Posts Tagged ‘testing’

New CPS promotion policy more of the same

Friday, October 18th, 2013

dogandponyOver the past few days, CPS has been putting on dog and pony shows for parents and others about the “new” student promotion policy.

Parents were not given copies of the actual policy either ahead of time or at the presentation. Instead, they had to squint at slides in a powerpoint presentation showing a before (2013) and after parent guide outlining the basics of the policy changes, which amount to little more than swapping out one high-stakes nationally-normed standardized test for another, as they have done a few times over the life of this failed program.

In today’s Tribune, reporter Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah quotes CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett saying, “This current policy that we have has become outdated. The new policy takes a much more balanced approached to measuring student success.”

Not so. Here’s my quote from the story:

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, has long argued that the district’s policy on holding students back is too heavily based on assessment tests. She does not support the new policy, which continues to be based largely on test scores and, she said, is designed to save the expense of putting kids through summer school.

Woestehoff said summer school and holding students back are expensive propositions for the district. “CPS is paying for summer school, and in addition it’s paying for an extra school year for students who in some years have been as many as 10,000,” she said.

More on this later. The policy will be voted on at the Oct. 23rd Board meeting.

Threats to student privacy unite parent and advocacy groups

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Press release

October 10, 2013

for immediate release

Contact: Julie Woestehoff, More Than a Score and PURE – 773-715-3989

Threats to student privacy unite parent and advocacy groups

New statewide coalition calls on state board and Chicago schools for more information on inBloom program

Chicago, IL: A new coalition of local and national parent and advocacy organizations today raised questions about how private student information is protected by school districts, after new revelations concerning a database vendor moving into Illinois. The groups sent letters to Illinois State Schools Superintendent Christopher Koch and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett expressing serious concerns about plans for CPS to join a state database of private student information as soon as January 2014.

The program in question, the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE), may collect up to 400 “data points” about each student, information that may potentially be shared with for-profit companies. The state school board already has contracted with inBloom to facilitate ISLE across Illinois.

InBloom refuses to guarantee the security of this data, said Julie Woestehoff, of Parents United for Responsible Education. “Once that information is uploaded electronically, no one can be sure where it will end up, whether it is with colleges, potential employers, or other entities critical to students’ futures.”

In the letters made public today (attached), the groups expressed opposition to the overall concept of sharing confidential student and teacher information with third parties without permission of parents or teachers, especially for commercial purposes. The groups are also concerned about the possibility of data breaches and potential unintentional misuse or future inappropriate use of the extensive private information about children, families and school employees that will be gathered and stored.

This concern is heightened by the accusations of wiretapping and phone hacking against Rupert Murdoch; Wireless Generation, which designed the operating system for inBloom, is a subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corp.

The information to be collected about individual students may include name, address, grades, test scores, detailed disciplinary and health records, race, ethnicity, economic status, disabilities &other highly sensitive personal and family details.

In the past, students’ school records could not be shared outside of school agencies without parents’ permission, but the federal government recently rewrote the regulations protecting student privacy to allow student data to be shared with for-profit companies involved in “educational programing.” This can be any company CPS or the state board of education chooses.

"The sharing of massive amounts of data between school districts and private companies poses a serious threat to students' privacy," said, Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "Rather than rush into any agreement, we would urge school officials to engage a public discussion that includes parents, students and advocates concerned with student privacy."

Opposition to similar data sharing programs run by inBloom has been growing across the U.S. According to the New York Times (10/6/13), “Parents in Louisiana raised a ruckus after discovering that their children’s Social Security numbers had been uploaded to inBloom. In April, Louisiana officials said they would remove all student data from the database. Of the nine states that originally signed up this year to participate, just three — Colorado, New York and Illinois — are actively pursuing the service.”

"Parents trust schools to safeguard their children's confidential and sensitive data,” said Josh Golin, Associate Director of the Boston, MA-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Education officials should actively be seeking ways to protect students' personally identifiable information in today's digital age rather than helping for-profit companies leverage student data for profit."

The groups sending today’s letters include More Than a Score, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), the Chicago Teachers’ Union, Raise Your Hand Illinois, Parents 4 Teachers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education, Parents Across America, and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The groups will consider next steps based on the responses they receive from ISBE and CPS. They will sponsor a public forum on the topic on November 21, 2013, with guest speaker Leonie Haimson, a parent leader from New York City who has been leading parent opposition to New York state’s participation in data sharing with inBloom.


Letter to Illinois Schools Superintendent Koch

Letter to Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett

MTAS Fact Sheet: Parents, Beware of inBloom.

MTAS background piece on inBloom in Illinois: More Testing, Less Privacy??

More information can be found at

What parents want in a renewed NCLB

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Signing upToday’s Tribune editorial proposed that a renewed No Child Left Behind law be based on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “waiver” program, by which they mean more testing and “accountability.”

I wrote this response (though the Tribune has not printed one of my letters in quite a while…):

The Tribune’s editorial proposal that a renewed No Child Left Behind law be based on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “waiver” program is not supported by research, best practices, or most U.S. parents.

For example, test-score based teacher evaluation is strongly discouraged by experts at the National Academy of Sciences and elsewhere as unreliable and potentially damaging.

The Tribune’s overall idea of “accountability” is rejected by most Americans. For example, 54 percent polled by Gallup in 2010 agreed that the best thing to do about low-performing schools is to keep the school open with the same staff and give it more support. Only 17 percent wanted to close the school and reopen it with a new principal, and just 13 percent wanted to replace it with a charter school.

These findings are echoed in a July 2013 poll of public school parents by the American Federation of Teachers, which found that 77 percent support strong public schools over expanded vouchers and charters. 57 percent agreed that there is too much emphasis on testing today.

No one has more at stake in better schools than parents, but parents want improvements to be based on responsible, effective policies, not the misguided and destructive initiatives of Secretary Duncan’s waiver program.

Most parents support fair, adequate school funding, smaller class sizes, and experienced teachers who are respected as professionals. We want our children to be treated as individuals, not data points. And we refuse to be used as pawns in corporate reformers’ “parental choice” game. Parents across the U.S. want a real, substantial role in all decisions that affect our children’s schools, such as the one provided by Chicago’s local school council system.

Students opting out of PSAE

Monday, April 22nd, 2013


Some students from Gage Park High School are planning to boycott part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE).

About 80 Gage Park students walked out of a NAEP exam earlier this year. NAEP is a national exam used to compare districts and states across the U.S. The students objected to having their time taken up with tests that had no bearing on their studies, at a time when some students didn’t even feel safe inside the school.

A WBEZ report quotes the students saying they are sick of test prep and opposed to the use of PSAE test scores to evaluate teachers, principals and schools.

The danger of the PSAE boycott is that the exam is a state graduation requirement — students don’t have to “pass” the PSAE but they do have to take it.

Here’s hoping that they will show up, sign their names to the test, answer at least one question, and then do whatever else they feel moved to do.




PSAT for 4-16-13: Get out your smocks and get ready to play!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

psat_logoFor Public Schools Action Tuesday today, you’ll need to get ready for the More Than a Score Play-In tomorrow. Bring your kids and prepare to learn through play.

Tomorrow’s elementary school report card pick up for Chicago Public Schools so there are no classes, and we will be done in time to get back to the school for report cards.

Here’s the press alert:

WHO: Dozens of parents, children and educators working with More Than a Score, who are concerned that testing has taken over the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) classrooms of our youngest children, pushing play-based learning out.

WHAT: We will set up play areas at CPS headquarters to demonstrate the power of play. We’ll be telling the CPS Board of Education that we want play back in our schools for all children. We’ll be playing with blocks, bubbles, fingerpaints, musical instruments, trucks, dolls, Play-doh, crayons and paper, puzzles, etc!

More Than a Score members will also pass petitions against the misuse and overuse of testing in CPS at the event and later in the day at local schools.

Girl & BirdWHEN: Wednesday, April 17, 9:30-11am (Brief press event at 10 am).

This is CPS elementary school report card pick up day (pick-up begins at noon).

WHERE: CPS headquarters, 125 S Clark Street, Chicago.

WHY: 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 more and more rare in Chicago Public Schools.

We know that children learn through play and that play is crucial to children’s mental and physical health. We want opportunities for free play, the arts, and active exploration returned to classrooms and schoolyards across this city:

Bring Play Back to Our Schools!

“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.

Jesse H: Our education civil rights movement may also start with a boycott

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Jesse H with JW

Garfield High School teacher and MAP test boycott leader Jesse Hagopian told the crowd at the Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago last night that he agreed with Arne Duncan that education is the civil rights movement of our time. But history teacher Jesse reminded us that the last major civil rights movement started with a boycott….but this time it might just be a test boycott.

JesseHtalkAll the speakers for our “The Case Against High-Stakes Standardized Testing” forum were outstanding. Leslie Leon told the story about students boycotting the NAEP test to protest the lack of safety at her school, a version of which was published in Education Week. Poet-activist Malcolm London shared a piece he wrote about education, school and life. Jesse shared the details of the test boycott at Garfield, and inspired everyone with his wisdom and fire. And of course, last but not least, CTU President Karen Lewis brought it all together with a call to stop the overtesting, the labeling and the school closings based on test scores.

This event was sponsored by a parent group (More Than a Score – which includes several parent groups), a teacher group (the CTU), a student group, and CReATE, the university research people. I commented at the forum that this broad-based alliance is essential, sinces separately we are accused of “fronting for the teachers’ union” (parents), “not wanting to be held accountable” (teachers), “goofing off in school” (students) or “being out of touch in their ivory towers” (researchers)! Together we can refute all of those arguments and make sure the focus stays where it belongs – with what research and the truth say is best for our children and our communities.

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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.