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CPS Turns ISAT Probe to Saucedo Academy, Rattling Parents

By  Ted Cox and Quinn Ford | March 21, 2014 2:26pm | Updated on March 21, 2014 8:20pm

 Parents and family members of Saucedo students stand outside the school Friday afternoon. Parents said they were "infuriated" when they heard CPS lawyers came to their school Friday to investigate students opting out of the ISATs.
Parents and family members of Saucedo students stand outside the school Friday afternoon. Parents said they were "infuriated" when they heard CPS lawyers came to their school Friday to investigate students opting out of the ISATs.
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DNAinfo/Quinn Ford

LITTLE VILLAGE — Chicago Public Schools officials investigating the aftermath of a controversial state test turned their attention Friday to Saucedo Scholastic Academy.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood confirmed "CPS investigators are at Saucedo," but he insisted they were "talking with teachers and school staff, not students."

Still, it rattled parents and set off alarms a day after CPS upset parents at Drummond Montessori School in Bucktown by questioning students without first seeking parental approval.

And one activist said her sources at Saucedo told her CPS investigators were "definitely" talking to students.

Cassie Creswell of the grassroots group More Than a Score said Saucedo parents had called her saying students were being questioned by CPS investigators, as was the case Thursday at Drummond.

"They've definitely pulled kids out" of classes, Creswell said.

Told that CPS said students were not being questioned, Creswell responded, "A third-grader was questioned and asked if her or his parents were paid to opt out."

"They're trying to discipline us on anything they can find," said Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher for sixth and eighth graders at the school.

Chambers said the claim that parents were influenced to opt out of the test is "ridiculous." She also said teachers were questioned about the ISATs Friday, an action Chambers believed was meant to intimidate teachers.

"Frankly, we're not scared," Chambers said. "We know that CPS, Rahm, they're just trying to bully us and trying to shut down parent voice. They don't want any parent voice."

Juanita Torres, a parent of two Saucedo students and an LSC member, said a representative from the Chicago Teachers Union notified her and other parents Friday morning that investigators were at the school.

Torres and another parent personally went to the school's office to ask the principal that their children not be interviewed. Torres said CPS investigators were inside the principal's office and also claimed she saw three students escorted into the office.

"I don't have a problem with them talking to teachers, but I have a problem with students being questioned because they're minors," Torres said through a translator. "I feel that the children are being questioned so [CPS] can word it as they want."

Parents said after word had spread about investigators coming to the school they received robocalls from the school assuring parents no students would be interviewed.

"We’ve been told they are questioning students," CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said. "CPS is grasping at straws and, not only that, they are wasting resources on an ISAT witch hunt. Teachers will not be intimidated by these bullying tactics."

CTU spokeswoman Norine Gutekanst said, in any case, CPS was "creating havoc and this atmosphere of fear," in that "parents are very concerned that their children are going to be taken into a room with an unknown investigator and intimidated and bullied."

"We are morally outraged to learn that CPS' law department is going throughout the district interrogating our students and educators about how they came opting-out of the ISAT," said CTU President Karen Lewis. She added that the investigation was about "compliance and intimidating people."

Saucedo was one of the flash points of protests against standardized testing earlier this month, and teachers there went through with their threats not to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, although at the time they faced no recriminations.

Drummond parents said they thought the CPS probing of students was based on a "witch hunt" to find teachers who had urged students to try to opt out of the test.

"They're just escalating the insanity," Creswell said Friday.

CTU officials have insisted throughout that their membership has done nothing wrong on the ISATs and have said they'll "completely defend" any teacher accused of misconduct over the test.