Breaking. Chicago CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett threatens teachers and parents on opt-out.


Dear Teachers,

As a former teacher and principal, I understand how important it is to maximize our instructional time with students. But I also know that rigorous, high-quality assessments are valuable in measuring student progress. Our challenge, then, is to strike a balance between the two.

This year we reduced our number of required assessments from 25 to 10, allowing schools to focus on the measures that are most critical to student learning.

This year’s ISAT will be more aligned to the Common Core. Some claim that this test will not count for anything as the state moves toward PARCC, however, I believe it is still an important exam as it is an additional opportunity to understand the increased expectations of a Common Core-aligned test.  In addition, ISAT – like PSAE for high schools – is still a measure used to determine AYP.

NWEA MAP is also an important measure of student knowledge aligned to the Common Core.  Already a part of the Promotion Policy, teacher evaluation, principal evaluation, and the new School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), NWEA MAP will also be used this year as the screening test for selective enrollment eligibility.

Students must score at or above the 24th percentile on NWEA MAP to qualify to take the selective enrollment exam.  I know that questions regarding opting out of NWEA MAP have been raised, so let me be clear: CPS students without an NWEA MAP score will not be eligible for selective enrollment or promotion in grades 3, 6, and 8. In addition, SQRP ratings will suffer for test participation rates of less than 95%.

Parents requesting to have their children opt out of the NWEA MAP must first have a conversation with the principal to discuss the consequences to their children. If after this conversation they still wish to opt out, they must make their request in writing.   Parents should be informed that there will be no alternate instruction given during the assessment and that children who are not being assessed will be required to engage in a silent, self-guided activity while their peers are being tested.

As we approach the testing season, I encourage you to continue aligning your instruction to the Common Core.  These standards provide a clear, consistent expectation for student learning, along with a level of rigor we have not previously seen across K-12 education.

In addition, please remember how seriously I take our District’s zero-tolerance policy for any cheating or testing improprieties. The consequences for violating this policy have been and will continue to be enforced, up to and including termination.

As teachers, you are the front line in our efforts to provide quality learning opportunities for all students. I value your contribution and thank you for the work you do each day on behalf of Chicago’s next generation.


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Sent out January 29, 2014 at 10:30 AM.

29 thoughts on “Breaking. Chicago CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett threatens teachers and parents on opt-out.

  1. Is it legal to mandate a meeting with the principal before opting out? Maybe along the lines of talking with a pro-life group before having an abortion.

    1. When we first started opting out our sons many years ago (we’ve skipped DIBELS and mClass math, CPS Benchmark assessments, REACH Performance, Scantron Performance Series, NWEA MAP, and the ISAT in non-promotion years) the principal held me hostage for more than an hour! I actually think though these BBB letters are helping more than hurting because so many people still don’t know that opting out a child from most of the tests is a parent’s right.

  2. If parents hold their line, she will not be able to get away with making “students without an NWEA MAP score … not … eligible for selective enrollment or promotion in grades 3, 6, and 8”. The policy would overload teachers of these grades while reducing the load of teachers in 4, 7, and 9.

  3. everyone understands that even 10 standardized tests a year is too many, right? that is one a month + 1 more.

  4. Is this legal? CPS is threatening to hold back straight A students because parents exercise their right to opt out of corporate BS? Please, is there a lawyer here?

  5. If the testing is so great and useful, then why do you have to resort to bullying and threats to gain participation. Intimidation is not leadership. Also, under state and federal regulations I don’t think you can deny a child an appropriate, quality educational experience just because the child did not take a test.

  6. Do it. I dare you. If no one, or next to no one takes the test or purposely bombs it then everyone stays back, and you will have 14 year olds sitting in a 3rd grade classroom. Don’t be intimidated. Band together and they can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do, and they cannot keep a student from moving on to the next grade year after year. Then they will truly have a revolt on their hands.

  7. Parents–go to UnitedOptOut, click on Illinois, & get the info. you need. It may say that you may not opt out of the ISAT* (truly, the most incoherent, senseless piece of Pear$on garbage/any test ever–sped teachers see the tests, & they are–year after year–rife with unanswerable ??, math questions having either two or more correct answers or NO correct answer, etc., & are scored by people who have absolutely NO business scoring student work {read Todd Farley’s book Making the Grade: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, read his Dec. 27th 2012 interview on Diane Ravitch’s Blog, & read his posts on Huffington. Also, find all the posts on Pear$on & standardized testing on Diane Ravitch’s Blog). Believe you me, when you see all the evidence of what corporate-inspired tripe these tests are–having absolutely NOTHING to do with educating our children, but submitting them, instead, to mind-numbing-test-prep-drill-&-kill, all the while making $$$ hand-over-fist for the Pear$on Corporation (just look it up & see just how many educational publishing companies they have bought out, thus securing a monopoly on tests, test prep materials, textbooks & software, you will be downloading all that U.O.O. info., copying their letter samples, & hotfooting it to your children’s principal(s).

    The Ides of March are upon us (testing is the first two weeks in March, I believe.
    OPT OUT NOW!!! * Even if it DOES say that parents may not opt out of ISAT, if EVERYONE does it (such as happened in Seattle w/the MAP tests–97% opted out! NOBODY was penalized {children were not held back, teachers were not fired} & the district then abolished the tests), what can they possibly do to thousands? In numbers there is strength–5,000 teachers in red shirts in the streets of Chicago made a difference. They will have nothing to show for their faulty data (being based on faulty tests). This is, indeed, the only, effective way to stop this madness.

  8. hahaha…my principal also put in writing the 0 tolerance and then proceeded to model and turn a blind eye to cheating because it made her school look good. in addition she forged attendance records, transcripts, changed grades, bullied teachers or offered stipends to buy compliance… highly qualified teachers are the only ones who really care about educating the students.

  9. OBVIOUSLY someone (or a group of people) are making money with all of these tests. If they were so productive, education would be soaring in this country and it’s NOT!
    Follow the money. ….

  10. I think BBB just encouraged more parents to opt-out. This is a bi-partisan issue. Parents, if you haven’t yet, jump on the wagon and fight this one. Don’t steal public education and put it in the hands of Wal-Mart

  11. Once again it’s all about reducing learning to test scores. Whether it is 25, or 10 high stakes tests makes no difference.
    ” NWEA MAP is also an important measure of student knowledge aligned to the Common Core. Already a part of the Promotion Policy, teacher evaluation, principal evaluation, and the new School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), NWEA MAP will also be used this year as the screening test for selective enrollment eligibility.”
    So it still punitive, and link to those Common Core Groupies!

    “Students must score at or above the 24th percentile on NWEA MAP to qualify to take the selective enrollment exam.” We taken away your name kids, and given you a number 24 or above.
    “I know that questions regarding opting out of NWEA MAP have been raised, so let me be clear: CPS students without an NWEA MAP score will not be eligible for selective enrollment or promotion in grades 3, 6, and 8. In addition, SQRP ratings will suffer for test participation rates of less than 95%”
    So it’s all about mental slavery, oppression, and suffering people. Same old punish students, teachers and schools language here.
    A tidal wave of change is coming Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and neither the Mayor, Bill Gates, and their Pals will be able to stop it. You’ll be running for the door, and perhaps office soon like Paul Vallas

  12. Previously the Cleveland School System, now the Chicago School System. Quite an impressive track record. When are the STUDENTS going to be given TOP PRIORITY?

  13. So since everyone seems to be singing for the same choir, maybe i’ll just put my 2 cents in. Education is not gifted, it is willed. If you instill in your child the “Why?” or maybe even a shred of skepticism, your child will think critically and have a better chance at higher education. Teachers facilitate this as well, sometimes to a lesser degree than parents. The truly bright and polite students often never get attention; they aren’t disruptive or in need of assistance. Those children tend to become leaders and independent thinkers only if there is encouragement coming fron somewhere. But i digress.

    Life is about jumping through hoops, meeting basic standards or at least being aware enough of the norms to intentionally break them. I am not saying potential or ability has anything to do with testing. It has to do with making sure your child can perform simple tasks and solve mostly simple problems geared for the average student his age. Could the tests be better, no doubt. But for all you parents who are complaining about needing to talk to a principal for an hour or more, if you can’t spare an hour to talk about your child’s education, how active are you in general? Do you want to abandon benchmarks because your child is just so damn special, they are above it? Or maybe you just don’t want the wake up call that maybe your intervention may be more necessary than you’d like.

    1. A wise person once said,” education is nothing more than the ability to do what you need to, when you need to, wether or not you agree”.

  14. Dear G
    This isnt about jumping through hoops. It is about taking back public education and saving it from corporate takeover. My child does fine on those tests. But they are teaching to the test. Not creating their own test based on what they have taught. Its all common core, everyone needs to be the norm and not question anything. There is only 1 answer and if you grt them wrong you must not be smart enough. I hear it all the time, im a school social worker and have never seen so many miserable children. Its very sad.

    1. So I have no question that a corporate takeover of education is more detrimental to the education system, and most likely the children who are caught in the crossfire. My comment puts responsibility on parents to continue education when they get home. A lot has been shown about how discourse in the home, topics of discussion at the dinner table, and the words and language used in the household, influence children in the long term. When it comes to science and math, a lot of times, there is only ONE answer. There may be variations of how to get those answers, but elementary students are not trying to prove/disprove Hawking’s newest theory of non-event horizon black holes. 2+2= 4… car : garage :: horse : stable… here is a list of words, remember as many as you can… and so on… all of which measure basic mathematical skill, logic, and retention. Yes, are there students who underperform during testing? Yes. Will this possibly effect school budgets? Yes. Should it? No. Should ESL students and special education students be subject to the same testing? Probably not.

      So rather than address the budgetary concerns of underperforming schools, why is the argument always brought back the student? Let me be frank, I am not one of those people who thinks you can be anything you want to be. In fact, in the longer term, children whose hope it is to become the next great artist, musician, dancer, or some other creative field should have a dose of reality brought into their lives. By the time they realize how competitive these fields are, they are in the middle of $60,000 worth of college debt getting a photography degree from a private college. I use the creative field as an example because those were the same kids in school who said they “hate math/science” If anything, I think testing should be more influential in students lives. The greatest creatives, philosophers, and economists have had mundane day jobs that provided substantial living while they were free to pursue their passions. Why not see that a child has terrible language skills but may be perfect for a trade practice.

      Can education or ANY school system save a child if the parent(s)/guardian(s) have no vested interest? When I was in elementary school I had a hard time with reading and spelling. My mother made me flash cards and practiced with me everyday during summer break one year. I came back to school with a higher reading level than classmates I had previously underperformed to. Because my reading was better, I was able to test better. Understanding and getting the RIGHT answer can give you confidence. As JFK would say, ask not what your child’s education can do for you, but what you can do for your child’s education.

      The best teachers follow curriculums and also add projects and lessons that don’t replace but enhance a child’s ability to perform. Teachers hone a child’s social skills. Teachers try to equip children with tools for their future. One thing every child/small person will face, is an evaluation of their abilities unless you are some blue blood elite. How many children who test with poor math skills are good at math? Maybe underperforming on a test can alert a teacher or parent that, to stay competitive with their peers, they may need more attention/help?

      I just think it’s terrible to take a topic and tackle it from only one side. The world is gray. My commentary here is to “question the norm” set by the responses to this blog post? Any of you want your children to think critically, maybe should share with them that you don’t know all the answers and that things are more complicated than simply having an opinion or have reading some “tell-all” book about one person’s experience from working in standardized testing. QUESTION EVERYTHING! Look at everything from all sides! Learn how to make an argument with the facts, not the feelings.

      Also, I hate standardized testing but figured I would offer a counterpoint.

  15. B.B. Bennet is the worst excuse for an educator. They have no clue what real accountability and education actualy is. They are too busy chasing after money fed them by the Gates/Pritztker/Rhee/Dunkin axis of evil corporate greed creeps. They are busy positioning themselves in seats of prominance in high places of society. They will find their true reward and it will not be lasting greatness.

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