Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Wednesday February 6th, 2013, 12:36pm

CTU Pushes Back Against High-Stakes Standardized Testing With New Report

As a part of the “Pencils Down” campaign against high-stakes testing in schools, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released a position report yesterday afternoon discussing the history and advancement of the standardized testing movement, aiming to provide evidence against its effectiveness.

The report, titled “Debunking the Myths of Standardized Testing,” attempts to expose shortcomings in the high-stakes testing model. The CTU claims standardized testing contributes to a growing achievement gap, takes up valuable instruction time and negatively impacts student learning.

“Overreliance on standardized tests has led to reduced graduation rates among students of color, narrowed the curriculum in all subjects and grade levels and ill prepared our students for fulfilling the careers and civic engagement,” the report reads. “The reforms of the accountability era are harmful policies that lead to neither short-term successes nor long-term prosperity for students.”

The report’s release was synchronized with the National Action Day for Seattle MAP Boycott. The CTU is supporting teachers and administrators at Garfield High School in Seattle who are refusing to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Petitions were circulated today at several Chicago public schools, asking administration and the Chicago Board of Education to limit standardized testing and provide more transparency about the cost, amount and stakes of the tests being used in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system.

“We need smaller class sizes, a well-rounded curriculum and support for students that are poor, have health issues, or require the work of a social worker. Those are some of the basic things that research has shown will make a difference in education, but those aren’t the kind of programs that are being promoted by current so-called education reformers,” said Carol Caref, director of research for the Chicago Teachers Union, in an interview. “There’s no research that indicates if you have more standardized tests then student education is going to improve.”

Caref said standardized tests have a history of discriminatory impact on neighborhood schools. She said test developers do not account for racial or income biases in test questions and there is “almost a perfect correlation between test scores and family income.”

“They continue to develop tests that discriminate,” she said. “(Standardized tests) are not even tied to the curriculum, so they really don’t indicate what students need in the classroom.”

CPS’ assessment system contains three major types of assessments across all grades, including kindergarten through grade two. Baseline tests attempt to understand where students start the year, formative tests aim at monitoring progress over the course of the year, and growth tests attempt to measure progress by the end of the year.

There are 22 standardized tests being used in Chicago Public Schools.

Caref said CPS standardized testing has “gotten way out of control.”

A representative from Chicago Public Schools could not be reached for comment.

“We need assessments, but we need to be a lot more responsible about which ones we’re using and the frequency at which we’re using them,” said Victoria Chou, dean of education for the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A former teacher and principal investigator for the federally funded Chicago Teacher Pipeline Program (CTPP), a four-university effort to develop high-quality teachers for CPS, Chou said teachers and students are “oppressed by assessment.”

“If we’re really trying to improve learning, we need assessments that are tethered to what we are trying to improve, so we don’t get a broad look at student achievement, but instead a more fine-grained idea of how students learn best and what modalities to use,” she said.

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