In Illinois, students take the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The test “measures the achievement of students in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight and science in grade four and seven.” The test is a multiday exam and is given to measure progress against the No Child Left Behind benchmarks. This year the state decided to use an additional test to evaluate student promotions and eligibilities.
Some parents have decided to boycott the ISAT, for while the results of the test may be important to for schools’ need to show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), it means nothing to the students on an individual level.
Parents in the city of Chicago have organized, and so far more than 70 parents have tried to give their children permission to opt out of the test, but notes from home aren’t working. Schools say they need to test all children present and are putting the tests in front of all students, no matter what parents have said. This effectively sticks children in the rather uncomfortable middle.
Even if a child is allowed to sit out the test, it isn’t as if he or she will be receiving instruction during test days. Instead of filling the day filling test sheets, the student is likely to have a study hall or library time.
With all the focus on extended school days and providing more time for instruction, it does seem ludicrous to have days used up for a test with such limited application. Certainly there could be a single standardized test that would answer the needs of assessing AYP as well as providing necessary information about individual student performance.
Both the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are supporting a ban of the ISAT. The president of AFT Randi Weingarten, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, as saying “The test is being administered only to fulfill a No Child Left Behind requirement, while more than half of the states have sought waivers from such requirements. The test won’t inform instruction or assess student or teacher performance. It is not relevant to the current curriculum. It’s a meaningless hoop to jump through that benefits no one. So, why subject kids to it?”
Parents in the suburbs have not yet mobilized on this issue, but given the rumblings about common core testing, you can be sure this won’t be the last objection to standardized testing heard in Illinois or elsewhere in the nation.
On a side note, Chicago Public School (CPS) children’s literacy caused Chicago mayor Emanuel to take a dive. CPS students increased their total books read year over year and the increase won the students a bet that saw the loser, Emanuel, paying off by taking the Polar Plunge into a mostly frozen Lake Michigan the last weekend in February. Seriously, they had to scoop ice out of the plunge area so people could get into the water. Water temperature was 32 degrees and the air temperature was much lower. The reason for the Plunge is much warmer: it is a fundraiser for Special Olympics.