Posts Tagged ‘standardized tests’

Chicago parents to CPS: use report card grades, not test scores, for promotion

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

gradeDminusPress release **** For immediate release *** November 12, 2013

Parents Give district a “D” for its test-focused policY

Chicago, IL: Today, tens of thousands of Chicago Public Schools (CPS)parents will flock to their children’s schools to pick up student report cards and meet with teachers. They look forward to these meetings as an important step in strengthening the home-school connection. Report card pick-up day is the best opportunity most parents have to learn how to help their children succeed in school from the people that know the most about how to do that – their children’s teachers.

Parents take the report cards home and study them. They discuss them with their children – sometimes those are happy discussions, sometimes not so happy! Parents sign the back of the report card and slide the cards into their children’s backpacks, often taking that moment to resolve to do more to help their children learn and improve in the weeks ahead.

This process has been meaningful to parents for decades, but it’s been increasingly pushed aside as school districts like CPS give standardized test scores more and more power over students, teachers and schools.

Parents from the Chicago group More Than a Score disagree with this trend, and have presented CPS with an alternative promotion policy that relies primarily on report card grades and uses standardized test scores in the way they were intended to be used, as diagnostic tools and not high-stakes “gotcha” measures.

More Than a Score parents give CPS a “D” grade for a promotion policy that continues to focus too much on test scores and ignores the value of report cards.

Report cards are the only evaluations that look at the students’ work over time and across all areas of learning. They are the only evaluations done by experienced, qualified adults who personally observe and assess each student’s progress,” said CPS parent Julie Fain.“That’s the kind of information that makes sense to parents and actually helps children. When we get our children’s standardized test scores at the end of the year, we don’t get to see the questions or their answers. We have no idea whether they missed a certain concept or were just distracted for part of the test. In any case, our children are so over-tested that these results have become less and less useful to parents.”

The CPS promotion policy begins and ends with the state test score,” said Julie Woestehoff, head of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE). “Most of the information from report cards is ignored by CPS when end-of-the-year promotion decisions are made.”

I believe standardize testing is a harsh way to keep a child from thinking outside the box. All our children have different needs, speeds, and challenges. I have witnessed up close and personal the emotional stress testing causes – creating a lack of self-esteem while labeling my children as dumb only because they did not meet your standardized laws. I support my children by opting them out of testing,” said Rousemary Vega, a CPS parent.

Parents who have opted their children out of standardized tests are also confused and concerned because the new promotion policy just swapped one high-stakes test (the SAT-10), for another (NWEA), making opting out more difficult.

Since the promotion policy was first implemented in 1996 by Paul Vallas, it has focused on test scores on the Iowa test, then the IGAP, ISAT, and SAT 10. The new proposal substitutes the NWEA, which CPS officials say is just temporary until they replace it with the PARCC Common Core tests.

How are we supposed to keep track of this alphabet soup of tests?” asks Linda Schmidt, a CPS parent who notified her child’s school at the beginning of this school year that she does not want her student to take the NWEA. “Will my child be held back next August because I made a decision last September?”

Policymakers often cite the subjective nature of teacher grades as a reason for giving them less weight than standardized tests scores. However, test questions are written by subjective human beings, too, and test makers consistently state that their tests should not be used to make high-stakes decisions about children. The manual for the SAT-10, which CPS used last year to retain students, states that test scores “should be just one of the many factors considered and probably should receive less weight than factors such as teacher observation, day-to-day classroom performance, maturity level, and attitude” – just the kind of information in report cards.

“What’s wrong with report cards?” asked Wanda Hopkins, the parent of a CPS high school student. “If CPS does not trust teacher grades, they need to explain why and what they are doing to fix it. I trust my child’s teacher more than I trust for-profit test companies.”  

Parents with More Than a Score believe that our proposed promotion policy offers an alternative to the CPS test-based promotion policy that respects input from teachers, avoids the pitfalls of standardized test misuse and retention, makes sense to parents, and – most importantly – provides a higher quality evaluation of each student’s progress and needs.

See more at

Two LSCs sign on to the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing!

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Congratulations to the Kelly HS and the Drummond Montessori Local School Councils for signing on to the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing. You can see their sign-on at the bottom below. The Kelly faculty also signed on.

The More Than a Score group has been working to include LSCs in the important work of educating parents and others around the problems with high-stakes standardized testing.

We created this LSC Testing Toolkit which provides useful fact and tip sheets as well as sample local resolutions to go along with the national resolution. We hope to get more LSCs to sign on and to bring this valuable information to their schools.



Testing resistance: What LSCs can do

Saturday, May 4th, 2013


What Local School Councils can do to challenge

the misuse and overuse of standardized tests

Learn more about standardized testing.

  • Check out the More Than a Score web site for resources to share with your school’s parents, teachers and community. Share the MTAS fact sheets, “What Parents Need to Know about High-Stakes Testing,” in English and Spanish.
  • Download user-friendly fact sheets about a wide range of testing issues on the FairTest web site, on the testing resources page of PURE’s site, and from CReATE, a collaboration of local university researchers.

Hold a parent and/or community meeting where people can talk about testing. Ask teachers, education experts, More Than a Score or other group representatives to speak, and invite your local newspaper (see FairTest’s media toolkit for pointers)

Vote to sign the National Resolution on High-stakes Testing, and/or vote on your own resolution. Join the more than 80% of school boards in Texas and dozens in Florida and other states that have passed resolutions challenging high-stakes standardized testing, along with 11,000 individuals and 400 national organizations. Sign on to the National Resolution here: and/or vote on your own resolution (suggested versions here, a shorter one here and an even shorter one here).

Send or bring a copy of your adopted testing resolution to your local, state and federal legislators.

Pass the More Than a Score petition in English and/or Spanish in your school. Your can also sign our online petition here. 

The petition asks CPS to:

  • Eliminate standardized testing in grades K-2nd grade and greatly reduce it in all other grades.
  • End the use of standardized testing data to evaluate students and teachers and close schools.
  • Fully disclose the cost, schedule, nature and purpose of all standardized tests.

Get more involved with More Than a Score:

Consider carefully any budget expenditures for test preparation materials and programs. Your school’s discretionary funds are precious and might be better used for enrichment programs and other areas of learning which may have been reduced due to the pressures of standardized testing.

See more at

You can download a pdf version of this LSC tip sheet here.

PSAT for 4-30-13, Part 1: Stop shopping at Walmart!!!

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Why would anyone who cares about public schools shop at Walmart?

Really, folks. It’s your money. And when you shop at WalMart, your money goes to support:

  • more charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone  including $230,000 for UNO charter schools.
  • more school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.WalMartFrown
  • more astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • more high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • more vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • more Michelle Rhee: despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart just upped their giving to $8 million.

According to Diane Ravitch, “they commit about $160 million each year for charters, vouchers, Teach for America, think tanks, and media. Everything they do has the singular goal of dismantling public education and opening the schools to untrained, uncertified teachers.”

Maybe if every parent, every teacher, and every student in Chicago stopped shopping at WalMart, we wouldn’t all have to be out in the streets time and time again, like the three-day demonstration planned for May 18-19-20. 

Why boycott?

I had a plan to raise a boycott issue once a month, taking a cue from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s strategy – “our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from (businesses).”

I’ve also pointed out that, even without an admittedly unlikely crippling nationwide boycott of WalMart, Microsoft, Hyatt Hotels, etc., we can effectively put pressure where it really hurts: that is, in the corporate image of these companies.

I haven’t stuck with that plan, with so many other actions to take over the past months, but I remain convinced that we have the power to stop these corporate school raiders. WE JUST HAVE TO USE IT.

So. I guess I’m going to be harping on boycotts and attacking the corporate image of these corporate reformers once a month again for a while. I hope you’ll help spread the word.

Parents call CPS primary testing cutback a good, small step

Friday, April 26th, 2013

From More Than a Score

MTAS Play-In last week: parents have been demanding an end to standardized testing of primary students

MTAS Play-In last week: parents have been demanding an end to standardized testing of primary students

Press release: For immediate Release

April 26, 2013

CONTACT: Kirstin Roberts: 312-316-2636

Cassie Cresswell, 716-536-9313

Chicago IL: More Than a Score (MTAS), a coalition of parents, teachers, students and community members working against the misuse and overuse of high-stakes testing in the Chicago Public Schools, is pleased about yesterday’s announcement from CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett that the NWEA MPG End-of-Year administration for grades K-2 has been cancelled for this spring. The change in CPS policy is a good, if small, first step towards a sounder, more appropriate CPS assessment policy.

We are glad that the voices of the people on the front lines dealing with the consequences of a misguided assessment policy are starting to be heard and heeded. For the past several months, MTAS has been collecting signatures on petitions demanding an end to all standardized testing in Prek-2nd grade, among other testing reforms. MTAS held a Play-In at CPS headquarters last week to demonstrate the need for more play and less testing in the early grades.

Nonetheless, MTAS still has many concerns about CPS assessment policy:

  • For second graders, the NWEA MPG will simply be replaced with an administration of the NWEA MAP. From our understanding, this is the same assessment used for third graders, and CPS intends to use it to track 2nd graders by ability. According to the NWEA, the test is only for use with 2nd graders who can decode the instructions without audio help. Can all the 2nd graders who will be given this test do this? It will then be readministered to those same 2nd graders in the fall as a Beginning-of-Year exam, making its use as a baseline for 3rd grade instructional questionable.
  • Although the reduction in this test is of a great benefit to five and six year old children, by the end of this school year, many, possibly the majority, of those same children will still have been subject to 13 standardized testing administrations (or more when school-selected exams are included): Many of these are require one-on-one testing time by classroom teachers, further cutting into instructional time, particularly in classes of more than 30 students.
  • The testing regimen for preschoolers through second graders in CPS is still not in line with the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s research based recommendations on standardized testing for ages birth to eight years includes the following:

The use of formal standardized testing and norm-referenced assessments of young children is limited to situations in which such measures are appropriate and potentially beneficial, such as identifying potential disabilities.[…]When individually administered, norm-referenced tests of children’s progress are used as part of program evaluation and accountability, matrix sampling is used (that is, administered only to a systematic sample of children) so as to diminish the burden of testing on children and to reduce the likelihood that data will be inappropriately used to make judgments about individual children.” (

  • The value of the NWEA MAP test as an assessment tool is questionable for any grades. Research has found little benefit to MAP guided instruction for 4th and 5th graders: We are concerned that schools do not truly have the technological capacity to administer the MAP test efficiently, particularly in a way that does not restrict use of computer facilities for more important, non-assessment educational purposes.
  • Although MTAS would like to see a reduction (and elimination in the early years) of standardized testing and time spent on test preparation in CPS, the high-stakes consequences of many standardized tests concern us equally as much. Standardized tests should not be used as the basis for decisions on student promotion, teacher and principal evaluation, and school probation and closings. For example, the results of the REACH exam being administered to children as young as preschool will be used to evaluate their teachers.
  • We’re sure we’re not alone in wondering whether reducing the scores of test CPS now uses by a single test in two grades, was worth the resources put into conducting 17 focus groups to come to this decision. In addition, we would like to know whether CPS has already paid for the NWEA MPG spring administration. How much money was wasted on administering an exam on the entire school district twice this year and then deciding it was bad exam?
  • Until CPS starts really listening to the demands of parents, teachers, and students, MTAS will continue encouraging and assisting parents and students in the process of opting out of CPS’ excessive and damaging standardized testing program.

 Rachel Lessem, CPS parent of 2nd grade student, commented: “I support the decision to suspend NWEA testing for K-1, but I believe CPS should extend the policy further. The change to 2nd grade may even hurt our children by administering a more difficult test without supports to emerging readers. All our children are suffering from excessive testing, and it’s hurting, not helping their education. They are stressed and bored by these tests, and their teachers are forced to teach to the test instead of creating engaging and creative learning environments for our kids. CPS must do more.”

Play-In fun for everyone!

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013


Parents, teachers, children at Play-In call for less testing, more playing for young children in CPS

Today, dozens of Chicago parents, children and educators attended a “Play-In” organized by More Than a Score to highlight their concern that testing has taken over the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) classrooms of our youngest children, pushing play-based learning out.

The group set up play areas at CPS headquarters to demonstrate the power of play. Adults played side-by-side with children using blocks, bubbles, fingerpaints, musical instruments, trucks, dolls, Play-doh, crayons and paper, and puzzles.

More Than a Score is concerned that the youngest learners in Chicago Public Schools are facing multiple standardized tests—as many as 14 in some kindergarten classrooms – inappropriate amounts of seatwork and homework, and a lack of opportunities for play, exploration, and creativity. The combination of the longer school day, an overly academic curriculum for the youngest learners, and high-stakes testing is turning our children’s first learning experiences into an ordeal. Opportunities for true free play are becoming increasingly rare in Chicago Public Schools.

 Cassie Creswell, parent of a CPS 1st grader at Goethe and a two year-old potential CPS preschooler, said, “Last year, when our school was planning for the longer day, I read a report that a full-day, six-hour kindergarten class should probably have at least three daily play periods of an hour or longer, with at least one being outdoors. The days of CPS kindergarteners are now seven hours long, and they typically only have 20 minutes to play each day.”

 Cassie added, “The lack of play is only made worse by the narrow academic focus. There’s an overemphasis on reading and math skills and little else starting very rigorously in kindergarten and even Pre-K. This year, my daughter’s class will have seven standardized tests administered to them in total 20 times during this school year. It is simply insanity.”

Kirstin Roberts, a pre-K teacher at Belmont Cragin Early Childhood Center as well as the parent of a CPS preschool student, says, “I agree with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Children, as well as leading early childhood experts around the world, that play is a fundamental right of children. Play is how young children explore their world, build relationships, experiment with their environment, test theories, and construct knowledge. In short, play is how young children learn and grow. But the right to play in our early childhood classrooms is under threat in the Chicago Public Schools.”

Kirstin warned, “Kindergarten classrooms are losing their block sets and finger paints, to make room for more and more direct instruction of developmentally inappropriate subject matter, more seat-work, and more testing and test prep. We call on CPS to listen to the experts of early childhood and return play to our classrooms, end standardized testing for our youngest learners, and allow the joy of teaching and learning back into our schools.”

According to Concordia University Associate Professor Isabel Nunez, a member of Chicagoland Researchers and Educators for Transformative Education (CReATE), “One of the most destructive consequences of having non-educators running our districts and schools is that we have forgotten the fundamental principles of human development. Any developmental psychologist will tell you that young children learn through play. There is no debate on this within the discipline. Maria Montessori, Johann Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel were scientists. Their vision for education is based on research, not a touchy-feely desire to let the children play just because they enjoy it. A play-based curriculum for early childhood classrooms is developmentally appropriate, because play is the way children learn.”

In a statement of support for this event, Penn State education professor Dr. Timothy D. Slekar wrote, “What a breath of fresh air to hear of a 'play in.' Instead of rigorous academic preparation why not vigorous activities that celebrate the work of children? Why not celebrate play? There is nothing more stimulating to the mind of children. At a time when policy makers have decided that children need to be ready for 'college and careers' this 'play in' will help remind all of us that nothing prepares a child for life more than vigorous play.”

More Than a Score members also passed petitions against the misuse and overuse of testing in CPS at the event and later in the day during report card pick up at local CPS schools.

See more at

“The tests are stupid.”

Friday, April 5th, 2013


Please read and share this excellent opinion piece by Bob Koehler in today’s Tribune. Here’s a sample:

Everything is at stake in these tests, so perhaps it’s dawning on us that fraud — by adults — is inevitable, but there’s a bigger issue here that continues to escape public outrage: The tests are stupid. They measure virtually nothing that matters, but monopolize the classroom politically. Teachers, under enormous pressure, are forced to teach to the tests rather than, you know, teach critical thinking or creative expression; and education is reduced to something rote, linear and boring.

Standardized testing is part of the era of backlash the Reagan presidency ushered in, which has stopped progressive thinking in its political tracks. As our social problems have grown more complex over the last three decades, we’ve met them with increasingly simplistic solutions. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of public education, which has become the plaything of political fanatics.

Indeed, high-stakes testing, in tandem with “zero tolerance,” militarized security and sadistic underfunding, has succeeded in warping public education beyond recognition, especially in low-income, zero-political-clout neighborhoods. And the result is kids in prison, kids on the streets, kids with no future.

And the result of that is violent urban neighborhoods.

Support PURE!
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.