The ISAT may be over, but guess what? The ISAT Opt-Out Freak Out is still in full swing! In fact, it's growing.
No, CPS can't let this die a quiet death. They can't walk away looking bested. They can't let it look like parents got away with preventing their children from taking a meaningless moribund test. They can't tolerate families knowing how much of their children's education in CPS is tied to standardized test after standardized test. And above all they want to punish those who opted out--parents, children, and teachers, so that nobody makes the mistake of questioning CPS authori-tay again.
And Thursday, they reached a new low.
They sent CPS staffers from the legal office to Drummond to interrogate children. Parents didn't like that when they found out. Oh, were they surprised! Because of course, CPS didn't seek parental permission or even bother with notifying families that this might happen. Parents heard after it had already been happening for some time. When they called to insist their child not be interviewed, the school told them, well, we can't guarantee they haven't already been questioned. Um, sorry?
Here is the scenario in brief, occurring on Thursday and Friday:
A 3rd grader is pulled from class and brought to the principal's office where he sits down with a stranger with the door closed and is asked questions about his teacher, how he learned about opting out, and who influenced him to do it. Did his teacher tell him to? Did his teacher encourage him to? Was he paid to opt out? The stranger then asks if he is sure. Is he sure this is true? Is he lying?
CPS insists that only kids who consented were interrogated. (This word, "interrogate," is CPS's choice, not mine.) That's extra reassuring.
CPS spokesman Joel Hood explains why they need to resort to these measures (courtesy of Catalyst):
[Hood] said that any time there are allegations of teacher misconduct, students and staff may be interviewed. He also clarified that CPS had sent investigators from its Law department, and not actual attorneys, to Drummond to conduct the interviews.
Oh thank God! No actual attorneys, whew! And I'm glad they're on top of this misconduct thing. Can't have teachers telling kids how to th--
Wait a minute, these kids were opted out by their parents. How is that "teacher misconduct"? Shouldn't CPS legal be interviewing...parents? Ah well, a question for another day.
But back to misconduct. Let's think about that idea for a minute.
There is a lot of misconduct going on. But it's not by teachers. And it's not by parents.
No, it's coming from another level.
It was misconduct for principals to misinform families that their school rating depended on their ISAT scores, as many did.
It was misconduct for ISBE to make up a new rule on the fly that opting out was "illegal" when their own website allows for it.
It was misconduct for CPS to allow confusion to reign and the opt-out process to be radically different from one school to another. At one, parents were told their child must make the decision, so principals interviewed children and insisted they tell "in their own words" why they were opting out; while at other schools, only parents could make the decision, and a network chief told me, if God wanted children to make adult decisions, they would have been born as adults.
It was misconduct to punitively withhold breakfast from opt-out kids during the ISAT.
It was misconduct to tell kids who opted out that their opt-out letters were forged. These children were compelled to take the test.
It was misconduct to pull opted out kids out of their classrooms, after testing was over, place them in the library, put a test in front of them and shout at them: Take the test!
It is misconduct to use the NWEA MAP as the new high-stakes standardized test, as the NWEA website clearly indicates that this test is not designed for this purpose and should not be so used.
It is misconduct that Barbara Byrd Bennett seems to be unaware of what is actually happening in her own schools.
That she categorically denies that even a single child has been questioned.
That she is willfully ignorant of the reality of a ten-year-old being questioned by a stranger behind closed doors: "They caught my 10 year old daughter early in the AM," writes one mother. She goes on:
I talked with my daughter about it after the fact and it sounds like she was articulate and composed during the questioning. They asked her: Why did you opt out of ISATs?
Who convinced you not to take the ISATs? Did your parents tell you to do it or was it your own choice? Did your teacher discuss it in class? How do you think the teachers at this school feel about the ISATs? How do you know?
She told them it was her own choice and she did it because the ISATs cost a lot and count for nothing and there's a CPS budget deficit. When they asked how she knew what they cost, etc. she said she'd done internet research.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett would have to deny that this letter was ever sent out by a principal to angry parents. It does suggest that children were interviewed according to a planned investigation, even if we refuse to believe the testimony of the young girl above.
[I]nvestigators from the Law Department visited the school today for the purpose of interviewing some of the students and staff members. We did not receive prior notification and we were informed that they were within their rights to interview students without parent notification since they are agents of the Chicago Public School system.
Byrd Bennett said to me that if student interrogation was happening--which it isn't, she insisted--it's a "no brainer" that it's wrong.
ISAT misinformation, layered with opt-out confusion and chaos, layered with threats, layered with intimidation of children, layered with lies and denial--all originating from the network level or higher.
And the legal department is investigating teacher misconduct?
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