The exchange between rank and file CTU bilingual kindergarten teacher Neysa Rivera and CPS on CPS’ appallingly inappropriate 2022-23 Kindergarten Literacy REACH Performance Task, which some teachers have reported is so difficult and inappropriate it’s made children cry. The Chicago Teachers Union is committed to defending Neysa in the face of any discipline or issue involving her principled stand on REACH PTs.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing” Theodore Roosevelt

November 10, 2022

My Name is Neysa Rivera and this letter is on behalf of all the kindergarten teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. I have been a bilingual kindergarten teacher for approximately 27 years and have taken pride in providing the best literature-based practices for kindergarten. I have been a mentor to other kindergarten teachers and have been part of the Instructional Leadership Team. I have attained a Distinguished rating as a teacher.

I cannot in good conscience and will not administer this test to my current Spanish bilingual students.

I am seeking your support in NOT administering this test to our very vulnerable five-year old’s.

  • The 2022-2023 Kindergarten Literacy REACH Performance Task, fails to accurately assess the level and range of vocabulary for a kindergartner.
  • The story is translated with words far above the kindergarten level, that hinders comprehension and understanding of the text.
  • The story/poem is way too long.
  • The copy of the Spanish translation is not colorful and bright copy like the actual book.
  • This assessment requires a kindergarten student to state the main idea yet the Kindergarten CCSS standards state Kindergartners RLK2. With prompting and support retell familiar stories including key details.
  • The Task 2 question, requires students to know geometrical and dimensional shapes in order to understand the question. The photocopy of the test is not clear in order to distinguish the differences.

In the past the Kindergarten Literacy REACH Performance Task has been age appropriate.

Upon receiving the recent Kindergarten Literacy REACH Performance Task, I was appalled. The language in this year’s performance task 2022-2023, is far above the kindergarten level. I myself as a Spanish teacher, know that my kindergarten students are unfamiliar with the following words contained in this book: solapa, acogedor, arcos, fluido, torre, retorcidas, tesoros, conchas, pila, ladrillo, apuntalan, equilibrio, mondadientes, deambulan, ahuecada, floresta, dinámico, cúpula, gira, reutilizadas, edificio, intermedios, parpadeante, listones, ranuras, blandas, volteretas, cavernas y fortalezas. The words underlined above are the words I myself as a teacher do not “know” and do not use nor teach as part of their academic language.

The language of the story(poem) is not inclusive of Spanish children’s wide range of cultural, social, academic and emotional experiences. The book discusses and describes shapes and vocabulary that requires a child to have tangible experiences with building blocks in order to comprehend the story.

This is an excerpt taken from the School Library Journal, What We Believe Matters Most When Selecting Books

Keeping our readers in mind, we evaluate books for their quality, their complexity, and their utility (Cappiello & Dawes, 2015). We consider whether the book tells a compelling story; includes a character with whom students can identify or whom they can learn from; helps children to better understand the social or scientific dimensions of their world; or inspires children to think like historians, mathematicians, or scientists. We also look closely at the language of the text. What kind of writing is this? Is it lyrical, informative, playful, evocative, clever? We consider the content and language in relation to the developing readers in our classrooms. How has the author used language to make the content more accessible? What do readers need to know to access and comprehend this particular text? Finally we consider how we will use the text. Is it a text that we want all of the readers in our class to experience through a read aloud?

Additionally, this is an excerpt from The Early Childhood Generalist Standards for teachers of students ages 3-8. Page 42:

Accomplished early childhood teachers are well versed in the literature that examines the connection between oral language development and the acquisition of reading and writing skills, both for native English speakers and for those learning English as a new language. Teachers use this knowledge base to design appropriate learning experiences for children of different ages and with different levels of language and literacy in their first language and in English.

Page 43

Accomplished teachers support children’s presentation of information in clear and well structured ways, model for children how to adjust their speech and language depending on their audience and purpose, and provide an environment in which children feel safe communicating their thoughts.

  • The 2022-2023 Kindergarten Literacy REACH Performance Task, fails to accurately assess the level and range of vocabulary for a kindergartner.
  • The story is translated with words far above the kindergarten level, that hinders comprehension and understanding of the text.
  • The story/poem has way too long.
  • The copy of the Spanish translation is not colorful and bright copy like the actual book.
  • This assessment requires a kindergarten student to state the main idea yet the the Kindergarten CCSS standards RLK2 With prompting and support retell familiar stories including key details

Neysa Rivera

CPS’ response on November 17:

———- Forwarded message ———
From: <snip@cps.edu>
Date: Thu, Nov 17, 2022, 8:47 PM
Subject: Re: Reach Kindergarten Performance Task
To: Rivera, Neysa <snip>
Cc: <snip, snip>

Ms. Rivera,

Thanks for thoughtfully compiling and sharing your specific concerns regarding the bilingual BOY Kindergarten REACH PT. I have shared your email with the Literacy team and we will be following up as soon as possible to address your specific concerns.

Please note that we’ve officially extended the BOY PT Window until 12/2 to ensure that teachers have time to administer and enter PTs into Checkpoint. Please also be aware that per p. 4 of the 2022-23 REACH PT Administration Manualall CPS educators who are evaluated on either the CPS Framework for Teaching or the CPS Framework for Teacher Librarians [including Special Education, English Language (EL) and Specialists], must administer and enter a minimum of two BOY  and the corresponding two EOY Performance Task (PT) scores into the Checkpoint Student Assessment System. This includes teachers on their Interim Summative Report year.

Thanks,

<snip>

And Neysa’s response to CPS:

I would like to state that as an educator I have always followed best practice and proper testing procedures here at CPS. It feels wrong professionally to not administer what should be a valid assessment but I feel worse at the thought of administering this assessment to my students.  This assessment will not properly reflect growth and mastery in BOY/EOY due to the difficult vocabulary, language and inaccurate Spanish translation for kindergarten. This assessment will only serve to diminish a child’s self confidence and self-esteem.

CPS is a sanctuary school district and we need to ensure that we are not causing emotional and psychological damage to our current students who are undocumented and the influx of future students who will enter our schools.

Lastly, I reviewed the link you shared regarding REACH. I do have concerns as to how this will affect my evaluation, that is not mentioned in the document.  I will be administering the Reach math portion because that is developmentally appropriate for kindergarten. Hoping that I will not be penalized for advocating for fair testing for my students.