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Teachers At Two Schools To Risk Disciplinary Action, Boycott ISAT

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Updated 03/03/14 – 10:59 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Students at Chicago Public Schools begin taking the ISAT exam this week, but many teachers are refusing to administer the test, and many parents say they won’t let their kids take part.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports teachers at at least two schools have said they’ll risk disciplinary action by refusing to give the state-required test to their students.

Teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy and Thomas Drummond Elementary School have said they won’t hand out Illinois Standards Achievement Tests this week, even though Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said they could lose their state certification if they boycott the test.

“We are not going to cave. We made the decision for our children,” Saucedo special education teacher Sarah Chambers said. “We knew what we were getting into, we knew there could repercussions, and we’re prepared for that.”

The Chicago Teachers Union has said students are forced to take too many standardized tests, and the ISAT exam is unnecessary, given that it no longer factors into student promotion, graduation, or enrollment in selective-enrollment schools.

“There are too many tests. It’s not just the ISAT. The students are over-tested, they get anxiety,” Chambers said.

Saucedo sixth grader Jocelyn Figueroa said she doesn’t mind taking the ISAT, and her mother doubts teachers will follow through on their boycott.

“I don’t really think so. I know teachers from here, because my daughter’s been here since kindergarten, and I know teachers that are saying that they are going to give the test,” Lisset Figueroa said.

Hundreds of parents have signed forms opting their children out of taking the exam, saying all the standardized tests at CPS waste valuable learning time.

“If it doesn’t count towards them passing grades and all that, the kids do have rights,” Omar Diaz said.

Saucedo student Karen Montalvo said her teacher told students they and their parents could choose whether they should take the ISAT or not.

“She’s not telling us to take it, or to not take it. She’s letting us make our own decision,” she said. “I want to take it.”

CPS officials insisted the ISAT is still important for evaluating student progress, and for maintaining federal funding.

Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education sent CPS a letter, reminding them schools are required to administer the ISAT under federal and state laws, and risk losing state and federal funds if they do not.

“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.

However, Chambers said no schools are realistically at risk of losing any funding because some students won’t take the test.

“We will not lose funding if less than 95% of the students take the test. All it means is that we will not make adequate yearly progress, which most schools have not made in many years,” she said.

Chambers said the only consequence of failing to make adequate yearly progress would be more after-school tutoring.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended Byrd-Bennett’s decision to threaten disciplinary action for teachers who do not administer the ISAT.

“You can’t have a system that’s trying to achieve both educational advancement, and make sure we’re accountable and measuring it, where then … it’s up to everybody’s choice. So she made the right call,” Emanuel said.

Next year, the ISAT will be replaced by two new standardized tests – one to determine promotion in grades three, six, and eight; the other for enrollment in selective-enrollment schools.

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