Posts Tagged ‘too much testing’

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.

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

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.


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.”

Great WBEZ story on parents resisting testing in Chicago

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Reporter Becky Vevea put together a great story about Chicago parents anger over the excessive testing that’s going on in our schools these days. The written report is here but please take the time to listen to the audio, which is longer but less than 5 minutes total and includes yours truly’s dulcet tones.

The parent pressure isn’t letting up, either. Raise Your Hand is holding a testing forum this Thursday at 7 pm at Holstein Park, 2200 N Oakley. Details here.

RYH forum Nov. 29th – Assessing the Assessments

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

A forum for community members to discuss the

CULTURE OF TESTING in our schools

What are all these tests? How do we best measure achievement?

ACCESS… Dibels … REACH… NWEA–Map. CCQ… ISAT… Explore… PLAN… mCLass… Compass


When: Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where: Holstein Park, 2nd floor Auditorium (elevator available)

2200 N. Oakley, Chicago

Time: 7pm – 9 pm

Forum panelists include: teachers who currently administer tests, and

Dr. Noah Sobe, Prof. Noah W. Sobe is Associate Professor of Cultural and EducationalPolicy Studies at Loyola University Chicago where he also directs the Center for Comparative Education.  Prof. Sobe researches the history of education and the relationship between globalization and schools and serves on the Boards of Directors of several scholarly societies He presents findings at academic conferences around the globe.  Prof. Sobe is the parent of two daughters currently attending CPS and a member of a group of education researchers called CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates of Transformative Education). He is a co-author of CReATE’s research brief on high stakes standardized testing.

 For more information:

Testing resistance resources

Thursday, November 15th, 2012
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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.