Opt out of the ISAT already, people

I know. I haven’t been very pushy about this issue in this blog. I’ve been kind of polite. Dainty even. I’ve been all, consider opting out of the ISAT, people.

But I’m done with dainty. Delicate suggestions have failed to inform folks of the real deal here. So now, I’m about to go all South Side on you people.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re all, but hey, she homeschools her 5th grader, easy for her to say.

We’ve been through plenty of ISATs, trust me.

I could tell you that my kids have always done well on these tests, I could tell you that they actually like them. I could tell you that my kids don’t experience stress over the ISAT. I could tell you that I think it’s important to do what the teacher tells you, to do what the principal tells you, to learn how to sit quiet and stand in a line and wait your turn because life is full of these small indignities, these moments when we are not the star and when we are not overjoyed and when things are boring and it doesn’t matter, we still need to somehow move through life managing to do what is before us. I could tell you all that, and it is all true.

But none of that has anything to do with anything.

The opt-out movement which is growing every day in this city is not about individual children skipping something that might stress them out. It is not about individual children not skipping something which they don’t actually mind.

It’s not about any individual children at all.

Folks, this opt out, this is a loud political statement.

We who are advocating this ISAT opt out are saying to CPS: This test, which you’ve already discarded, is useless. You have already replaced it with another high-stakes test, to which you have attached all the traditional trappings of meaning: the NWEA MAP test will be your test of choice this year to determine who gets in where, and what schools get what, and what schools don’t get what. You want us to take this test to practice taking tests, to test how well we did on this test and predict how well we might do on the next one. And to us, that is not a good enough reason to waste two weeks.

We are saying: you use up our teachers’ time, our childrens’ time, on assessment after assessment after assessment, all year long, one and another and another, and this is no education. Bubbling is not education. Bubbling has pushed out history, science, art, geography, anything that’s not on the test, it’s all bubbled out of the picture.

We are saying: CPS, mayor, US Department of Education, this must stop. This nonsense in the guise of education policy needs to be reexamined. The testing lobbies which lobby for more testing, then get handed the order to create more tests and more prep materials, then sell the tests to the Department of Ed and the states? That whole thing? We’re wise to it now and it’s a pretty piss-poor masquerade of education policy. Rather than rocketing all our children to some mythical Top it is grinding all our schools into the ground, right under the heels of your shoes. Oh, we know you don’t actually believe any of this nonsense makes for a real education, you policy makers, because your children go to schools where there aren’t 20 standardized tests a year. Some of your schools have just one, or none. Stop telling us these tests are going to make our American children smart and competitive. We know you don’t believe any of your own rhetoric.

We are saying: parents, here is a low-stakes way to stand up and make your voice heard.

But what can one person do? Really?

One person at one school can join with two others at a different school, and seven from another, and 34 from Drummond, and 500 from Saucedo, plus 100% of the teachers.

That turns into a pretty good group there.

If you have wondered. If you have teetered. If you ever think maybe what is going on in CPS with their frenzied assessment-fest isn’t really quite the right thing?

Now is the time to do this thing, this ISAT opt-out. Join your voice with others, one and two and seven and 34 and 500 and many more.

I know it’s hard, especially if you’re the first at your school, or if you’re the only one. If your principal threatens or your friends think you’re weird.

I can’t make it easy but I can clear a few things up. There’s a lot of misinformation flying around out there and I absolutely can’t stand the foolishness one more day. So here’s some facts in the face of the lies you’re hearing.

No, the ISAT is not required for 3rd and 6th grade promotion. The ISAT will not be used to determine promotion. It cannot be used for this purpose because this year it will not yield a percentile from a national normed test. There is a test for that and this year it is the Spring NWEA MAP.

No, the ISAT is not required for selective enrollment applications for 5th and 7th graders. Scores from the Spring NWEA MAP test will be used for these applications. (And as a matter of fact, our homeschooled daughter will be taking the required standardized test offered for private school and homeschooled children for use on this application later this spring.)

No, it has no bearing on your school’s teachers. The ISAT will not be used to determine teacher, school, or principal evaluation.

No, you do not have to meet with your principal. You need to write your principal a letter informing them of your decision.

No, your child is not legally required to take this test. Barbara Byrd Bennett has stated this in writing. You are legally permitted to “direct the upbringing and education of [your own] children,” so your judgment on this issue is what is important.

Here is a basic opt-out letter if you want to do this but aren’t sure what to say.

If you have questions, most of them can be answered by the voluminous information put together by More Than A Score, here. Also, feel free to write me an angry harangue and I will do my best to try to make this plainer.

Here in Chicago we don’t get a lot of chances to make a big loud education-related political statement that has no consequences for our children.

It’s time to make a big noise now, with the hope that the sound carries into a future where our children’s educations, our neighborhood schools, are not shaped and determined by drivel pretending to be data, for the vast profits of the testing companies, and the benefit of no child.

If you want a better Chicago Public Schools system please like my Facebook page and join me there for more discussion. You can also follow me on twitter @foolforcps.

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