A struggle for some becomes a victory for all

No to standardized testing

Committees recognized the problem and came together

In November, we heard growing concern from Bilingual Education teachers and staff over English Learner students being called in to take the ACCESS test.  Members from the Testing Committee and Bilingual Education Committee met and discussed the need to reach out. Committee members had developed alliances with parent, ward and community organizations such as a number of independent political organizations, Logan Square Neighborhood Association and others through ongoing organizing. They moved swiftly to reach out and collaborate with these allies about the issue.

On December 10, the Union organized a meeting with ELPTs (English Language Program Teachers) and Bilingual Teachers. More than 100 educators attended. They were anxious about the lack of oversight and support from CPS and state agencies and they were determined to take whatever measures were necessary to prevent in-person ACCESS testing in January. Attendees overwhelmingly said they could not support testing students under a pandemic. Asking the most vulnerable students who have been hit hardest in this pandemic to risk their health for a test is unjust.

With allies, we took action and won

Statewide, various institutions, along with CTU, signed letters requesting that ISBE request a waiver from the federal Department of Education. Locally, community organizations also mobilized to provide testimony, including our own Christine Dussault from Chase Elementary. Hundreds of bilingual education teachers signed letters to Superintendent Ayala. Thank you to the many members who submitted a letter.

Sarah Karp tweet announcing ISBE decision to push back testing

The State Superintendent wrote the following on December 17:

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the timing of the federally required assessments. … I made the commitment at our Board meeting yesterday to delay the start of assessments as much as possible, and I am happy to keep that promise today. We will continue to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that always puts our students first, is collaborative and grounded in equity, and that recognizes the diverse needs of our 852 school districts.

We succeeded in delaying ACCESS tests until there’s likely to be a new Education Secretary (hopefully much better than Betsy DeVos). Not only that, but the standardized testing window for all testing statewide at all grade levels has been pushed back. This provides greater opportunity for the federal government to make the sensible decision and waive standardized testing this year under ESSA for Illinois. We’​re now in a strong position to continue the fight by eliminating high-stakes testing altogether for this school year.

Collaboration and Committees

This win is truly one of collaboration with parents, community organizations and institutions statewide coming together to defend the health and wellbeing of students and educators. Be sure to let parents know about this win. They need to know that their children don’t have to endure insane testing pressure on top of everything else. Let them know that standing up for ourselves does make a difference.

This is a victory to celebrate and yet we know we have much work to do. Luckily, we have a fighting union and strong committees. Get involved in the Bilingual Education Committee, the Testing Committee or any of the dozens of rank-and-file committees in which any member can play a role to move our Union forward. You can learn more and apply for a committee on our Committees web page.

At the height of a pandemic, the CPS and the Mayor continue to act unilaterally and are set on opening schools come January, with no regard to our health or that of our students and their families. This victory, however, shows that we can win on many different fronts. We need to come together, make alliances and be bold. We must continue to fight for our right to safety, equity and trust.

When we fight, we win.