Enough of this ceaseless testing

January 24, 2013

In the Chicago Public Schools, students are spending more and more time taking standardized tests--at a cost of untold millions of dollars at a time when schools have been starved of scarce resources. But parents, students and teachers are organizing to resist the testing frenzy.

Here, we reprint the letter of two parents, Julie Fain and Jesse Sharkey, notifying the principal of A.N. Pritzker Elementary that their children would be opting out of a battery of tests--and explaining their reasons why.

Jonelle Albert-Reese
A.N. Pritzker School
2009 W. Schiller Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

January 16, 2013

Dear Dr. Reese,

We are writing to inform you that we are exercising our right to exempt our children from all non-state mandated tests for the current school year. This includes, but is not limited to: NWEA/MAP, REACH, DIBELS and mCLASS. In addition, please do not place the grades, ISAT scores or results of previous standardized tests of either of our children on display in the classroom, hallway or other public place.

During whole class standardized testing, we understand that our children will be provided with appropriate accommodations in order to engage in quiet, self-guided activity like silent reading, drawing, writing or other appropriate activities so as to not disrupt the classroom in any way.

We do not take this decision lightly given the high stakes attached to performance on these tests for everyone involved--our children, our school and our teachers. Unfortunately, we do not believe these tests to be in the best interests of our children's education and cannot continue to allow them to participate.

Elementary school students take a standardized test
Elementary school students take a standardized test

We have become alarmed at the incredible increase in high-stakes standardized testing at CPS. This year, our kindergartner is scheduled to take 14 standardized tests. Our fourth grader is scheduled for 24 tests, including the ISAT, which is spread over eight sessions, and REACH assessments in PE, library, music and Spanish. It's simply too much, and too much of a drain on scarce resources at our schools.

These tests carry significant consequences for students, teachers and schools, and we see the effects of this. The curriculum becomes narrowed to cover what is on the tests. Teachers and students become stressed and demoralized. Ceaseless testing is driving out creativity, curiosity and independent thinking.

We note that elite private schools have no use for standardized tests of any kind. They trust their teachers to assess students' progress with authentic, multiple measures and intense attention given to each student. We are concerned that CPS is going in the opposite direction--towards larger classes with more standardized testing. We also do not support a competitive culture around testing where prizes are given for results or students' scores are posted in public (a clear violation of their privacy).

We look forward to the time when our schools can nurture the natural inquisitiveness and love of learning all children should have instead of seeing them as data points on charts and spreadsheets. We are proud, grateful members of the Pritzker community. We look forward to many years of working together to improve our children's education.

We are happy to discuss this matter further.

Julie Fain and Jesse Sharkey

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