Illinois ESEA waiver request: more testing, please!

Tomorrow, the Illinois State Board of Education will vote on an ESEA flexibility waiver application which will do little but add more tests to an already ridiculous state assessment system.

Here are the comments I submitted to ISBE last week:

Stop teaching to the test”  – President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union Address

In their November 22, 2011, joint letter announcing Illinois’ intent to pursue a waiver from NCLB, ISBE Chair Gery Chico and State Superintendent Christopher Koch promised a “common sense accountability system” including “smart, nuanced tools” that will “demonstrate improvement and success in differentiated, appropriate and measurable ways” using “multiple measures.”

This all sounded great until we read the waiver proposal this week.

According to testing experts,* true multiple measures are the use of multiple indicators and sources of evidence of student learning, of varying kinds, gathered at multiple points in time, within and across subject areas. Multiple measures can include classroom, school, district and state tests; extended writing samples; tasks, projects, performances, and exhibitions; and collected samples of student classroom work, such as portfolios..

It was with great disappointment, then, to read the Illinois waiver proposal and see that that you are simply planning more one-shot state standardized tests and calling them “multiple measures

Parents are concerned that the “flexibility” promised under the NCLB waiver has turned into just one more excuse to increase the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.  We don’t trust the promise of “better tests” aligned with the Common Core standards. We have learned that merit pay and other high-stakes test-based evaluation systems don’t improve learning. Experts at the National Academy of Sciences and the Economic Policy Institute have cited the unreliability of value-added or “growth” measures in warnings about the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems.

Chicago’s schools are already test factories. This proposal will make that terrible situation worse for our children.

Instead of the test-driven strategies favored (and heavily promoted) by non-educators, we need to look towards a vision of education reform that is strongly rooted in democratic principles and supported by ample research. Our children deserve no less. We support the expansion of proven reforms, such as small classes, parent involvement, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum that connects learning to children's own lives, and evaluation systems with high-quality, multiple assessments.

Your waiver proposal offers none of that.


Specifically, regarding state assessment and accountability systems, we recommend that they:


Require that states allow parents to opt their children out of any state or local standardized test.

Specify regular public review and revision of state learning standardsand related assessments.

Locate the key accountability elements at the local school level.

Bar the use of tests for any purpose different from that for which the test was explicitly designed.

– Julie Woestehoff, PURE, Chicago IL

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Uncategorized

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