Posts Tagged ‘standardized tests’

Bubble tests take on new meaning

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

gum_1775702cWhen my sons were in school, they were fed “superdonuts” on test days to boost test scores. Now kids are supposed to chew gum for better test scores.

I first read this in a column by Tribune writer John Keilman, who reported that his children’s Chicago-area school recommended sending them to school with gum and mints on test days.  In an earlier article on the same subject, he found that

in a study funded by the Wrigley Science Institute, nutrition professor Craig Johnston found a link between gum chewing and better performance among eighth-grade math students. Johnston, who works at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, couldn’t say exactly why that happened, though he noted that some studies have suggested that chewing increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex.

Geez, I didn’t even know there was a Wrigley Science Institute.

Some Germans apparently like this strategy, too. The London Telegraph reports:

Wolfgang Ellegast from the Education Ministry in the southern German state, says children at the Volkenschwand school are being allowed to chew gum because it “is good for the children’s health and improves their cognitive performance”. Hans Dasch, the school’s headmaster, said no one was being forced to chew gum. “But it helps the children concentrate and deal with stress, particularly during written tests”, he said. “The prerequisite for learning with fun is that kids come to school without fear and that they feel happy … Therefore we are encouraging them to chew gum in break and in lessons.”

Here’s an idea from the PURE Science Institute: let’s focus on giving every child a sound, high-quality education and stop testing them to the point of stress. Our research shows that children are happier when they are excited about what they are learning than when they are chewing gum.

PSAT for 4-2-13 Part 2: Save the date for MTAS Play-In!

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

playwatertableMore Than a Score is sponsoring a Play In at CPS to drive home the message that children need play.

The youngest learners in Chicago Public Schools are facing multiple standardized tests—as many as 14 in some kindergarten classrooms—inappropriate amounts of seatwork, homework, and a lack of opportunities for play, exploration, and creativity.

We know that young children learn through play. We want opportunities for play, the arts, and active exploration returned to early childhood classrooms across this city.

Come before report card pick up to demonstrate the power of play to the CPS Board of Education:

Wednesday April 17th
CPS headquarters, 125 S. Clark St., Chicago

Help organize or share your concerns about the removal of play from early childhood education by joining our Facebook group.

Sign up for the Play-In!


Please share this flyer widely: Play In Flyer!

Testing forum – from Seattle to Chicago March 19!

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


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.

Upcoming dates for school closing and testing resistance

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

From Parents 4 Teachers:

An important month ahead

Many of you probably read the interim report from the “independent” school utilization commission last week. The report made news by recommending that no high schools be closed this year—at least for low enrollment—and by suggesting high-performing schools and schools with more than 600 students also be spared.

A few things jump out at us about this report. First, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told P4T and other community groups in November that high schools were off the table. So, it seems the commission is just following its marching orders. No news there—but more evidence that the “independent” commission is a sham.

At the time, she also acknowledged that the formula CPS uses to determine if a school is under enrolled had some problems. But she—and her commission—are sticking by it, despite mounting evidence that it’s designed to exaggerate the number of under enrolled schools and understate overcrowding in our classrooms.

These policies are devastating to students, their families and their communities, which is why P4T continues to push for a moratorium on all school closings. There is chaos on Clark St. and a total lack of trust for CPS among parents across the city.  But this will be a big fight. We need everyone to get involved. Contact to join our school closing committee.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day in service to our schools 1/19/13

What better way to honor the legacy of Dr. King than to spend a day fighting to save our neighborhood public schools? Join parents, teachers and community groups for a day of canvassing, reaching out to communities in the fight to keep our schools open. Join one of these canvasses and help fight back:

North Side

With Northside Action for Justice 11:00 a.m—1:00 p.m.
Meet at Stockton Elementary, 4420 N. Beacon St.

Northwest Side

With Albany Park Neighborhood Council, 11:00 a.m.—2:00 p.m.
Meet at APNC office,
4749 N. Kedzie Ave., 2nd Fl.

West Side

With Blocks Together 10:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m.
Meet at Blocks Together office, 3455 W. North Ave.

With Action Now 11:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m.
Meet at Lewis Elementary, 1431 N. Leamington Ave.

South Side

With Kenwood Oakland Community Organization 11:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m.
Meet at KOCO office, 4242 S. Cottage Grove

The Truth About School Closings
Forum sponsored by Mid-South Education Association and the Education Committee of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO).

Monday, Jan. 21, 5:30 p.m.
Location TBA
Call 773-548-7500 for more info or to RSVP

Assessments that Make Sense

Fed up with the high-stakes testing that plagues our schools. Join Fair Test’s Monty Neill for a discussion of alternatives to standardized testing.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church
3300 S. Martin Luther King Dr.

Sponsored by Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), Parents 4 Teachers, Fair Test, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Association for Multilingual Multicultural Education and others.

Film Showing: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

Join Rogers Park Neighbors for Public Schools and P4T for a showing of this documentary that refutes the pro-charter, pro-privatization mania gripping our schools. The film offers a passionate defense of public schools and presents a platform to save them.

Thursday, January 31
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Sullivan High School Auditorium
6631 North Bosworth Ave.

A panel discussion and Q&A on the current threat to neighborhood public schools in Chicago will follow the film. Film presented in English and Spanish. Childcare will be provided.

Free minds, free people conference—proposals being accepted

Free Minds, Free People ( is a national conference on education justice, hosted by the Education for Liberation Network, that will take place in Chicago, July 11-14, 2013. The conference invites K-12 teachers, administrators, community-based educators, students, activists/organizers, artists, parents and academic researchers to submit proposals for presentations at the conference that address a range of education justice issues. Proposals are due Friday, January 25. For more information visit

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.

The test whisperer

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Can anyone really take this seriously?

Guy is a rancher, develops a program to boost test scores based on how he relates to his horses. It has something to do with trust, but apparently a lot more to do with teaching to the lump of sugar.

The Tribune reports that “school turnaround guru” Dennis Parker “insists that teachers cover all content in the state tests. Many do not, he said, because they follow textbooks that don’t include everything California students need to know.”

Um, you mean, need to know ON THE TEST.

Parker pushes teachers to have all students answer all questions; for example, by having them reply in unison. Doing so allows students to answer as many as 7,000 questions in the classroom per year, compared with 300 if called on individually, he said.

On Aguirre’s walls: a chart of every algebra concept the state expects students to know, with check marks next to those covered. A-plus, according to Parker.

“What gets taught is the single biggest predictor of student performance,” he said.

Um, I think you mean performance ON THE TEST.

Come on, folks. This is what education is about? I thought it was a big scandal back when I saw that the Illinois State Board of Education identified certain of its state standards as “suitable for testing,” and developed a state assessment framework around those items. They urged districts not to use that framework as the curriculum, but really – teaching to the test was never made so easy. (Downloadable PDF on “What’s Testable” here).

I fondly remember Roy Rogers getting Trigger to shake his beautiful big head “yes” or “no” to questions, and paw the answer to simple math questions. Who knew that Roy was a groundbreaking educator?

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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.