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Parents Upset by 'Intimidating' Survey of Students Who Opted-Out of ISAT

By Ted Cox | March 6, 2014 4:52pm
 A survey administered at Pritzker School asked students who opted out of the ISAT to reveal their feelings about it using emoticons.
A survey administered at Pritzker School asked students who opted out of the ISAT to reveal their feelings about it using emoticons.
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WICKER PARK — A neighborhood school has asked students who opted out of a statewide test to explain why, using a survey that doesn't ask them to use words.

According to parents at Pritzker School in Wicker Park, the "student survey" was administered to students this week who opted out of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test by the principal and assistant principal.

It used emoticons to ask students to answer questions like, "How do you feel about ISAT?" and "How do you feel about being 'Opted Out'?" They were to answer by selecting a face ranging from "happy" to "sad" to "don't care." To the question "How did you learn about 'opting-out?'" the survey gave the options "friend, media, parent, teacher" and "other."

The ISAT is being phased out, and some parents have called it "meaningless" in opting to have their children not take it. Teachers at Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village have boycotted giving it. The state Board of Education has insisted even students who opt out should at least be handed the test, resulting in more parent outrage.

Parents said the survey was given Wednesday by Principal Joenile Stevente Albert-Reese and her assistant principal.

"My eyes about melted," said parent Kristine Richardson, when she saw the survey. "It's terrifying to me that the principal and assistant principal would be giving something like this out."

Chicago Public Schools and Albert-Reese did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"It's concerning to me," said Pritzker parent Roger Cano. "I'm not exactly sure if the principal has the right to administer a survey without parental permission, specifically in this circumstance."

Cano said he had made it clear through calls, letters and emails that he didn't want his 9-year-old daughter to have anything to do with the ISAT.

According to Cano, his daughter and others opting out were led to the school music room Wednesday, where the principal, assistant principal and counselor looked over them.

"I don't know why there has to be three top-level individuals from an elementary school to watch kids opting out," he said. He considered it "intimidating" for the students.

Cano said his daughter was put in a position where "she has to disobey somebody. Is it parents or does she have to disobey the administration?"

Cano said he and other parents met with the principal Thursday, and she was unapologetic, insisting "she has the right to give out surveys to students."

The grassroots group More Than a Score posted the survey on its Facebook page, where Julie Vassilatos commented, "How many OMGs! am I going to be faced with today?"

"It's pretty appalling," said Cassie Creswell of More Than a Score.

"I think it's pretty clear that it's supposed to be entrapment like, 'Oh, did your teacher tell you about this opt-out stuff?'" Creswell added. "Who does that to an 8-year-old?"

Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said "these sorts of gestapo tactics have no place in a school district that prides itself on putting students first."