CHICAGO (CBS) — Many parents of students at a Bucktown elementary school are outraged Chicago Public Schools lawyers pulled their kids out of class Thursday to question them about opting out of a recent standardized test.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports some teachers at Thomas Drummond Elementary School boycotted administering the Illinois Standard Achievement Test earlier this month, and many parents there opted not to have their kids take the test.
On Thursday, members of the CPS legal department began taking students out of classroom and questioning them behind closed doors about not taking the ISAT.
Amanda Pacult decided to opt her son, an 8th grader, out of the test, and said she got an email from CPS on Thursday, saying a legal team was at Drummond to interview children.
“I texted him really quickly, and I said ‘If anybody tries to talk to you or anything, tell them they have to speak to your parents first,’ and he said, ‘Too late,’” Pacult said. “He told me that they asked him why he opted out, and did he … feel pressure from the teachers or fellow students to opt out.”
Pacult said her son told her he thought investigators were trying to get teachers in trouble, because of the boycott.
“That was his impression,” she said. “He’s usually very perceptive, and he said he definitely felt like they were trying to get the teachers in trouble.”
She said she felt the decision to question students about opting out of the ISAT was a violation of her rights as a parent, since she wasn’t notified before someone talked to her son.
“I was upset just because, if there’s any time that my son is talked to alone in a room … with a lawyer, or just any adult that I don’t know, I want to be present,” she said. “They took him in there without asking me, without getting my approval to do so, and that’s just not the way our world is supposed to be working.”
Pacult said, if CPS had informed her beforehand that they wanted to talk to her son, she would have said yes, but they didn’t contact her until afterward, and then only by email.
“They could have called the parents and said ‘We’re investigating something, and we want the approval to talk to your kid.’ I would have said ‘Absolutely, go for it,’ but they took away my rights as a parent. I will never be okay with having my rights as a parent taken away,” she said.
Pacult said many parents at Drummond, like her, are not going to let this go. Some were talking about getting a lawyer.
A CPS spokesman acknowledged officials spoke to students, teachers and staff at Drummond about the ISAT on Thursday.
“Chicago Public Schools is meeting and talking with students, teachers and staff at Drummond Elementary School about ISAT testing to ensure students were comfortable during the time the test was administered,” CPS spokesman Joel Hood said in an email. “CPS officials only spoke with students who opted to talk with them and the investigation does not pertain to any student disciplinary issue. Students who chose not to take the state-required ISAT test last week do not face discipline from the District.”
Teachers at Drummond and at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy refused to administer the state-required ISAT earlier this month, saying kids are forced to take too many standardized tests, and the ISAT no longer serves a purpose, because it doesn’t factor into student promotion, graduation, or enrollment in selective-enrollment schools.
Before the ISATs, CPS officials warned teachers could face disciplinary action for refusing to administer the test, including possible decertification, but when testing began, teachers were allowed to instruct students who opted out.