DOWNTOWN — About 100 high school students on Wednesday skipped the second day of a mandatory state test to march on Chicago Public Schools headquarters.
"We're under-resourced, over-tested, and we're fed up with the policies that are put in place by CPS officials," said Brian Stirgus, a Robeson High School junior.
The test boycott, organized by Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, attacked what the group said was unnecessary testing.
"Students don't get the education they need because everything we learn is pushed toward the test," Stirgus said. "So we get out in the real world, and we aren't prepared for what we need to do."
The protest extended to school closings as well. Stirgus said the test scores are used to compare schools against each other in borderline decisions on which schools to close. He called the closings "racist," and Alexssa Moore, a junior at Lindbloom Math and Science Academy in Englewood, said that almost all schools designated to be closed are in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods.
"We're fighting to keep our schools open," said Armando Rodriguez of Kelly High School.
The boycotting students who gathered at CPS headquarters, 125 S. Clark, defied what Rodriguez called "scare tactics," such as teachers telling some juniors that, if they skipped the second day of testing for the Prairie State Achievement Examination, the ACT taken by juniors on the first day would be scrubbed.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett issued a statement saying: "The only place that students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life. Today's PSAE is one of the most critical exams our students will take. Every adult should support and encourage our students to make sure they are in school."
According to Stirgus, there is a May 8 makeup date for the second part of the PSAE.
"So every student who's a junior who decided to participate in this boycott will be granted the opportunity to take this test over," he said. "These students have nothing to lose today."
The daylong action culminated in a rally outside of Banneker Elementary School in Englewood at 1:30 p.m. in which about 50 students called for an end to school closings, read poetry and sang.
Shanelia Pollard, a mother of four students at Banneker, told the group that she's "truly disgusted" at the idea of the school closing.
Like many parents throughout the fight against school closures, Pollard had a message for Byrd-Bennett:
"You guys are dead wrong," she said. "You're setting these kids up for violence."
The students later held hands, lined up in a single row and listened while members of their group gave their reasons for boycotting the test.
"Great minds do not learn by taking a standardized test — the test has failed us," said Xavier Osinger, a junior at Curie High School. "The CPS board of education and Rahm Emanuel have failed us — they've failed to see the importance of schools like Banneker.
"These 54 schools, including Banneker, are in need of help, not closure."