OPT OUT NEWS: Saucedo teachers to boycott the ISAT! Explosion of resistance to ISAT testing program now includes entire schools voting to boycott the extinct testing program

On the morning of February 25, 2014, teachers and other staff at Maria Saucedo elementary school on Chicago's southwest side voted to boycott the ISAT. The teachers have informed the public that they will not participate in the testing program, which is scheduled to begin next week. The vote, which means that no teachers at the school will administer the test, was the first of what will become several, according to organizers of the Opt Out movement. The ISAT (Illinois State Achievement Tests) program has become more controversial this year than ever before.

Sarah Chambers, a teacher at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy Elementary School in Chicago, announced at a February 25, 2014 press conference (above) that the teachers at the school had voted that morning to boycott the ISAT testing program. Substance photo by John Kugler.The boycott, expected to be the first of many, was announced to the public at a well attended press conference at the end of the school day in the bitter cold in front of the school.

The unprecedented Chicago resistance to the March 2014 ISAT testing program grew explosively during the final days of February. It was often supplemented with hourly reports of individual families and students deciding to opt out of the Illinois testing program, which is on its final year. Meetings and communications across the city have been building the ISAT opt out in every type of school, from the gifted and magnet schools to the hundreds of regular public schools. The charter schools have not become involved in the Opt Out movement. On the morning of February 25, the Chicago Tribune reported that a parent group, More than A Score, has been building opt out among parents across the city in coalition with other groups that have grown in opposition to so-called "standardized testing."

The Chicago Opt Out movement against the ISAT is being organized by an informal coalition of parent, community, and teacher groups, including More Than A Score, Raise Your Hand, Parents 4 Teachers, the Caucus Of Rank and file Educators (CORE), PURE, and many others. Substance has supported Opt Out since 1998, when reporting on the evils of the eugenics based testing programs of Chicago Public Schools became clear.

Although the nation has seen previous Opt Out movements at individual schools for the past three years, including those at Garfield High School in Seattle and Castle Bridge Elementary School in New York City, the Chicago movement of 2012 is the most extensive by far. It reflects the organizing that has been taking place in Chicago against the tyranny of testing, as many have dubbed it, since the late 20th Century, and the growing movements that have been built since the election of CORE to lead the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010.



CHICAGO The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) supports teachers and parents at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy who announced today their intent to boycott the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT). Teachers have collected more than 300 opt-out letters and the student council voted to encourage all students to opt out of the exam. Should these courageous educators face disciplinary charges by the district, CTU vowed to mount a strong defense of this collective action.

Saucedos action stance against the ISAT could spark a teacher and parent-led movement to opt-out throughout the Chicago Public Schools system.

The Saucedo educators have taken a bold step in refusing to administer a test that is of no use to students and will be junked by the district next year, said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has already said the ISAT will not be used for selective enrollment, and therefore this serves no purpose other than to give students another standardized test. We know that parents all over the city are opting their children out of this unnecessary test, and we commend them for doing what is in the best interests of their children.

The low stakes test is expected to be administered over the course of eight days in all elementary schools starting March 3rd. Formerly used to help qualify 7th grade students for selective enrollment high schools. The district recently issued a memorandum to teachers stressing the value of rigorous, high-quality assessments, in measuring student progress. The ISAT, however, is not aligned to any CPS curriculum, and in Chicago, it is no longer used to measure student progress, school performance, promotion, or for any other purpose.

For the last decade, since the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ISAT test has been the primary lever used by CPS for its destructive, destabilizing policies of closures and turnarounds. System-wide, the ISAT has infected the vigor and breadth of curriculum as teachers and students became stymied by the requirements of a narrow test-based approach to learning. NCLB has now been panned as a broad failure, but with the transition into more new tests, CPS threatens to double-down on the failed policy of standardized-test based accountability.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTUs website at



February 25, 2014 at 8:46 PM

By: Susan Ohanian

ISAT Opt Out


May this spread far and wide.

May it spread to data walls and other tests.


Starting with Mastery Learning, for decades Chicago has been the breeding ground for terrible ed deform. Now it's great to see you growing a revolution.

February 25, 2014 at 9:14 PM

By: John Kierig

i wish them luck.

i'm a special ed teacher and don't have to worry about the ISAT (we've got the Illinois Alternative Assessment to deal with, and this year it's a bitch!), but i admire their guts.

February 27, 2014 at 3:19 AM

By: Kimberly Bowsky

ISAT Boycott

The stunning decision of the Saucedo parents and the teachers who followed flies in the face of every mealy-mouthed administrator, policymaker and hack who calls himself/herself protecting children. This is a retiring test that never told us much in the way of skills that we as professionals did not already know. A parent can opt-out of sex education, opt out of activities for religious reasons, and has the right to opt out of testing. I support the boycott; I support parent choice.

February 28, 2014 at 8:52 PM

By: Edward Vedder


Can we just get real for a second? Fine protest the test, do what you have to do Saucedo teachers to make yourselves feel like you are doing the right thing. Let's face facts as good as you think you are teaching less than half of your students ever graduate high school! And you are a scholastic academy?? While you are at it protest for a name change!! BTW, kudos to the genius who spelled Lincoln's name wrong on the marquee!! You mean to tell me not one educator noticed that???

March 1, 2014 at 12:37 AM

By: ed hershey

mr vedder

Sounds like a troll. George, can you check him out? It would be funny if the Pearl Jam frontman was actuallt weighing in on this debate with some ignorance.

March 1, 2014 at 1:42 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

'Eddie Vedder' a Troll -- we're checking

Ed (and readers) we make clear the requirements for publishing comments at A writer must sign his or her real name and provide us (but not our readers) with a real email address. If those two things check out and the comment is not crazy (that's up to us to judge), it can stay "up." When we receive suspiciously trolllike comments, such as those by "Eddie Vetter" (er., Ed Vedder, above), we respond with an email request for more information. If the email is kicked back or if the person does not respond by noon, the comment is deleted. I have already emailed this commenter, and await his/her/its response.

March 1, 2014 at 8:46 AM

By: Steve Iniguez

Did they really spell marquee wrong?

I get that E. Vedder may be a troll, but did Salcedo really have a spelling mistake on the marquee? How embarrassing! What exactly did it say??

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