I was at a rally last Monday. A whole bunch of parents and teachers and kids (not quite the Tribune's reported "45 teachers") descended on the Network office on 35th Street. The marchers wanted CPS to stop with the retaliation nonsense against teachers and families who have chosen to either boycott the ISAT or opt out of it.
A quick review: the ISAT has been discontinued. It is no longer going to be used for student promotion, school assessment, or teacher evaluation. It has no actual point any longer, not even as "good test practice" because new tests will all be at the computer, not on bubble sheets. The ISAT is obsolete.
Weeks ago, Barbara Byrd Bennett sent home many letters in advance of the test and told parents they could opt out. When the ISAT began, CPS started to lose composure when it became apparent that many families and two entire teaching staffs were planning on skipping this calcified dinosaur of a test.
What did that look like? What does it look like when an institution loses its composure?
Some folks who know exactly what it looks like spoke at the rally. They know from personal experience.
CPS flying off the handle looks like threats to teachers, intimidation of parents, and bullying network administrators. Not pretty! But don't take it from me. Take it from the pissed off souls who spoke at the rally.
Here's the video. I'll give you the highlights.
Ann Carlson is a CPS mom and a teacher at Drummond, a CPS Montessori school that had a huge opt out group--73% of their students. Citing Montessori as her role model, Carlson said she is boycotting the test because she believes in following the child, not following rules or data. Because of that she's been stowed in a "holding pen" with her students and was told to supervise silent reading. But, she was happy to tell us, "I have been teaching! We hide in the library behind tall shelves, reading stories about Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and other law breaking heroes. One student stands guard, watching for an administrator, to make sure no one catches us teaching or learning."
Testing, she pointed out, came out of the eugenics movement. Scores sort and rate children into first and second class citizens, and have a disproportionate impact on black and brown children. Private schools have nothing to do with these tests. They know that "Dewey, Montessori, and Freire never said standardized testing was good educational practice. Because it's not."
Sherise McDaniel took the mic next. Gracious and softspoken, a mother of a Manierre student and a Lincoln Park IB student, she had one demand for CPS: Stop the intimidation! "I made an informed moral decision to opt my children out of the ISAT. Does the board think that African American and Hispanic parents are not capable of making decisions for their own children?" She pointed out that Barbara Byrd Bennett sent out letter after letter stating that families had the right to opt out. McDaniel then asked the $500B question: Who's getting the information, who's using that data and how are they using that data? "I have to protect my child."
Sandra Posadas, a Saucedo teacher of English Language Learners, and a CPS mom, was next at bat. Her ELL kids, she feels, are overtested. With their limited English, they are set up for failure by these tests. She too explained that she was teaching in a holding cell. "When was it a crime to want to teach?"
Opt-out star teacher Sarah Chambers of Saucedo spoke next. Since she's a special ed teacher, her administrators had another thing coming when they tried to separate her from her students. She reminded her administrators that her students all had IEPs which were binding federal law and they would have some extremely angry parents if they did not give these children the teaching time their IEPs required. "I got them back," she roared over the roar of the crowd. Chambers doesn't mince words. "Teachers, we have been following the rules for too long! Where has following the rules gotten us? We have hundreds of school closures, massive layoffs, budget cuts"--in fact, Saucedo lost $800,000 just this year.
The opt out is just about the only way to have an impact in this setting.
And what is the Board of Ed doing under Rahm Emanuel? "They're doing what Rahm Emanuel knows best. They're bullying us!" For teachers, they're threatening to take away licenses, for parents, they're calling every day, sending letters home, threatening to expel kids. For students, opt-out kids were denied breakfast and even the test takers are scared of the Network people storming around the school. But they're not doing it at schools like Drummond--"where there is a majority of white parents." CPS, Chambers concluded, is not just bullying but also racist.
Finally, Pritzker parent Joanna Maravilla Cano talked about how her child, whom they had opted out of the ISAT, was forced to receive a test, break the seal, and write her name in it. She and her husband were also surprised by a somewhat creepy survey (more on this later) given only to opt-out children. Given their opinion about it they spoke to the principal, who told them, I can give any kind of survey I want.
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Last Monday's rally was in response to CPS bullying and CPS retaliation against opt-out families exercising their right as provided by Barbara Byrd Bennett herself to opt out of a moribund meaningless test, and against teachers who no longer will go along with a harmful status quo.
But just in case you didn't notice, this opt out was not just about refusing to take this one test. With this large protest which happened at more than 80 CPS schools, families are saying that they've had enough of the testing-based curriculum that is strangling our schools, cheating our children, and profiting the testing corporations.
CPS sure noticed, and they really don't like it.
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