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Matt Farmer Headshot

Don't Sit for the ISAT

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When I learned Tuesday that teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood had voted unanimously to refuse to administer the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) to their students over an eight-day period during the first two weeks of March, I was surprised.

I was surprised that the members of the Saucedo faculty were courageous enough to put their jobs on the line to tell Mayor Emanuel and his hand-picked Chicago Board of Education that Saucedo students should not be subjected to a time-wasting exercise that serves no legitimate educational purpose in this particular school district in this particular year.

The ISAT is being phased out across the state, and in connection with that phase-out, 2014 ISAT scores will not figure into CPS school ratings, CPS teacher evaluations, CPS student promotions or the admissions process for CPS selective enrollment schools.

In short, it's a giant waste of time and money, and the Saucedo teachers don't want their kids to have to forfeit all that instructional time over two weeks for a worthless standardized test that the Mayor's kids certainly won't be taking at their private school.

So the Saucedo teachers stood up for their kids.

Imagine that. In a city where, it seems, Rahm fires teachers for pure sport, Saucedo's teachers are willing to face down Rahm's Machine and possibly risk their livelihoods on behalf of their students.

But the teachers are not alone. When the faculty announced its boycott on Tuesday, 320 Saucedo parents had already filed opt-out letters to ensure their kids wouldn't have to sit for the ISAT, no matter who administered it. One day later, the number of Saucedo opt-outs had climbed to 423.

My youngest child is also a CPS student. She, too, is scheduled to take the ISAT during the first half of March, but my wife and I wouldn't dream of making her sit through it this year. As I told my daughter's principal (whom I also consider a friend) in the required opt-out letter:

You know, of course, that we have supported and will continue to support our school's faculty, staff and administration in its educational mission, but we've come to the conclusion that the 2014 ISAT is an unnecessary waste of the district's limited resources and instructional minutes, and we've yet to hear a strong argument to the contrary.

We certainly can't stop CPS from giving this examination to students across the city from March 3 to March 14, but we can take the small step of opting [our daughter] out, if only to salvage for her benefit the hundreds of instructional minutes she would otherwise lose to a soon-to-be-phased-out standardized test. We will work closely with [our daughter] to ensure she has plenty of books and other projects to keep her quietly engaged throughout the many hours the ISAT is being administered in the building during the first half of March.

Parents across the city are waking up to the fact that the 2014 ISAT will be a waste of time for their kids.

My wife and I risked nothing by sending our principal an opt-out letter. Members of the Saucedo faculty are risking their jobs to avoid being accomplices in this educational charade.

But as Mario Savio said nearly 50 years ago:

There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels ... upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

The Saucedo faculty is trying to make it stop.

Let's stand with them.