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Students Skipping Mandatory Test To Protest School Closings

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Protesters outside CPS headquarters on Wednesday. (Credit: Susanna Song/CBS)

Protesters outside CPS headquarters on Wednesday. (Credit: Susanna Song/CBS)

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UPDATED: 4/24/2013 – 12:28 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — They are supposed to be taking a mandatory state test today, but about 100 CPS high school students instead were boycotting the test and protesting outside Wednesday’s school board meeting.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports just about all the students protesting outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. were boycotting school on Wednesday, but the juniors among them were also skipping out on the second day of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), a state-required standardized test.

“Today, we are boycotting the second day of PSAE to show that standardized testing should not decide the future of our schools and students,” one girl said at the protest.

The students said they are upset over what they see as an overemphasis on standardized tests, as well as the district’s planned school closings, but their boycott could come at the expense of some of their own academic careers.

High school juniors are required to take the PSAE to move on to their senior year and be eligible to graduate.

But the students said they’re over-tested, and test scores shouldn’t be used to determine which schools must close.

“This shows a bigger statement that this means something to us; not just us, but our communities, and the schools, and the parents, they all care about this, and we all care about this the same way,” one boy said at the protest march.

CBS 2′s Susanna Song reports, students at the protest said six buses picked them up from the respective high schools and dropped them off at CPS headquarters for the demonstration. Organizers said community groups paid for the service.

Since CPS announced it will close 53 schools, parents and students have held protests across the city.

On Wednesday morning the group blocked the sidewalk outside CPS headquarters in the Loop and chanted: “Education is our right; we won’t go without a fight.”

The students also say they are over-tested and that a standardized test should not determine their educational future.

Some of the students said they were intimidated by their teachers.

“At our school, teachers said our ACT [college entrance exam] would get voided if we didn’t take the text today,” said Gage Park junior Julio Contreras.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett said, “The only place that students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life. Today’s PSAE is one of the most critical exams our students will take. Every adult should support and encourage our students to make sure they are in school.”

Byrd-Bennett also noted students chanted slogans that were the same as those used by the Chicago Teachers Union at its protest. CTU personnel were seen among those organizing the students’ protest.

Although high school students were the ones participating in the boycott and protest, no high schools are slated for closing by CPS. The district’s school closing plan has targeted only elementary schools.

CPS leaders have sent letters to parents, encouraging them to send their kids to school and reminding them about the importance of the exam to their academic future.

Students who missed Wednesday’s test can make up the exam in May.

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