The CPS ISAT letter and the parent response.

From:  “Swartz,  Claudinette”  <>

Date:  February  27,  2014  at  11:46:13  AM  CST

Subject:  ISAT  opt  out

I  wanted  to  reach  out  on  the  opt  out  issue  because  I’m concerned  that  there  are  repercussions  from  the  State  that teachers  and  parents  may  not  be  aware  of.    We’ve  just  sent something  to  principals  and  I  want  to  make  sure  you  guys are  clear  too.

What  we’ve  heard  from  ISBE  is  that  because  ISAT  is  required by  both  federal  (NCLB)  and  state  law  (IL  School  Code),  it’s possible  that  schools  could  lose  federal  funding  with  low testing  percentages.    We’re  still  trying  to  nail  down  with  ISBE exactly  how  this  will  be  determined,  but  this  is  something that  would  be  reviewed  by  the  federal  Dept.  of  Ed.

In  addition,  there  are  possible  repercussions  for  teachers from  ISBE,  again  since  this  is  a  required  test.    Depending  on the  circumstance,  teacher  actions  could  be  reviewed  by  the State  Certification  Board  with  potential  impact  on  their licensing.    There  would  of  course  also  be  CPS-­specific consequences  since  test  administration  and  a  maintaining secure  testing  environment  are  considered  basic  job functions  of  CPS  employees.

Finally,  the  state  has  also  indicated  that  this  could  trigger  a review  of  school  recognition  status  (i.e.  accreditation).

And  as  for  the  messaging  around  this,  I  think  there  are  also  a few  things  that  need  to  be  cleared  up.

Time  spent  testing:  I  think  it’s  misleading  to  say that  ISAT  takes  up  2  weeks  of  instructional  time.    The  total test  time  is  3  hours  each  for  reading  and  math  and  2  for science  (4  an  7  only).    You  can  find  this  in  the  test  manual here  and  here,  on  page  6.    There  is  a  2  week  window  to  allow maximum  flexibility  in  scheduling.    Students  who  are  absent typically  take  make-­up  tests  in  the  2nd  week,  but  this doesn’t  disrupt  instruction  of  other  students  as  it  is  done  in another  setting.    The  6  or  8  hours  on  the  test  is  less  than  1% of  a  student’s  time  spent  in  school.

CPS  does  not  pay  for  ISAT.    I  saw  a  flyer  that quoted  us  as  spending  3.5  million  on  it.    I  have  no  idea  where this  came  from…this  is  a  state  exam.

Although  it  isn’t  used  for  accountability  or promotion/selective  enrollment,  it  isn’t  a  complete  waste  of time.    It  is  the  only  measure  we  have  this  year  aligned  to  the full  depth  and  breadth  of  the  Common  Core  and  the  only uniform  measure  across  the  state.    While  NWEA  is  aligned to  the  CCSS  in  terms  of  strand  alignment,  text  and  item complexity,  it  is  of  course  only  available  in  multiple  choice. ISAT  also  includes  extended  response  items  aligned  to  the CCSS.

Because  Illinois  requires  ISAT,  schools  are expected  to  present  all  students  with  the  test.    Students can  refuse  to  test,  but  must  remain  quiet  and  not  disrupt testing  for  other  students.

I  definitely  understand  the  frustration  with  time  spent  on assessment  generally  and  unhealthy  testing  practices (bubble  kids  strategy,  narrowly  focusing  on  certain skills…etc).    Believe  me,  we  are  working  to  change  this. We  have  sent  out  messages  and  talked  with  principals  and Chiefs  about  what  it  means  to  prepare  students  to  do  well on  assessments  that  are  aligned  to  the  Common  Core. While  you  guys  may  be  hearing  about  the  bad  practices, there  are  also  plenty  of  principals  and  teachers  that  are getting  the  message  about  how  high  quality  daily  tasks  that truly  ask  kids  to  think,  write,  defend  their  choices…etc  are the  key.    This  is  a  process  that  will  certainly  take  time,  but we’re  committed  to  it.

At  the  same  time,  I  hope  that  MTAS  and  the  other  groups you  guys  work  with  can  deliver  a  message  that  fully  informs parents  of  the  facts  about  ISAT  (and  other  tests)  and  any potential  repercussions.    As  you  know,  I’m  always  more than  willing  to  talk  to  you  guys  and  help  clear  things  up.

Please  let  me  know  if  you  have  any  questions.

Thanks, Didi


Didi  Swartz Director  of  Assessment  |  Office  of  Accountability Chicago  Public  Schools773-­553-­1161

The response from the parent group, More Than a Score.

There  is  no  evidence  that  the  federal  government  will  limit  Title  I funding  due  to  testing  opt  outs.  If  ISBE  or  US  Ed  has  evidence  of this  ever  happening  anywhere  or  under  consideration,  please have  them  produce  it.  We  have  reviewed  the  US  Code  and  the CFR  and  found  no  references  to  automatic  funding  cuts  for  failure to  make  AYP.    Below  95%  participation  averaged  over  three  years would  trigger  an  AYP  failure,  but  the  district  has  not  made  AYP since  at  least  2005,  and  only  64  CPS  schools  made  AYP  last  year. If  there  were  any  cuts,  they  happened  already.

CTU  is  fully  prepared  to  defend  teachers  who  refuse  to  administer this  test.    Teachers  who  have  chosen  not  to  administer  the  test understand  that  there  may  be  repercussions  for  their  jobs. Please  provide  a  citation  for  the  impact  of  test  boycotts  on licensure.

If  past  failure  to  make  AYP  did  not  already  trigger  this,  why  would presently  missing  it,  as  nearly    all  schools  will  do  with  100% meets  and  exceeds  required,  trigger  heretofore  unknown sanctions.

Disruption  is  far  more  than  the  6-­‐8  hours  of  testing.  Even  students not  in  3-­‐8th  grade  have  disrupted  schedules  during  the  testing window;  most  specials  are  cancelled  etc.    At  least  one  school  is being  dismissed  early  (before  12)  for  the  three  days  of  testing. Special  ed  students  can  take  many  more  than  6-­‐8  hours  to  test, and  their  teachers  are  lost  to  administering  the  test  for  weeks. This  doesn’t  even  begin  to  cover  the  hours  and  dollars  devoted to  ISAT  prep  time.

This  claim  is  not  coming  from  us;  nonetheless,  the  ISAT  will  cost the  state  $18M;  $3.5M  of  that  is  for  the  test  within  CPS.

The  ISAT  will  still  be  primarily  multiple  choice;  the  number  of extended  responses  items  is  the  same  as  prior  years.  The  PARCC blueprints  and  test  specifications  call  for  more  complex  multiple choice    and  more  extended  response  items.    The  newly  required CCQB  performances  tasks  are  giving  students  plenty  of  practice  in ELA  and  math  in  a  non-­‐multiple  choice  format.  Furthermore,  the equating  procedures  for  last  year’s  ISAT  to  this  year’s  ISAT  are unclear.  If  the  CC  switch  is  meaningful,  the  underlying  construct  of the  test  has  changed;  you  cannot  compare  last  year’s  scores  to this  year’s  without  heavy  equating.  At  best,  reading  will  have  10 anchoring  items.  Math  is  less  clear  but  will  have  to    be  worse.

Barbara  Byrd-­‐Bennett  sent  a  letter  to  parents  stating  that  they  have the  right  to  opt  their  children  out  of  all  tests.    We  are  instructing parents  to  tell  schools  they  are  refusing  on  behalf  of  their  legally minor  children  and  that  the  school  should  code  their  student  as having  refused  the  test.    It  is  unethical  to  pressure  children,  some as  young  as  eight  years  old,  to  participate  in  activities  against  their parent/guardian’s  wishes.

Most  of  us  are  not  just  hearing  about  bad  practices;  our  children and,  in  some  cases,  students  are  in  Chicago  Public  Schools experiencing  the  effects  of  the  CPS  testing  policy  every  day.

We  encourage  you  to  continue  to  work  to  change  the fundamental  values  in  this  district  that  continue  to  prioritize  test scores  above  education  and  children.

We  encourage  CPS  administration  to  do  the  same.

Posted in CPS

3 thoughts on “The CPS ISAT letter and the parent response.

  1. ISAT and high stakes testing has been in place since the inception of No Child Left Behind since the late 1980’s, but nobody was willing to stand up against it. I would suggest to encourage parent to be the ones to opt out. They are for all practical purposes immune from reprisals from both the school administration, the state and the feds.

    As far as the teachers, it should be an all or non situation for the union. Either the entire union takes a stand against it or no one should. I am afraid if individual teachers opt out they will be picked off one at a time for insubordination. Fact, Insubordination is grounds for termination. I would hate to see any teacher lose his/her job over ISAT. The damage done by high stakes testing has been done. Why sacrifice some good, overly idealistic teachers for a test that is in its last year.

  2. This particular brand of stupidity can only be wiped out by involved and concerned parents that do not cave in to bureaucrats that are “just following orders.”
    Can I remind everyone about Ward Churchill, former ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He described what he called the “technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire” in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns,” i.e. as those who banally conduct their duties in the service of evil.
    I would not go as far as saying these testing programs are evil. But I think we have enough information to be able to say that this national testing fetish exists as a money making venture and not for the good of the kids.

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