Update: ISBE rule change on state testing and SAT for graduation

Last fall we put out an alert about the IL State Board of Ed proposing changing rules and setting requirements that would go beyond what federal law says Illinois must do with respect to testing and opt out and asking for people to submit public comments about these changes to oppose further entrenching the overuse of standardized testing in Illinois.

You can read the proposed changes here and you can read about our concerns about these changes here.

Although ISBE voted to approve the changes at the January ISBE board meeting, they did modify the wording of the rule change related to using the SAT test as a graduation requirement in response to a flood of comments.

Districts will now be able to graduate students that opt out of the SAT, but will need ISBE approval to grant them a regular high school diploma.

Proposed: "Districts shall ensure that students who have not taken the State's final accountability assessment at the highest grade or level assessed shall not graduate or receive a regular high school diploma. In accordance with Section 2-6.64a-5 of the School Code, districts may issue a regular high school diploma or graduate a student who has not met this requirement with approval from the State Board of Education."

Approved: "Districts shall ensure that students who have not taken the State’s final accountability assessment at the highest grade or level assessed shall not receive a regular high school diploma. In accordance with Section 2-3.64a-5 of the School Code, districts may issue a regular high school diploma to a student who has not met this requirement with approval from the Illinois State Board of Education." 

ISBE received hundreds of comments about the changes, including 659 opposed to making the SAT a graduation requirement and six in support of that change. (See p. 135-138 of the packet.) 

Among other changes approved, ISBE approved the change to force schools to pilot state tests, like the IL Assessment of Readiness, as often as ISBE requires rather than no more than once every four years:

"A school shall generally be selected for participation in these special studies, tryouts, and/or pilot testing no more than once every four years, except that participation may be required more frequently as needed to ensure sufficient sample size for validity."

Students at schools selected for field testing the English Language Arts portion of the IAR test this year will have 75-90 minutes of additional testing (on top of the 5.5 to 6 hours of regular IAR testing.) Our sister org Raise Your Hand has updated resources for refusing state testing here.

You can read one of the public comments submitted to ISBE below, this one from Oak Park District 97 parent Rebecca Kaegi. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write and submit a comment!


Parent letter to ISBE on proposed rule change

To Whom It May Concern: 

I am disheartened to read that in its proposed changes, ISBE is going beyond what is mandated by ESSA in using standardized test scores to evaluate schools and teachers. As a parent and a teacher, I am also very much opposed to the proposal that would essentially punish schools whose parents opt their children out of tests.

I teach at a charter school, and I see first-hand every day the detrimental effects of over-testing. As a country, we have mistakenly chosen to evaluate schools and teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores. This is a misuse of those tests, and it causes harm. The tests carry racial bias (they have their origins in the eugenics movement), and they are more than anything else a proxy for socioeconomic status. When we threaten and punish schools based on these scores, we leave only two choices for schools who wish to avoid punishment: Either push out lower achievers, or spend huge amounts of class time on practice tests, error analysis, and more tests. The second option comes at the expense of authentic learning as well as non-tested subjects like art and music. Many schools do both — push out lower achievers and over-test the rest. Students suffer, and students of color suffer most. If we want the best possible education for all students, we should be pushing back against test score pressure and doing the bare minimum of testing required by law. This would include counting test scores as little as possible in school ratings.

Because I don’t want my own children’s scores to be used to harm public education, I refuse standardized tests that would be used in their school’s evaluation. This is my reason, but other parents have equally legitimate cause to opt their children out. These include objections to the amount of time lost to testing; test anxiety; and the belief that their children with special needs are being harmed by the testing process. We should be able to make these decisions for our children, and I am appalled that the new rules would lower our school’s rating if too many parents refuse the test. 

To me, test refusal is the best way I know to push back against a system that is harming public education. As long as my students’ scores are used for harm, I choose not to provide them. Punishing my school is an appalling response to that decision, and I predict a serious backlash from areas like Oak Park, where I live, if these rules are put in place.

I am happy to offer more perspective on the effects of testing, in the charter system where I teach and in the neighborhood public schools my children attend. I urge ISBE to reconsider its current path, and to push against the harmful national trends of the past decade. Let’s guard teaching time, focus on inputs rather than outputs, and create a system where ALL students get a well-rounded curriculum free of over-testing.

Thank you for your consideration.

Rebecca Kaegi

 

 

 

[Image used via Creative Commons]

 


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