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