Boardwatch: Parents can protect their children from excessive testing by opting out of CPS tests

I spoke about opting out of excessive standardized testing and the costs of the school closings at the April board meeting. The following are my prepared comments. Good morning. I am a CPS parent and teacher, and a reporter for I usually come here with questions about your testing program. The most helpful exchange I had came many years ago when I asked how to opt out my sons from unnecessary testing.

A. N. Pritzker elementary student Leo Sharkey (son of CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey and Julie Fain) and O. A. Thorp elementary student Josh Schmidt, pictured at the CTU family social night on January 26, skip unnecessary CPS standardized tests. All families in CPS have the choice to opt out of NWEA MAP testing, DIBELS, mClass Math, Reach performance tasks, and other tests that parents deem inappropriate for their children. Simply inform the teacher and principal your child will not be taking the tests. Most of the children who opt out read books of their choice during the tests. For more information, see to the answer I received my sons have opted out of tests in their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classrooms. They have skipped NWEA MAP tests, REACH performance tasks, Scantron Performance Series, CPS Benchmark tests, DIBELS, mClass math, and even the ISAT, which is used for promotion in 3rd, 6th, and 8th, but not in the other grades.

While most people wish CPS would eliminate the excessive tests, until that happens parents should know that they can protect their children by opting out. Like other CPS parents who opt out, you may simply tell the teacher and principal that your children will not be taking the tests. For more information, go to, an organization sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union and several parent groups. That is

In addition to the testing issue, I want to add my voice to the outcry against school closings. I urge the Board members to visit the schools you plan to close. If you cannot make it to these places where your decision will affect so many people, you should vote no next month against the closing.

Think critically about the financial concerns of school closings and the cost to communities.

The Washington Post recently reported that when she was D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee said closing 23 schools would save a lot of money. “It didn’t happen; an audit years later found that the closings actually cost the city $40 million.” (1)

The CTU lays out the huge financial costs to Chicago if you close schools in its March 22 piece on (2)

Closing schools in D.C. didn’t save money, it cost money. Likewise, closing schools in Chicago won’t save money and it will certainly bring many other costs to the communities affected.

A piece in the Nation last week eloquently explains some of the meaning of community in schools:

“Each school is an individual human institution, with its own human ecology. Keeping that community together has value in itself: for the students, for the teachers, and for the larger community within which the school operates. When you close a school, you kill something: a network of trust, a web of relationships, an environment.” (3)

Again, I urge the Board members: If you do not know these communities you must not vote to end them. (1) Strauss, Valerie. “Instead of closing schools, how about this?” Washington Post Blogs, March 23, 2013. (2)

(2) “Citywide School Closings to Cost—Not Save—CPS Nearly $1 Billion”, CTU Communications, March 22, 2013.

(3) Perlstein, Rick. “Shocking Rahm’s Shock Doctrine,” March 29, 2013, The Nation.


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