The anti-ISAT movement appears to be gaining some steam as Chicago Public Schools officials prepare to administer the annual state achievement test next week.
Some teachers at a Bucktown school announced Friday they would refuse to give the Illinois Standards Achievement Test — it’s the second school to announce a testing boycott. All the teachers at a Little Village school announced earlier this week they would refuse to give the test.
“It was a hard decision to make. We had to consider how it would affect our personal lives and livelihood,” said Juan Gonzalez, a teacher at Drummond Elementary School, a Montessori school in the Bucktown neighborhood. “At the end of the day after everything was considered, we decided we had to stand on the side of right and boycott the ISAT test.”
But at least one Drummond teacher is not supportive of the boycott.
“I am an employee of CPS and one of my responsibilities is to administer this state mandated test,” Kelly Walsh said in an email.
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in January parents could opt their kids out of any standardized test, but on Friday CPS officials said all eligible CPS students in 3rd through 8th grades must take the exam.
Test proctors will present all eligible students the test next week and read everyone the instructions. If a student refuses to take the exam, he must “remain silent while other students test. Students MAY NOT engage in any other activities that would disrupt the testing environment,” according to a guide CPS sent to principals and obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
In Little Village on Friday, dozens of people gathered to support the teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy. They were the first to announce a boycott.
Danna Garduno, an 8th grader at Saucedo who has opted out of taking the ISAT, said her class will do silent reading while others take the ISAT.
Though many parents were supportive of the teachers’ movement against the ISAT, some were confused and worried their kids would be harmed if they didn’t take the exam.
Some like Silvia Montalvo, who has already opted her daughter out of the test at Saucedo, said a barrage of information from the teachers and then the administrators has left her head spinning.
“They are saying one thing, then another,” she said in Spanish.
Sandra Posadas, a teacher at Saucedo, said administrators are trying to scare parents.
CPS officials maintain the ISAT, which has lost many of its district-specific functions and will be replaced next year, is important this year.
“In a letter today from State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch and Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico, state officials reaffirmed that the ISAT test is mandated by state and federal law and failure to comply puts government funding at risk, including Title I funds aimed to help children from low-income families. The results of the ISAT also help parents and teachers across the state assess how well their students are meeting key benchmarks in core academic subjects and assists educators in tailoring instructional planning,” CPS spokesman Joel Hood said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Byrd-Bennett on Thursday threatened to discipline any teacher who refuses to administer the ISAT next week, according to a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday backed Byrd-Bennett’s decision.
“She made the right call in the sense that the test is state-mandated. It will be out next year, so the teachers’ goal has been accomplished. But this year, we’re going to continue it because we have to.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman and Art Golab