OPT OUT NEWS AND MEDIA WATCH: 'Even a very generous undercounting of the remaining tests using the method of counting used for their elimination method yields about 80 some tests...' CPS lies about the 'reduction' in tests is exposed by a More Than A Score study...

The editors of the Chicago Tribune, most of whom live in the wealthiest of Chicago's northern suburbs, rarely bother paying attention to the facts when their closely held beliefs are in play. The March 1, 2014 Tribune editorial ordering teachers not to boycott the ISAT based its arguments in part on the talking points of the administration of Barbara Byrd Bennett -- as if the official CPS Party Line -- the talking points on this challenge to reality -- had not long ago drifted into the realm of fantasy.

There are many ironies in this.

Noting that CPS uses too many tests, the Tribune seems to be supporting a change in Ililnois law: "That's something to negotiate with CPS — which, we'd point out, has reduced the number of standardized tests that are given."

Maybe the Tribune's editorialists are confusing things: Teachers in their own communities -- Winnetka, Glencoe, those places -- are able to "negotiate" things like the number of tests into their union contracts.

But Chicago teachers have been discriminated against for years by collective bargaining laws that bar the Chicago Teachers Union from bargaining for contract provisions that involve what Chicago holds tightly as "management prerogatives." Winnetka teachers can bargain over the number of tests. They can also bargain over class size and lots of other things that the Tribune's plutocratic pundits have long claimed should be barred to Chicago's teachers. This double standard also seems racist to us, but we haven't researched how much diversity there currently is in that land of privilege, power and plutocracy north of Howard Street.

The Tribune also seems to believe that stuff from CPS management about how they've "reduced the number of tests." In some places, the answer to that is "Baloney!" Where many of us come from, the answer is "Bullshit!" The "reduction" in the number of tests in Chicago is one of those many fictions pushed by the CPS "Office of Communications," a propaganda outfit that would have made the disinformationists of the 20th Century proud. Prattle about "transparency" is so common, but we're still waiting for the Tribune to support full transparency -- as Substance did 15 years ago -- by demanding that every one of these tests be made fully public after it's been administered. Why don't Chicago parents have the right not only to know the scores on the tests our children are forced to take but also what is on those tests and how the scores are scored? Test secrecy should have been ended before the 21st Century began, as Substance demanded. But...

The Tribune has not only slanted its editorial based on these mendacious versions of reality, but has also routinely added the official lies to its "news" stories and especially their headlines. Who can forget, last year for example, the 'billion dollar deficit," which was repeated like a chant from the old Latin Mass of the Catholic Church in order to justify the false austerity meme that led to the closing of 50 real public schools last year based on another of those Rahm Emanuel lies that get repeated over and over as "fact."

More Than A Score.And so in the course of time, the Tribune quoted another set of official lies from CPS, without even asking where Barbara Byrd Bennett spends many of her weekends (and who pays for the plane fare). As usual.

One last thing, for the Tribune and Sun-Times editorial prattlers. Instead of sitting down and talking with CPS officials and getting the latest Pravda-style version of reality from Barbara Byrd Bennett and her ever-expanding tribe of propagandists, why don't the plutocrats at the top tell the Board of Education to begin holding press conference where reporters can ask questions when ex cathedra pronouncements like the August "We Have Reduced The Number Of Tests" handout from CPS come out. Substance had many disagreements with Arne Duncan and Michael Scott, but at least they had the courage to answer questions from reporters and not just hide behind phalanxes of expensive PR flacks. As long as the editorial boards of the major media in Chicago tolerate the blackout on the news give-and-take that a press conference can provide, Barbara Byrd Bennett will continue getting away with issuing her encyclicals on weekends like this, and nobody will ever get to ask whether she is in Chicago or in Solon, Ohio -- and who paid for the First Class plane tickets to get her "home."

But in 2014, there are always citizens who pay attention to the fine print and quickly challenge the officials lies. And so it is that "More Than A Score" issued a factsheet debunking the CPS claims about "reducing testing" within a day after the Tribune replayed that particular lie.


CPS: WHERE “10" MEANS “SOMEWHERE UPWARDS OF 80"? (Posted March 1, 2014 at More Than A Score by Cassie Creswell).

For months, CPS officials have repeated the line that tests were reduced from 25 to 10. This is simply not the case.

Here is their “reduction” announcement, where they enumerate the tests eliminated and not eliminated.

They count eliminated tests by grade and administration. So, for example, elimination of the fall administration of the NWEA MAP is counted as eliminating six tests because it is one test given to six different grades. MPG is counted as five tests eliminated, spring and fall in K and 1st, just fall in 2nd. With this accounting method, they say they got rid of 15 tests.

Then, look at the tests that are left. They count those just by test name and say there are only 10 tests now. Pre-K through 12th grade REACH is one test. Whereas if this was a test that they had eliminated, they would have counted it as 28 tests: one test given twice a year to 14 grade levels. (And that doesn’t even count the fact that REACH might be given to a single student in many subject areas!)

Even a very generous undercounting of the remaining tests using the method of counting used for their elimination method yields about 80 some tests. And their list doesn’t even include tests like the winter MAP that 97% of children are taking, multiple subjects of REACH as mentioned above, multiple subjects of the Common Core Quarterly Benchmarks (new test given three times a year in multiple subjects to multiple grade levels) and the many tests that the Office of Assessment doesn’t ever list because they are mandated by the Network Office or individual networks or schools.

There are almost no individual students in this district taking ten or fewer standardized tests this year.

There are just too many tests.


CPS Reduces Number of District Required Student Tests as Part of New, Streamlined Assessment Policy Parents, teachers, principals and other key stakeholders inform new CPS assessment policy aimed to increase student instructional time


Guided by the input of parents, teachers, students and principals, Chicago Public School (CPS) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced today the elimination of 15 District-mandated tests including elimination of fall standardized testing for all CPS grades as part of the District’s new, streamlined assessment policy. This school year, CPS will require 10 District-mandated standardized tests across all grades, a decrease from 25 District-mandated standardized tests last school year. The new policy will provide school leaders and teachers with more autonomy in establishing assessments that help teachers develop instructional plans and align assessments with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to increase student learning time.

Since February, CPS has hosted 17 focus groups with principals, teachers, parents, education advocates and researchers to gather feedback on the new assessment policy while incorporating input from 450 teachers who responded to a CPS survey on how to best modify the District’s assessment policy.

“Our education partners across the District – students, parents, teachers, principals, education stakeholders and researchers – contributed directly to the creation of this sensible, new policy that puts children and their learning first,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “As a former teacher and principal, I felt that our parents and educators raised valid concerns around our testing policy, which is why we launched a rigorous analysis of that policy soon after I became CEO. This reflects their feedback and places a higher value on increased student learning time.”

The new assessment policy builds on the District’s April announcement of eliminating the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress for Primary Grades (MPG) assessment for kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students. Beginning in SY13-14, the annual assessment calendar will limit standardized District testing to the spring for grades two through eleven and offer schools flexibility to select interim measures to monitor progress.

Each school’s Instructional Leadership Teams—made up of teachers and school administrators—will be required to identify interim tests from either a District-provided menu of “school choice assessments” or alternate tests of their choice with the requirement that they are aligned to the CCSS, and engage students in activities that require critical thinking, writing and problem-solving.

The emphasis on CCSS in the new assessment policy mirrors state-level efforts to transition to these new, more rigorous academic standards. Starting next school year, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will administer a fully CCSS-aligned Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) to students in grades three through eight. The new ISAT will begin to prepare Chicago students for the full transition to the CCSS, which is scheduled for all grades starting in school year 2014-15.

A full list of District-required tests for 2013-2014 is below, followed by a list of the tests that will be eliminated starting next school year.

Grades Assessment Required Adminstration Timing Purpose K-2 Schools are required to monitor early literacy progress with 1 tool. CPS will support MPG and TRC/DIBELS. Schools can choose another tool. Flexible window to accomodate indivdual assessment: Aug-Oct, Nov-Feb, May-June. Ensure schools have a research-based and comprehensive way to monitor early literacy, critical for ensuring students don't fall off-track early. 2-8 Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Common Core version Spring: May Measure of whether students are meeting grade level learning and year-to-year growth expectations. Also a factor in teacher, principal and school evaluation/

3-8 IL Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) Early March Required by IL State Board of Education (ISBE) for all 3-8 students in IL.

9-10 EXPLORE-9, PLAN-10 Mid-May Measure of whether students are meeting grade level learning and year-to-year growth expectations. Also a factor in teacher, principal and school evaluation. 11 PSAE Late April Required by ISBE. ACT growth is also a factor in teacher, principal and school evaluation.

7-12 Alternative School Students only STAR Sept, Jan, May Used in place of NWEA or EPAS to measure whether students in Alternative Schools are meeting grade level learning and within year growth expectations. Also a factor in teacher, principal and school evaluation.

PK-12 REACH Performance Tasks October, May Measures baseline and growth information on activity-based skills not easily assessed with traditional multiple choice tests. Results used in teacher evaluation/

K-12 ELLs only ACCESS Jan-Feb Required by ISBE. Measures English language development. Eliminated required tests:

MPG for K-2 (five tests)

Fall MAP for 3-8 grade (six tests)

EXPLORE for 8th grade (one test)

Fall EPAS for 9-11 grade (three tests)

Total District-required tests eliminated: 15 tests


Teachers, obey the law. An ISAT boycott is not in students' interest

Some parents are calling for students to boycott the Illinois standards achievement test at Chicago Public Schools.

Teachers at Drummond Thomas Montessori School in Chicago announced Friday that they will refuse to give their students the Illinois Standards Achievement Test this year. They joined a boycott announced earlier by teachers at Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy.

They're refusing to administer a state-mandated test to students because ... they don't like the test.

We're not big fans of the ISAT. Illinois has a sorry history of watering down the test, masking the real performance of children and falsely reassuring parents that their kids were on track to graduate.

But state law requires that the test be given to elementary school children in the state. All children. No exceptions. State law doesn't say that teachers can opt out based on their distaste for standardized testing, or this particular test.

CPS officials have notified teachers that if they encourage students not to take the ISAT they face discipline and could have their state teacher certification revoked. That's appropriate. There should be significant consequences for flouting the law.

A school is not a democracy. Teachers can't unilaterally decide to scrap a test and defy state law any more than students can veto a quiz because they forgot to study. These teachers set a terrible example for the school's 1,260 students and the entire district's 403,000 students.

For all its problems and the history of manipulation, ISAT results can help teachers and parents understand how well children are performing academically and how well they stack up against their peers.

The state has raised cut scores for students, making the tests a more genuine assessment. This year's ISAT is geared to the more rigorous Common Core curriculum standards rolling out across the state now. The test should show students how well prepared they are and where they need to improve. It will help teachers shape their lesson plans. And it will show parents if their students are gaining ground.

There's another reason to administer the test: If not enough students take it, cash-strapped CPS stands to lose millions in federal funding tied to the No Child Left Behind law.

This is the ISAT's last year. Next year, a new and more challenging test tied to Common Core could reveal that even more students fall below statewide standards. That will be a shock to parents. Ditto for teachers, who are evaluated in part on how well their students perform on standardized tests.

Teachers argue that there are too many standardized tests and preparing for them takes time from classroom learning. That's something to negotiate with CPS — which, we'd point out, has reduced the number of standardized tests that are given.

CTU President Karen Lewis applauds what she says is the teachers' "act of civil disobedience." Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery chimes in that the teachers' boycott is "nothing short of a profile in courage."

Teachers, you've made your point. Now set an example for your students and obey the law.


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