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Little Village school’s teachers vote to boycott ISAT

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Updated: March 27, 2014 6:35AM



Teachers at a Little Village school will refuse to administer an annual state achievement test next week, a move that could ultimately cost them their jobs.

About 40 teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy voted unanimously Tuesday to boycott the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, said Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at the school. She spoke outside the school, which was surrounded by supportive parents, students and fellow teachers.

“This ISAT test is absurd,” Chambers said. “It is not tied to anything — it’s not used in promotion, it’s not used in graduation, it’s not used for leveling of the school.”

The ISAT is scheduled to be administered beginning March 3, but parents can choose to opt their children out of the test.

Last month, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett wrote a letter to parents that explained that a new standardized test would replace the ISAT and would be used for school promotion in grades three, six and eight. The other test, the NWEA MAP, will replace the ISAT for enrollment in selective enrollment schools, Byrd-Bennett said. In that letter she encouraged parents not to opt out of any test.

On Tuesday, Byrd-Bennett wouldn’t back down and said in a statement: “The District is committed to administering the exam and expects all CPS employees to fulfill their responsibilities to ensure we are in compliance with the law. We also continue to encourage parents to support their children taking the exam, as the results help teachers tailor instructional planning for the following year.”

The principal of Saucedo, a pre-K through eighth-grade school with 1,260 students, told the Chicago Sun-Times she supports CPS officials and policy. She said the test has to be administered according to the law.

“The teachers are entitled to their own opinions,” Principal Isamar Vargas Colon said. But it’s not up to them.

“This a decision that has to be made by the parents,” she said. “We are not going to interfere with testing.”

The ISAT is required by federal law under No Child Left Behind, and it is used to measure, among other things, adequate yearly progress. CPS has not met that benchmark in recent years.

The ISAT will be replaced next year by another set of new tests.

The teachers refusing to administer the ISAT could face disciplinary action, CPS officials said.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said those teachers could be fired.

“I think it would be outrageous and wrong. . . . The teachers aren’t doing this for any gain. They’re doing this because they want to teach,” he said.

The CTU vowed to “mount a strong defense” if the teachers are disciplined.

Chambers said teachers know this is risky, and there might be consequences from the administration.

“We are not afraid. We’re standing strong for our kids and what is right,” she said.

Boycotters at Saucedo hope the school is a leader in the anti-ISAT movement, which has been gaining momentum in recent days.

“This is one step towards reclaiming humanity and the joy of learning and education,” Chambers said.

Email: bschlikerman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @schlikerman



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