CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis will tackle the controversy over high stakes student testing in Chicago’s public schools at a special community forum on Tuesday, March 19, at Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, 2976 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago. Joining Lewis will be Jesse Hagopian, a teacher and leading advocate for education justice, who recently led a boycott of standardized testing at Garfield High School in Seattle.
The Chicago Teachers Union in January launched its “Pencils Down” campaign in support of local and nationwide efforts to eliminate standardized non-state mandated tests from public schools. Test scores fail as measures of learning when high-stakes testing advanced by corporate education reformers dominates curriculum, and also fail to consider non-classroom stimuli that affects school-age children, especially in urban areas.
“This forum will help inform Chicago parents and community residents about the real abuse of students and waste of valuable time and money involved in these testing programs,” Lewis said.
The Chicago Board of Education requires that elementary and high schools administer over two dozen standardized tests to students each year. Like similar testing programs around the nation, Chicago’s versions of these fill-in-the-bubble tests are criticized as a multi-million dollar expense that are unfair and biased, and consume a large percentage of classroom time despite being of little value in the actual education of children. School districts pay testing corporations to develop, administer, grade, and analyze, and report test results that ultimately are used in decision making about student achievement, school closings, and teacher evaluation.
Children who do not have access to health care, who are hungry, who are fearful of violence in their communities, who do not have books or access to other informal learning at home, whose parents have limited education, and whose families are constantly stressed by economic problems are at an extreme academic disadvantage. These factors are highly related not only to testing outcomes, academic achievement, future education and socio‐economic success, but also to the racial, ethnic and class origins of individuals.
“Standardized testing has from the very beginning been a tool to rank people, not to remove the barriers needed to achieve equality,” Hagopian said. “If we really want to close the gap in education between students of color and their white peers, we would stop spending millions of dollars to rank, sort, and punish students with standardized tests, and use those funds to invest in reading coaches and tutors for students of color.”
The March 19 event is sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union; the More Than a Score coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community members; the CReATE coalition of higher education researchers and advocates for transformative education; and Mt. Carmel MB Baptist Church.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has released a position paper on the increasing reliance on standardized test scores in measuring teacher effectiveness and school improvement as part of its “Pencils Down” campaign against high-stakes testing in schools. The paper, titled Debunking the Myths of Standardized Testing, discusses the history and advancement of the high-stakes testing movement and provides evidence against its effectiveness despite being staple of corporate education reform.