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Anti-Testing Parent Petitioning and CTU “Pencils Down” Campaign Garners Hundreds of Signatures at Chicago Schools

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on Wednesday as part of its “Pencils Down” campaign against high-stakes standardized testing supported parent petitioning at more than 30 Chicago high schools and elementary schools to limit excessive standardized testing of students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Parents fanned out at schools across the city during morning drop-off and afternoon dismissal and collected hundreds of signatures in addition to more than 2,700 signatures collected in an online petition.

“Parents and educators are uniting in opposition to these tests and we’re seeing those numbers increase both in Chicago and across the country,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “This is a growing movement that’s gaining more and more momentum each day.”

Organized by the “More Than a Score Coalition,” which includes the CTU, Parents 4 Teachers, Parents United for Responsible Education and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, the petitions asked CPS and the Chicago Board of Education to limit standardized testing and provide more transparency about the cost, amount and stakes of the 22 tests now being used in Chicago public schools.

This follows the unanimous passing of a resolution passed at a Wednesday night meeting of the CTU House of Delegates that pledged union support for the Seattle teachers’ boycott of the MAP exam and More Than a Score efforts to end standardized testing for pre-school to second grade students; reduce testing for third grade students and above; and to end the use of standardized testing data to evaluate students and educators and close schools.

“I’m just so proud of these parents for the stand they’re taking and the concern they have about the pressure these puts on their children,” Lewis said. “Children need freedom to learn, to grow and to be themselves—to be children—and not have valuable classroom time turn into profit-driven online evaluation.”

Massive school closings are pending for an allegedly budget-strapped CPS while schools are spending millions of dollars on standardized tests and using the results to justify high-stakes decisions on school closings, teacher evaluation and student promotion. The misuse and overuse of standardized testing undermines educational quality, quantity and equity, according to the petition.

Parents are particularly concerned about the impact of standardized testing on the education of low-income students, children of color, English-language learners and special education students.

“With the computer-based tests, you have one child who can navigate the computer and use a mouse because they have a computer at home, and another student who has no computer at home and doesn’t know how to do these things,” said Julie Fain, parent of two children at A.N. Pritzker School and wife of CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. Fain and Sharkey chose to opt their two children out of non-state mandated testing this year, or otherwise they would have been slated for a combined 38 evaluations.

“So not only is the playing field uneven, but kids are being taught test-taking strategies and drilled on filling in bubbles and how to answer multiple choice questions, and that’s not really thinking—it’s not really creative,” she said. “That’s not what we want our kids to be learning.”

“These scores are just a snapshot of a day or an hour in the life of a kid, and do not tell the whole story, and it’s inappropriate to use that kind of evaluation,” said Pritzker parent Rachel Lessing.

The CTU and More Than a Score coalition call on the Chicago Board of Education and CPS leadership to:

  • Eliminate standardized testing for children from preschool to 2nd grade and greatly reduce it for 3rd grade and  above.
  • End the use of standardized testing data to evaluate students and educators and to close schools.
  • Fully disclose the cost, schedule, nature, and purpose of all standardized tests.

The petition drive will continue into the spring, when the signatures will be presented to CPS and the Board of Education. For more information on the CTU’s “Pencils Down” campaign and the movement against high-stakes standardized testing in Chicago public schools, visit www.ctunet.com and www.morethanascorechicago.org.

PHOTO CAPTION: Parent petitioner Julie Fain (left) talks to another parent during anti-testing petitioning at A.N. Pritzker School in Wicker Park.

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com

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Chicago Teachers Union