CPS threatens to discipline teachers who won’t give students ISAT
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter February 27, 2014 2:28PM
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer for Chicago Public Schools, speaks during Wednesday's Chicago Board of Education meeting. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2014 10:15AM
Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has threatened to discipline any teacher who refuses to administer an annual state achievement test next week, according to a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The letter, sent out Thursday to principals, claims teachers could face the harshest repercussion from boycotting the test — losing their state education certification.
On test day, teachers will be ordered to leave the school building if they refuse to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, according to the letter.
“The Chicago Board of Education will discipline any employee who encourages a student not to take the ISAT or who advocates against the ISAT on work time for insubordination and for any disruption of the educational process,” Byrd-Bennett said in the letter.
The order from the CPS boss comes as teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy unanimously decided to boycott the ISAT — a move that may be the first of its kind in the state.
“Barbara Byrd-Bennett and CPS are afraid of us speaking up — of us voicing our opinion on how these tests are unjust,” said Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo. “We already discussed the potential repercussions and we know that what we are doing is right.”
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey called CPS’ threats “really absurd and harmful” and noted the specific disciplinary measures ordered by Byrd-Bennett are typically used for the most serious infractions.
He said the threat to state certification, which is at the heart of a teachers’ ability to work, is not being taken lightly.
“We’re not taking that as an idle threat,” Sharkey said. “Our lawyers are currently working on that.”
Earlier this week, about 40 teachers at Saucedo agreed they would all refuse to administer the test, which they claim is not used for any gainful purpose within the district.
A different test has replaced the ISAT for school promotion in grades three, six and eight. The other test, the NWEA MAP, also replaces the ISAT for enrollment in selective enrollment schools. The ISAT will be replaced next year by another set of new tests.
Chambers said Thursday that more than 500 students at Saucedo have submitted letters to opt out of the test — that’s about 65 percent of all students required to take the test at that school.
In Thursday’s letter to principals, Byrd-Bennett said the test is not meaningless.
She said the test, which is aligned to Common Core Standards, provides educators “an important first look at how well their students are doing on these more rigorous expectations.”
Byrd-Bennett also told principals that schools with low participation rates on the ISAT may lose federal funding, among other concerns.
And the testing will go on, she said.
If a teacher refuses to give the test, a principal should find another employee to administer it, Byrd-Bennett said.