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CPS parents’ petitions seek limits on testing

Updated: March 7, 2013 6:38AM

As a group of public school parents petition to cut their children’s standardized tests, the Chicago Teachers Union denounced what they call “abusive” testing in Chicago Public Schools.

Parents behind the website will circulate petitions near at least 36 public schools asking the Board of Education to limit testing and provide more details about the cost and stakes of the 22 tests now used in the district.

“This testing regime is just not what students need. It’s hurting, not helping education and it’s abusive especially at the early childhood level,” said Carol Caref, a CTU researcher and author of a report released Tuesday, “Debunking the Myth of Standardized Testing.”

How many parents opt their children out of tests matters especially this year, when, for the first time, CPS will factor students’ growth on standardized test scores into the evaluations of their teachers and school principals.

CPS students in kindergarten through second grade sit for up to five different tests, administered several times through the school year, for a total of 14 sessions, according to CPS’ testing calendar. Third- through seventh-graders may take up to four tests over a total of nine sessions, and eighth-graders take up to five over 10 sessions. High school students take up to four — three for seniors — over as many as 13 sessions.

In a statement, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll called the tests “critical not only for measuring student growth, but to help teachers and principals identify the unique academic needs of students to help them be successful in the classroom.”

She said schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has ordered a review of all the district’s assessments by the new chief of accountability “to ensure that each one adds value to our children’s learning.”

Rachel Lessem will spend Wednesday afternoon passing petitions outside her daughter’s school, A.N. Pritzker, an elementary school in Wicker Park named for the grandfather of CPS board member Penny Pritzker.

Folks from Raise Your Hand, Parents 4 Teachers, Parents United for Responsible Education and the CTU and will fan out at other schools.

Lessem decided to opt out her 7-year-old from most tests after hearing the little girl and a classmate asking each other in the back of her car one day: Did you finish? Did your computer work?

“It was really shocking to me,” she said.

“The increasing amount of testing every year is really detracting from any kind of quality education,” she continued. “They do some amazing things in the classroom and the test score cannot capture that in the way it’s being done.”

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