Sunday, September 20, 2020
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We hope Byrd-Bennett has made her last testing mistake

Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s letter on Jan 29, listing the complex steps parents must take if they want to opt their kids out of statewide accountability testing, has set off a firestorm of responses from the teachers’ union and several parent groups, Catalyst-Chicago reports.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett (Photo: WBEZ/Bill Healy via chicagopublicmedia/Flickr)

The full text of the email sent to teachers, the information from which is clearly intended for parents to hear, is reprinted on the Fred Klonsky blog, here. It has also been re-posted more than 1,000 times on Facebook.

In the ill-advised letter, Ms Byrd-Bennett makes a remarkable statement about the statewide tests:

let me be clear: CPS students without an NWEA MAP score will not be eligible for selective enrollment or promotion in grades 3, 6, and 8.

The “NWEA MAP” acronym stands for a test manufactured by the Northwest Evaluation Association known as the Measures of Academic Progress test.

Of all the other negative statements in the letter, this one takes the cake. If we read her exact words, strictly, we see that Ms Byrd-Bennett says if students don’t take the MAP test this spring, they will

  • Not be eligible for selective enrollment schools
  • Not be eligible for promotion if they’re in third, sixth, or eighth grade

We call for the immediate resignation of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, as we conclude, based on her exact statements, that she has absolutely no understanding of the meaning of the tests known as the Illinois Standards Achievement Test and the NWEA MAP test.

We further call upon the Chicago Board of Education to reverse Ms Byrd-Bennett’s written ruling regarding the promotion of students in certain grades.

We further call on the Illinois General Assembly to enact emergency legislation that makes it illegal to use for purposes of promotion the results of a standardized test that wasn’t designed for that purpose in our public schools. New legislation will prevent this travesty in the future and protect our youngest citizens from the tyranny of misinformed school CEOs.

These tests were designed for accountability purposes under federal law that our representatives in Congress approved more than a decade ago with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses. Without even considering other factors in a third grader’s life, for instance, Ms Byrd-Bennett has said she will deny them promotion to fourth grade if they don’t take one test out of the 10 mandated in Chicago. Basing promotion decisions on the results of a single test just isn’t right, and it should be illegal.

We do not support the opt-out movement, because, while parents can decide not to send their children to public schools, they do not, in our opinion under current Illinois law, have the right to decide which mandatory programs in the public schools they participate in. Under current law, we cannot support students opting out of mandatory testing programs, although which tests are mandatory is left as a local decision. We call for a revision of those laws but do not advise parents to break the law.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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