Saucedo Elementary in Chicago plans boycott of ISAT

About 40 teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy voted unanimously today to boycott the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

“This ISAT test is absurd,” the paper quoted Sarah Chambers, a special-education teacher at the school, as saying outside the school, where she was surrounded by supportive parents, students, and fellow teachers. “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.”

Prior to this year, the ISAT had been used for accountability purposes under federal law, but this year, the school district plans to use another test, known as the Measures of Academic Progress test developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association. We reported earlier this month that Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had threatened to hold back any third graders in the district who opted out of the MAP test. In that same letter, she also outlined a difficult process parents would have to follow to opt-out their children.

But at Saucedo, it’s the teachers who are opting out, and this is brand new territory. The move is similar to what teachers in Washington State did as they elected not to give the NWEA MAP test to their students last year. Here’s the coverage from last May in the Seattle Times.

Because the ISATs are specifically required under federal law, teachers who refuse to administer the tests to students who have not opted out officially could be fired, according to school district and Chicago Teachers’ Union officials.

“I think it would be outrageous and wrong,” the Sun-Times quoted CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey as saying. “The teachers aren’t doing this for any gain. They’re doing this because they want to teach.”

I send my best wishes to the students, parents, and teachers of Maria Saucedo Elementary in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on the west side.

My personal opinion is that opting out of tests is a protest against the public schools, which have no choice whatsoever but to obey federal law. The law is bad and is recognized as a universal failure that has brought irreparable harm to our schools, but the ISAT is required under that federal law. The point has been made about how bad standardized testing has become, but Congress refuses to take any action that would revise this law.

Still, it is a brave thing these teachers do, but the protest should be taking place in the halls of Congress, which is the only body that can actually do anything about NCLB. Not that they will, but staging a boycott in the 2800 block of West 24th Blvd, I’m afraid, will be ultimately ineffective. I admire teachers’ bravery but question the effectiveness of their action. We need to have Congress change this law; breaking it will not move our lawmakers in that direction.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.