Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Thursday February 27th, 2014, 4:49pm

Battle Brewing Between CPS, Teachers Over ISAT Boycott (UPDATED)

The Chicago Public Schools district appears to be intent on disciplining educators that boycott the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which is scheduled to be administered next week. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett sent a note to principals warning that teachers who fail to administer the test could lose their state education certification, adding that the teachers should be ordered to leave the school building if they do not give the test to their students.

“The Chicago Board of Education will discipline any employee who encourages a student not to take the ISAT or who advocates against the ISAT on work time for insubordination and for any disruption of the educational process,” Byrd-Bennett reportedly stated in the letter, according to the newspaper.

Bennett also warned that schools with low rates of ISAT participation could lose federal funding as it is required by both state law and the No Child Left Behind act. The schools chief also advised principals to find another school employee to give the test if a teacher refuses to do so.

The notice comes on the heels of an announcement by teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy stating that they will boycott the eight-day test, which is set to begin on Monday. The parents of some 500 students have also submitted letters to opt-out of the test, which represents about 65 percent of the students that would given the test at the school. Additionally, the school's student council also voted to urge their peers not to take the test. CPS has offered parents the opportunity to decide whether their child should take the test, requiring that they send an opt-out letter to their student's school stating that they would like to pull themselves from the test if that is their choice. The ISAT is administered to students in third through eight grades and is set to be phased out after this year and replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam. The NWEA MAP test will also be administered to aid in selective school enrollment.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Teachers Union pledged their support to schools that decide to boycott the test, and CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said they do not see the warning about revocation of teacher certifications as an "idle threat," adding that the group's lawyers are already looking into the situation. CTU President Karen Lewis posted a video statement Wednesday in support of the boycott at Saucedo Academy, which can be viewed here.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has also voiced their support for educators who refuse to administer the ISAT, including the more than 40 teachers at Saucedo that voted unanimously against giving their students the test. 

"Facing the threat of discipline or termination, these brave teachers are standing up for what they believe is best for their students, no matter the personal consequences. It is nothing short of a profile in courage,” said President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers Dan Montgomery in a statement. “The preparation and administration of this test brings teaching to a halt and robs students of valuable time to learn. The ISAT is not appropriately aligned to curriculum and forces educators to teach to an unnecessary test that is defunct and has absolutely no practical use. This is merely testing for testing’s sake, and we encourage parents to work with their teachers to opt out. We also strongly encourage CPS to reconsider their plans to punish teachers for doing the right thing. IFT members around the state salute and stand with these teachers and parents as they stand up for their students.”

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 1 (2/28/14): A second school, Drummond Thomas Montessori School, has announced plans to boycott the test. Check back with Progress Illinois for more on this developing news.

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