BOARDWATCH: Teacher exposes Board's ridiculous testing policy, notes MAP has been panned by Arne Duncan and Dept. of Education

[Editor's Note: The following is the text that Drummond Elementary (Montessori) School teacher Anne Carlson read to the January 23, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. None of the six members of the Board who were present, nor CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, answered any of the facts presented by Ms. Carlson -- including the explosive fact about the MAP tests -- although they were observed reading the materials that she distributed to them].

Drummond Elementary School teacher Anne Carlson told the Board about the ridiculous amount of overtesting, saying she was "reporting child abuse." Carlson and other speakers at the end of the line had to wait until nearly 2:00 p.m. to speak at the January 23 Board meetings, because the Board placed nearly two hours of reports before any of the public was allowed to begin "public presentation." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Good afternoon! My name is Anne Carlson. I am a parent of three children, two of whom attend a CPS school. I am a teacher at Drummond Montessori School where I teach 4th, 5th and 6th graders in a self-contained classroom. I have 31 students.

I am also a mandated reporter and today I want to report the child abuse that is occurring in our schools. It is called excessive, high-stakes standardized testing.

Why am I calling this abuse? Here's why.

Instead of moving from "Goodnight Moon" through Ten Minutes to Bedtime (and hundreds of other stories and books), Chicago's pre-K and kindergarten public school children are now drowned in DIBELS, at a cost of millions of dollars a year. And instead of then moving towards "Where the Wild Things Are" and beyond, the children in Chicago's real public schools are force fed yearly changing sure-fire testing programs from "Scantron" (in 2010 and 2011) to MAP/NWEA (in 2012 and 2013) instead of libraries and books. Above: One of hundreds of alternatives to the MAP that Chicago children are being starved of during the Rahm Emanuel austerity years, while Rahm's own kids get loads of books and reams of stories at the University of Chicago Lab School, where the rich kids get to do.1. Some kindergarten students are taking up to 14 tests per year. This is criminal. At this age, children should be listening to read-alouds of books like Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, not sitting in front of a computer screen.

2. K-2 teachers have cut guided reading groups from their schedules because there simply isn't enough time to instruct with all of the assessments. At these grades, most tests are given one to one with the teacher, which amounts to a lot of lost instructional time.

3. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test is administered on computers. During the testing window, other students are not able to visit the lab to complete research projects. There is a wide range of how long students take this test because it is computer-adaptive. One of my students took 225 minutes to complete the initial test. Yes, 225 minutes to complete it over several days. Think about all of the instructional time lost.

4. There is a wide disparity among CPS schools in terms of how much testing is being delivered. I teach at a Level I school so we are only administering the mandated tests. However, for Level 3 schools, even the optional tests are mandatory. So the word optional is just a carrot on a stick and doesn't follow the true definition from Webster's: "involving an option, not compulsory".

5. I am passing out to each of you a new report signed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former CEO of CPS. Here's the punch-line: "Overall the MAP program did not have a statistically significant impact on student reading achievement in either grade 4 or grade 5." The brave teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who boycotted the MAP test this month did so because the test is useless at the high school level. Now Arne Duncan himself has confirmed that it is useless in elementary as well.

Board of Education members Carlos Azcoitia, Henry Bienen, and Jesse Ruiz read the materials distributed by Anne Carlson during her remarks. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.6. Speaking of Duncan, let's not forget a very important decision made during his term. In December 2002, this Board decided to eliminate the CASE test because there were so many problems with it. We can learn from history. I call on you to do so, and to end the child abuse I've just described.

Thank you for your time and attention.


January 23, 2013 at 10:22 PM

By: Lynda McClelland

Anne Carson's share

Anne, thank you for standing up and speaking out. I was not surprised to read that none of the board members responded to you.

Most problems exist when there is an overload of papers, useless manuals, and guidelines that no one understands, but people have the audacity to want and follow what is know as the "mandatory" rules. And I would like to know where Rahm Emanuel is on his task with the union.

I hope not only will Chicago school board learn from history, but all school boards who are not that much concerned with children's education as much as the teachers, get a grip and learn from history.

Our society is really backwards. Let's quit paying so much money in sports and get back to paying money to our teachers who care; teachers who want to make a different in the lives of children. Especially those children who do not have the resources needed to be equally savvy to the next student whose parents can afford private education.

March on my sister, march on!

January 24, 2013 at 2:10 AM

By: Kimberly Bowsky

Over-reliance on standardization and tests

Ms Carlson is right ON! You represent a movement, and it was good that you said it. Being a leader in the ways we can is important.

Nothing kills the spirit for learning faster than a test that could be rigged to show district improvement in order to prove their initiatives are successful, or individual failure--and our children and teachers are smart enough to know it. How far will the Fat Cat$ allow our students' esteem and motivation to be damaged while making big buck$ off of the damage by contracting more testing?

Separate is never equal, but the District's support of such testing makes no sense: we'll test you, separate you by those test, create charters that are like private schools so you can LOOK equal--no investment in the realia of learning, though. It is no coincidence that most public school districts that are not urban have not glommed onto the testing mania--it costs a lot and the weaknesses of it outweigh any pluses that corporations may sell. The private schools don't test nearly as often, or with such inaccurate measures, and THEIR teachers were colleagues right alongside us at the same universities when we were getting OUR degrees (and sometimes NOT). Board members do not subject their own children to such policies. The Board continues to ignore research, savvy advice, prior experience, and human rights. When a power elite does this to people who have less, what else would we call it?

January 24, 2013 at 11:32 AM

By: Jean R Schwab

MAP Test

Interesting article. I have a grandson who takes the MAP test. Now I know what this test is all about.

January 24, 2013 at 10:47 PM

By: Robert Panning-Miller

Minnesota teachers challenge MAP

It's great to see the courage shown by Seattle teachers is spreading nationwide. Ann Carlson said it perfectly when she said, "I am also a mandated reporter and today I want to report the child abuse that is occurring in our schools. It is called excessive, high-stakes standardized testing."

Here in Minneapolis, three other teachers and I, who are also members of the Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM), delivered essentially the same message to our school board. On Tuesday, January 22, we detailed the amount of instructional time students lose in the process of prepping and taking standardized tests, including the MAP.

I hope this movement continues to grow. Teachers and public school advocates must recognized that it is the standardized tests that enable/justify the rest of the neo-liberal reforms aiming to privatize our public schools.

January 31, 2013 at 3:54 PM

By: Mike Harris

Anne Carlson's Courage

Thank you Ms. Carlson for having the courage to speak out and up on what is happening in Chicago and elsewhere. Hopefully, more parents will begin to resist the child abuse that so called reform inflicts!

February 1, 2013 at 6:51 AM

By: Quan Le

Testing not all bad

Although I agree with many points that Anne Carlson is raising against high stake testing, I have to say that sometimes teachers are going too far out of fear.

I teach so I know. You can make the MAP testing and the other tests such as TRC very useful for your practice and you can make it work with your instruction without losing a lot of instructional time. You do not have to spend time test prepping. You do not have to cut your guided reading groups. That is your fear. If you teach well, you have nothing to worry about. I actually have more time wasting problems with giving grades and report cards in the primary grades.

That said, testing should only be used to inform instructional and not scare teachers. On the other hand, if you don't scare teachers they don't use assessments tools. Catch 22.

February 2, 2013 at 11:22 PM

By: Brian Dunn

Testing... to 'Harbaugh'

I bet the very fact you can write comes from the fact you took spelling tests as a student. Memorization, has its place in higher order thinking. Just because its traditional doesn't means it's bad...and vice versa. I think students need testing, but someone needs to test the testers. MY beef with NWEA are the wild swings in scores. What exactly do you mean by "White people wake up!"? I've seen a multiracial detest of map testing. Are you saying my skin pigment affects my desire to help others? Did you learn another language or live in a third world country..well this white guy did. Wake up yourself Dr King taught us skin color is just that, skin color. You act like MAP scores are as accurate as a blood sugar test. Have you ever heard of the futility of all things for all people. Test like NWEA only digitize the human spirit.

February 3, 2013 at 4:11 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

A Troll uncovered... 'Harbaugh' comment was fraudulent

One of the reasons for the Substance policy requiring that comments be signed first name and last name (and provide Substance, but not our readers, with an email address) is that the Web world is filled with trolls and cowards, who comment anonymously without ever standing behind their words. Last night we received a "comment" from someone identifying himself as "John Harbaugh." The comment, implied that criticisms of testing were racist, etc., etc. and that kids needed testing, etc., etc. or teachers wouldn't know what the kids were learning, etc., etc.

As we usually do with new commenters, we wrote to "Harbaugh" asking him to identify himself and verify his comments. We wrote to the email address Substance received.

To no one's surprise, we received a response from the real person, saying that someone was fraudulently using his email address, and asking that the comment be removed. As a result, the comment above, is responding to some nonsense we removed.

This is another example of why we have the policies we have. Silly bloggers like Alexander Russo ( and corporate apologists like Catalyst can continue to allow anonymous comments, but we will continue to demand real people or none at all. This is an example of why we do that.

February 3, 2013 at 5:51 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Identify theft online is criminal

Some guy named "Harbeugh" has been spamming Substance, using somebody else's email address and a phony name. We're going a bit further with this, because the real person at that email address told us his email had been hijacked by the Troll. Which is identify theft. Let us know what you hear or know. The guy also defends Alexander Russo's corporate apologetics and silly Ivy League buddies. Hmmmmm.

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