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Rahm Backs CPS on Warning to Teachers Over ISATs

By Ted Cox | February 28, 2014 12:43pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday that CPS boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett "made the right call" in warning teachers of the repercussions of refusing to administer an achievement test next week.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday that CPS boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett "made the right call" in warning teachers of the repercussions of refusing to administer an achievement test next week.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

EDGEWATER — The mayor backed Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett Friday in her hard-line warning to teachers about administering a statewide test.

"She made the right call," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday at an Edgewater news conference. "The only person who can pull somebody out is not a teacher, but a parent."

The mayor insisted that, under his administration and CPS Chief Executive Officer Byrd-Bennett, "We reduced the amount of tests given."

He said the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, slated to begin next week at CPS schools, was mandated by the state, "so you have to follow through."

The ISATs, as they're commonly called, are being phased out and are no longer being used in promotions, school ratings or the selective-enrollment process. Parents are permitted to have their children "opt out" of taking them. The Murray Language Academy's Local School Council in Hyde Park came out this month against abundant standardized testing.

 Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett told teachers they could face state and School Board penalties if, during their working hours, they encouraged students not to take a state achievement test next week.
Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett told teachers they could face state and School Board penalties if, during their working hours, they encouraged students not to take a state achievement test next week.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Some teachers have said they wouldn't administer the tests.

Last month, Byrd-Bennett sent a letter to teachers stating: "Parents should be informed that there will be no alternate instruction given during the assessment and that children who are not being assessed will be required to engage in a silent, self-guided activity while their peers are being tested."

She followed that up this week with a letter to principals saying the test "is not meaningless," and low participation rates could affect federal funding.

"If an individual teacher refuses to administer the test, you should direct that teacher to swipe out and leave the work place," Byrd-Bennett wrote. "You should direct another employee to administer the test."

She threatened that a state board could revoke a teacher's certification in that case, and that 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."

"We will completely defend any members who refuse to administer the ISAT," said Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Norine Gutekanst. "Our members want to teach. They believe that there is far too much testing in their children's school year.

"We're really proud of these members for taking a strong stance," she added.

The grassroots group Parents 4 Teachers scheduled a protest for Wednesday afternoon in support of teachers threatening not to give the ISAT at Maria Sausedo Scholastic Academy, 2850 W. 24th Blvd. It circulated an online petition against the test.

CTU announced its support Friday of another school where teachers have said they want to boycott the test, Bucktown's Thomas Drummond Montessori School.