Teachers at the Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Pilsen say they won't be passing out the ISAT test to their students next Monday. In a secret ballot, Saucedo teachers voted to boycott the statewide test.
“We are taking this step of civil disobedience because we love our children and students, and the unjust regime of over-testing and over-testing is inhumane,” said Saucedo teacher Sarah Chambers. “This is one step towards reclaiming humanity, and the joy of learning and education.”
This is the last year the ISAT test will be used by Chicago Public Schools. It will not be used for grade promotion, school rankings or admission to selective enrollment schools. That has parents asking why it's being used at all.
“Our kids need to be learning while they’re at school. They do not need to be over-tested and stressed about a test that does not matter,” said parent Derlina Smith. “It will be discontinued next year, so why does CPS feel as though it's necessary?”
CPS Chief Accountability Officer John Barker says though the ISAT is not being used as it has been in the past, it is still critical for the district.
“The portion of the ISAT that was used for selective enrollment placement and promotion policy determination is no longer a part of the ISAT,” said Barker. “The state made that determination. And it was actually a component, it was the first 30 questions of the ISAT. That piece of the ISAT is no longer available. However, the state still requires that participation in No Child Left Behind says that 95 percent participation is the expectation, and that the results from ISAT will be scored, will be used, and will be displayed on the state’s report card.”
Despite that, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has given parents the choice of opting out of the ISAT. The advocacy group Parents 4 Teachers says close to 1,000 students have opted out of taking the test, including over 400 students at Saucedo.
However, Barker says teachers do not have the right to opt out of giving the ISAT without facing disciplinary measures.
“Actions have consequences, and a decision to not follow the job description or job requirements would have some consequences,” said Barker.
With teachers willing to face those consequences, CPS parent Cassie Creswell says she hopes parents will respond to the call to keep their students from taking the ISAT.
“I want to tell parents in this district to think about that. Here are teachers who are willing to put their jobs on the line to give your kids back some learning time,” said Creswell. “So, basically it's a no-risk thing for you to opt your child out and to say that you are going to stand with those teachers.”
If more than 5 percent of the district’s 400,000 students opt out of the ISAT, the district would be at risk of losing millions in federal funds.