of Education
  142. Joel Westheimer, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Education
  143. Brian D. Schultz, Northeastern Illinois University, College of Education
  144. Sumi Cho, DePaul University, College of Law
  145. Therese Quinn, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Art and Art History
  146. John Rogers, UCLA, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
  147. Kathleen McInerney, Saint Xavier University, ESL/Bilingual Education Program
  148. Linda Christensen, Lewis and Clark College, Oregon Writing Project
  149. Elizabeth Skinner, Illinois State University, School of Teaching & Learning
  150. G. Sue Kasun, Utah State University, Teacher Education and Leadership
  151. Paul Gomberg, Chicago State University, Department of Criminal Justice, Philosophy, and Political Science
  152. Andrea S. White,  Kenyon College, Psychology Department
  153. Sandra Yarema, Wayne State University, College of Education
  154. Michelle Maher, Oregon State University, Teacher and Counselor Education Dept.
  155. Todd Alan Price, National Louis University, College of Education
  156. Sarah Robbins,TCU, English Department
  157. Eve Tuck, State University of New York at New Paltz, School of Education
  158. John Duffy, National Louis University, Teacher Education (retired)
  159. Suzanne Baker, Denison University, Department of Education
  160. Anneli Frelin, University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies
  161. Mara Sapon-Shevin, Syracuse University, School of Education
  162. Ryan McCarthy, Wilbur Wright College, English Department
  163. Randi Ploszaj, Wilbur Wright College, English Department
  164. Bill Marsh, Wilbur Wright College, English Department
  165. Cydney Topping, Wilbur Wright College, English Department

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

CPS test cheating – focus on “bubble” kids

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

From a parent who received this message from a teacher:bubblesheetcrop

This kind of thing is happening all over, and it’s awful. This idea of concentrating on kids “on the bubble” is terrible educational practice (or malpractice…)

Begin forwarded message:

From: (teacher wishes to remain anonymous)
Date: February 12, 2014 at 9:39:42 AM CST
To: ******
Subject: NWEA

Today we had a grade level meeting about the NWEA scores for the fourth grade students at my school. We teachers were all given printouts of our students’ most recent scores: RIT bands, percentiles, the whole shebang.

Then we were instructed to highlight the students in our classes who had scored between the 37th and 50th percentile. These students, the admin informed us, are the most important students in the class; they are the ones most likely to reach the 51st percentile when students take the NWEA again in May.

Making the 51st percentile is VERY important to CPS, and thus to principals, literacy coordinators, test specialists and teachers-who-don’t-want-to-lose-their-jobs.

It might not be important to individual students, their parents or anyone else, but it is life or death in Chicago Public Schools.

We nodded, wide-eyed.  These students, our guide continued, should be your primary focus.  Make sure they get whatever they need to bring them up to that percentile. Sign them up for any and all academic programs, meet with them daily in small groups, give them extra homework, have them work with available tutors…whatever it takes.

What about the kids at the very bottom, one teacher wondered, the kids under the 20th percentile…shouldn’t they be offered more support too?  The admin squirmed a bit. Well, they don’t really have any chance of hitting the goal, so for right now, no.  There was silence.

Left unsaid was what might, could, will happen to any school that does NOT have enough students meet that magic number. No one really needs to say it. We all saw the 50 schools that got closed down last year.  We see the charters multiplying around us.  We’ve also seen the steady stream of displaced teachers come through our school doors as substitutes.  We know that we could be next.

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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.