Illinois State Achievement Test is costly, obsolete and steals learning time
CHICAGO—In advance of the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) to be issued to Chicago Public School students March 3-14, 2014, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today announced support for parents choosing to opt their children out of testing and renewed a call for the Chicago Board of Education to cease administration of the ISAT.
The ‘low stakes’ test is administered over the course of eight days in all elementary schools. Formerly used to help qualify 7th grade students for selective enrollment high schools. The district recently issued a memorandum to teachers stressing the value of “rigorous, high-quality assessments,” in measuring student progress. The ISAT, however, is not aligned to any CPS curriculum, and in Chicago, it is no longer used to measure student progress, school performance, promotion, or for any other purpose.
“The ISAT is an obsolete test—it has no use to educators or administrators and the state is junking it next year,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “It is of no use in selective enrollment, and serves no purpose other than to give students another standardized test.”
Illinois paid over $18 million this year to Pearson Corporation for the ISAT. The portion attributed to CPS is roughly $3.4 million, impacting over 171,000 students. The total cost of administering the tests are the untold hours of preparation for the exam, and the loss of valuable instructional hours that could be spent on real learning.
For the last decade, since the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ISAT test has been the primary lever used by CPS for its destructive, destabilizing policies of closures and turnarounds. System-wide, the ISAT has infected the vigor and breadth of curriculum as teachers and students became stymied by the requirements of a narrow test-based approach to learning. NCLB has now been panned as a broad failure, but with the transition into more new tests, CPS threatens to double-down on the failed policy of standardized-test based accountability.
The CTU believes that the letter teachers recently received was recognition of the fear that parents will opt out of the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) assessment, despite threats that students without MAP scores will not be eligible for selective enrollment, there will be no alternate instruction given during the days of testing and children who are not participating in the assessment will be left to fend for themselves in “self-guided activity.” The CPS letter to parents also created an additional hurdle for parents, who oppose the excessive class time devoted to test prep and test administration, to opt their children out of testing.
Last year, the CTU joined teachers, students, parents and education advocates nationwide standing in solidarity with Garfield High School in Seattle and all Seattle public schools refusing to administer the MAP.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com.