Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett
Updated: May 25, 2013 6:28AM
If you are a junior in the Chicago Public Schools, you know where you belong on Wednesday:
At school, taking a state-mandated test called the PSAE.
Love standardized testing or hate it, love Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school policies or hate them, all juniors belong in school on Wednesday taking day two of the PSAE.
A student boycott is planned — and the threat is serious enough to rattle CPS leaders. Letters went home to juniors Monday and Tuesday, and all parents of juniors received a robocall, reminding them how important the test results are to each student’s future.
So why take the test? All students must sit for at least one day of the two-day exam to be promoted to 12th grade and graduate. The first day is the ACT exam, the second includes science, math and reading tests that can lead to a career-readiness certificate endorsed by employers. The PSAE also is used to help evaluate each school and teacher.
Sure, there is a makeup day in May. But what if a student is sick that day? And if a student shows up Wednesday but refuses the exam, a makeup likely won’t be an option. Organizers want students to stay away from school.
Some boycotters, with help from teachers and advocacy groups, are refusing to take the test to protest CPS’ planned closures of 54 schools. We can’t stand with them on that, as some schools are genuinely under-enrolled and should be closed. But some schools do not belong on the closure list, including Garvey, Trumbull and M. Jackson. Want to make an impact? Start there.
But the students are on to something with complaints about excessive testing. Starting in kindergarten, students are subjected to a litany of standardized tests every year. Some have value, some do not. Tests and test prep consume too much of the school day and year. And as the stakes get higher — school closure decisions and teacher evaluations are tied to the results — the pressure to focus on test prep above all else dominates.
Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said she’d like to scale back testing some and CPS is reviewing all exams, though state-required tests are non-negotiable.
In the meantime, sharpen those No. 2 pencils.