ISAT Testing

February 28, 2012 at 11:48 am 74 comments

While we wait for the 8th grade parents to stalk the mail carriers (I wonder if they know which weeks they’re being stalked?) I thought we could discuss the ISAT tests a bit.

I was curious about the extent to which schools are discussing and prepping kids for the test.

My son will be taking the test for the first time next week and there has certainly been talk of it at his school.  Last year he mentioned it and expressed a concern about doing well on it.  I have to say, I don’t like any pressure being put on the kids to “perform.”

On the other hand, obviously this is high stakes for the teachers and administration.  I wonder if the pressure feels less intense with Huberman gone.  I know he put a lot of stress on the principals about it.

In terms of test prep, I’ve noticed my son’s reading class doing a ton of these “Extended Response” questions which I believe are very test driven.  Normally the class is not at all test-prep oriented, so I have mixed feelings about the emphasis on teaching them to write these responses in a way that helps on the ISATs.  Or is the “Extended Response” way of writing just a universal way of teaching kids to write?

The other interesting thing about the ISAT tests is that my son’s class is currently learning 5th grade math.  So when I had him do some 3rd grade practice math questions, there was a lot of stuff that he didn’t remember (congruent shapes, vertices, how to calculate volume.)  I ordered a practice 3rd grade ISAT test book online, just so he could feel more comfortable in the test and I was curious to see what was on it. 

Much of it is knowing terms, rather than actual computation which I think does necessitate a bit of “teaching to the test” to keep these terms fresh in kids’ minds.  that is exactly what his teacher is doing this week — going over some of these terms.  I don’t feel it is “teaching to the test” per se, nor “test prep” but I feel it’s necessary to have 5th grade level math kids do well on a 3rd grade test.

I also kept an eye out for questions that I thought would be biased against certain groups of kids (which some people claim hurts lower socio-economic kids.)  They certainly attempt to include names of a wide variety of kids in the word problems.  There was a question about the weight of a baseball bat that I felt my son might not be familair with since he’s not a sports kid.  Perhaps that could be one that inner city kids wouldn’t know?

Overall, I find the reading for 3rd grade to be very eary and the math to be a little difficult, but that could just be my son’s abilities.

If you have any interesting experiences from your own school – what they’re doing to prepare for the ISATs, if you feel they should or shouldn’t be doing this, please share….


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74 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mia  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

    The first thing i want you to know is that (in my daughter’s experience anyway) the 3rd grade score was not a predictor of how she would do in the all important 7th grade year (she had an 88 in math in 3rd grade – 99 in 7th grade). Also, I never did any prep for her for ISATs, until last year. Whatever they did in school was it.

    She hated XRs, both math and reading, but I actually think they are good for their writing skills, so I have no problem with them. Also, they don’t count toward the SE portion of the test!

    She actually liked ISAT week, no homework, and a lot of relaxation time during the week whenever testing was done for the day (reading, movies, etc.).

  • 2. Last year at this time I was an obsessed 8th grade parent...  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    It’s my opinion that the ISATs are very loose in their administration, and I worry about their integrity as a result. I was appalled to find out that the same answer booklet is used over the period of several days; if a student felt he hadn’t done well on a previous day’s problems, there is little to prevent him/her from altering an answer. The schools are proctoring these, and they have a higher stakes in schoolwide success than in statewide validity.

    Yes, extended response – clearly something that is “practiced” now in elementary schools and is loathed by kids (and hence something I find awesome.)

  • 3. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    My child also attends a school where the curriculum is accelerated. During winter break he had 2 large packets of test prep to do, one in Reading and one in Math. The math packet counted for 2 test scores.

    Upon his return, test prep completely took over the 8th grade’s Reading class time — every day. No other work has been assigned. No novel or short story to read and no essays to write. Test prep is also assigned for homework every day and graded. Children are told to chart the speed with which they read the selection each time in order to increase their words per minute. Children must fill in the bubbles and then explain why they think the answer is correct on another sheet of paper — very tedious.

    The test prep selections are poorly written on a wide variety of unrelated topics and terribly, terribly boring. My child said, pointing to the pile of practice tests, I’ve learned nothing from all this.
    He is right.

    This is what Duncan’s Race to the Top and Emanuel’s IL SB7 have done to our curriculum. Those policies have made standardized tests the aim of education today. The tests are even more important than under NCLB, because results will be used to retain or dismiss teachers, under the new evaluation methods Duncan and Emanuel have pushed.

    And throughout the city year after year, 8th grade students tend to score lower than they did in 7th grade. It’s NOT b/c of poor quality teaching — as this trend exists in the regional gifted centers as well — but b/c of test fatigue. The 8th graders have to take entance exams for CPS, parochial and private h.s., along with the other tests like Scantron, benchmarks, and core standards tests.

    Th kids are tired of it, and are also smart enough to know that after 7th grade, the pressure to do well on the ISATs is behind them.

    Pity the poor 8th-level home room teacher, then. She will be judged by the test scores. The kids are doing this for her.

  • 4. Jo  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I believe in general standardize testing here is the US is an over kill and doesn’t tell us much about higher-order thinking skills . I was born in the UK and took the Eleven plus (11Y), O-level (16Y) and A-level (18Y) exams.

  • 5. JKR  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Is anyone “in the know” as to how ISAT tests are normed? It seems to me that when Illinois doesn’t like test results, they change the test.
    (going from previously nationally normed Iowa tests to the ISAT). Illinois will soon get rid of ACT testing for all juniors (they’ve already eliminated the writing portion).

  • 6. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Agreed Jo.

    The excessive testing is a boon for companies like Pearson and for online learning companies. Not at all good for kids.

  • 7. Private or Public?  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I have a question about standardized testing. As I understand it, all CPS schools have to administer not only the ISAT, but the DIBELS, the Scantron, and the Common Core. Does anyone know how much time is allotted to the Scantron and the Common Core (I’m leaving out the DIBELS b/c I believe it’s “only” for K-3 or K-4)? That is one big crock pot of testing. I spoke to a teacher today who thinks the DIBELS can be useful (to identify literacy problems early on) if applied correctly, but I’m not sure what the point of the other tests is.

  • 8. momof3boys  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    isn’t this the last year for ISAT’s? i was semi bummed since i had a plan for my kid. with the experiences from his two older bros, i had this down pat… oh well, back to the drawing board…

    on a side note, i was just talking to the asst principal at his school this morning and i found it kind of funny that she assumed that my son wanted to go to northside and looked at little shocked when i said that it was not his first choice and i sort felt i needed to explain…

  • 9. Christine  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Does anyone know about opting out of ISATs? It’s legal, apparently but I wonder about the fall out from the school.

  • 10. Private or Public?  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    @3, how long did this test prep take over your child’s classroom?

  • 11. Mia  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I agree with Anonymous completely about the damage being done to education nationally with the NCLB and the (is it possible – even worse?) Race to the Top. That teachers will be judged by this is horrible!

  • 12. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    10 — still going on, and ramping up. Last night for homework he had double the usual worksheets.

  • 13. kiki h.  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    My daughter’s magnet school has been all test prep all the time for a few months now. They also have after school test prep 3 days a week and just finished 4 weeks of Saturday test prep. We opted out of the after school prep, since it’s one of the longer day schools (8:15-5:00 with 20 min. recess, really?) and they have specific test prep times built into the daily schedule.

    Unfortunately, I’m really worried about my daughter doing okay on the isat. She’s a very sloppy reader. She misses little words all over the place, and I’m afraid that she’ll get a lot of questions wrong because of that. I’m hoping that, since she did well on Scantron, she’ll do well on isat too. I’ll sleep a lot better when this is over.

    And yes, they’re stressing the kids out over it. Threats of summer school and being held back. It makes me want to cry and run away to Park Ridge.

  • 14. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Here is a piece by a Rutgers ed professor on Bill Gates’ view of teachers as the problem in urban education. It explains how the new teacher evaluation model replicates an approach his company has taken toward its employees, since Microsoft’s long-term decline in profits has begun.

    Worth a read to know who is behind Duncan pushing these policies.

  • 15. kiki h.  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    BTW, isn’t common core going to replace ISAT?

  • 16. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Kiki — me too! The suburbs never looked so good.

  • 17. Last year at this time I was an obsessed 8th grade parent...  |  February 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Definitely think the “teaching to the test” is essential because of the terminology, especially in math. A lot of probability problems (5th and 7th grade ISAT) where it’s crucial to know what a “spinner” is and how dice work. I think in 5th grade my daughter knew how to calculate averages, but didn’t know they were also called “means” – that kind of stuff.

    Philosophically, I think one’s attitude toward standardized tests, their stakes for the student and a teacher’s accountability is a little like the difference between Federalism and localism was at the foundation of the United States. Do you think a distant and centralized power can be more impartial and therefore beneficial than a local, touchable and more accessible (hence influenceable) body?

    If the teachers had their druthers, they would teach what they wanted to teach and judge students by the teachers’ own idiosyncratic values. Whether we got a run of bad luck, or by design, I would have to say that in CPS, my daughter’s foreign language teachers (i.e., a subject that has no meaningful national testing stakes) have been the most idiosyncratic – bedeviling her with stupid things like whether her homework was done neatly enough or penalizing her severely for coming to class 30 seconds late from the bathroom. If this teacher’s continued employment and salary were based on …. oh, a simple test, like whether the kid could understand a newspaper article in the target language at the end of the year, I think the teacher would concentrate more on teaching vocabulary and grammer than making her workday more convenient.

    On the other hand, if the testers got their way, the teacher would essentially be reduced (?) to the role of tutor, and teacher evaluation would be as easy as looking at a column of numbers.
    There is a middle ground somewhere.

  • 18. Mia  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Was this teacher, by any chance, teaching latin at a RGC? I ask, only because it sounds like a particularly dreadful teacher my child has had (and still has).

  • 19. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    15 — that’s what we hear. The 42 states that have taken Race to the Top federal funds have been required to implement common core standards. They will need new tests.

    Btw, did you know that Mass. a a few others had to lower its standards to accept the Dept. of Ed’s common core standards?

    One benefit to common core standards is that multi-national corporations now have an easily scalable market for their technology-based educational products — testing, curriculum, and online textbooks – and everything can be easily delivered via the Internet.

    You-all should read an article by The Nation’s Lee Fang entitled, How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools.

  • 20. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    17 — you must be a history buff!

    I’m sure you had a conversation (or three) with the teacher and principal regarding fair treatment of your daughter.

    Whether that concern would be directly affected by the fact that teacher evaluations, retentions and dismissals are now going to be based on students’ tests cores, however, I can’t say for sure.

    But it is certain that if a principal wanted to get rid of a teacher, eh could add a greater number of special ed kids to her class and cross his fingers.

  • 21. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    11 — Diane Ravitch called Race to the Top “NCLB on steroids.”

  • 22. mom2  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    My child is in a panic about ISATs because the school told all the kids that if they don’t do well, they have to go to summer school. I think CPS forcing kids to go to summer school based on 60 questions (they use the same national percentile as the SEHS admissions/points) is crazy and awful for young kids. If CPS doesn’t trust the grades and teachers in their own schools to make that determination, then we have a serious problem. Does anyone know if you can fight a summer school assignment based on 2 days and 60 questions?

    Regarding extended response, I actually think it is valuable to learn how to write that way. It has helped my older child write for many different assignments over the years and was apparently a huge help in getting admitted to LPIB (according to Ms. Tookey).

    Regarding the test not always using words or terminology that could be biased, I noticed this during a practice session we did recently. They asked her to compare something (don’t recall what) to a sack of flour. She has never seen a “sack” of flour and thought it was the same thing as the paper bag (in her mind, a sack) of flour that we buy at the store. Got that practice problem wrong. I think there was also some questions that made the assumption you know about the how to play soccer and baseball in order to compare it to cricket.

  • 23. anonymous  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    mom2 — You might look for answers here. Look up their blogs and try emailing them. Good luck. (There is way too much pressure on students, teachers and principals now, imho.)

    Monty Neill,
    Julie Woestehoef, PURE
    George Schmidt, Substance News

  • 24. mom2  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    @23 – thank you

  • 25. Last year at this time I was an obsessed 8th grade parent...  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Way back up 18 – no I’m talking about THREE different teachers at three different schools, including high school. I think it represents an extreme as a result of lack of an objective, outside standard standard.

  • 26. ChicagoGawker  |  February 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Ok, I think you all have valid concerns, but here’s a counterpoint. My kid at a private, gets NO practice tests or coaching for the yearly standardized test at all. There are no days devoted to practicing the writing for the essays. The only mention of it is “Standardized testing is next week. Make sure your child has a good breakfast and goes to bed early.” I am concerned about how seriously my kid takes it and how much effort is applied. One year she got a 22%tile in spelling that had to be because she screwed up filing in the wrong bubble. I worry that she will not have had enough practice to do well on the all important 7th grade test.

  • 27. mom2  |  February 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    “One year she got a 22%tile in spelling that had to be because she screwed up filing in the wrong bubble.” – This is why kids shouldn’t be forced to go to summer school based on these tests.

    ChicagoGawker, I think I would rather be in your shoes and just give my kids some ISAT prep courses early in 7th grade. Sounds like you would have years of less stress and high self esteem and still enough time to learn how to take standardized tests before that important year.

  • 28. kiki h.  |  February 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I’m with mom2. There should be some room in a young kid’s life for filling in the wrong bubbles without being sent to summer school or, god forbid, being held back.

  • 29. Public or Private?  |  February 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    @13, “months” of test prep? Wow, I was thinking “weeks.” This is frightening. I have heard that the Common Core test will replace the ISAT. Which still leaves us with the DIBELS and the Scantron. Sigh.

  • 30. PortageParent  |  February 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    The transition to Common Core is beginning (preliminary assessments in some schools so far). It will replace the ISATs in 2014-2015. I recently emailed CPSo about it, hoping that she would do a post on the change. The 8th grade graduating class of 2015 will apparently be the first kids to have Core scores replace ISAT for their high school admissions. Today’s K and/or 1st graders will be the first to never see an ISAT at all. We were told by our principal that the Core is much more difficult. She said, as an example, in our school that currently averages 99% ish meets/exceeds on ISATs, to expect to see the first years scores to be more like 90 %. She said that most CPS schools would fall in the 30-40% range at first. Scary! When I think about the kids who have to be the guinea pig class for the change…well, I’m worried about it in terms of high school admittance.

  • 31. cpsobsessed  |  February 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Portageparent, sorry I have not posted anything on CC yet! I know so little about it, frankly.

    In theory though, if all the kids are scored on the same (new) test it shouldn’t really affect admissions, right? I guess the downside if for kids who have learned to “master” the isats over the years suddenly having a new test in 7th grade…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 32. Public or Private?  |  February 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Portageparent, thank you! This just in: Yet another test. Does anyone know if CPS is just going to pile the NWEA onto the rest of them, or if the NWEA is the assessment that is going to replace the ISAT?,0,5402673.story

  • 33. PortageParent  |  February 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    CPSo- No worries! I don’t expect you to just do posts on demand!

  • 34. Teacher Against Testing  |  February 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    As a 3rd grade teacher, I face tremendous pressure to “teach to the test.” All through grad school, we heard about how awful it is to teach “test prep” and how it is so much healthier for students to learn according to their own learning styles and use portfolios to determine student growth. However, CPS is ran by business people who only respond to numbers. The NWEA test is designed to compare students to themselves and actually measure their individual growth – and it appears that it will be replacing the ISAT in the next few years. The ISAT test is flawed in that each year, students are compared to the previous class test scores, not measuring their growth. As teachers, we feel so much pressure to prepare kids for the test because if our scores go down, informed parents (like the type who read this blog regularly, not like the parents at my school who don’t have computers) decide that the scores are too low and pull their students out to go to private or suburban schools. NCLB was a very poorly-conceived program that sets up unreal expectations.

  • 35. rmcd  |  February 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Standardized testing, as it is used in CPS, makes me sick. It’s a tail-chasing exercise: any performance or admission standard that relies on comparative percentiles will always have a bottom cohort, and that cohort will always fail, no matter how well they might be learning classroom material.

    These tests lead to all the wrong emphases, even at an early age. My son will start kindergarten this fall, and even though he’s already reading, I cannot stand CPS’ push to get kindergarteners reading come hell or high water, at the expense of teaching critical thinking, observation, and analysis. I would consider a 5-year-old who can make thematic conclusions and comparisons between different books and/or movies (as mine has done since long before he could read) to be a far more successfully educated child than one who can read phonetically but can’t understand or retain the content.

    We are looking at private schools as well as CPS, and our favorite school notes that they use Terra Nova not as a way to rank anyone or to prove their success as a school, but to help identify each individual kid’s particular challenges and then help him/her work on those needs. In other words, they use it as a tool to educate, rather than a random measure. What a refreshing change. Of course, it’s easier to actually educate your students when you don’t have 30 in a classroom with one teacher. But that’s a different rant 🙂

  • 36. anonymouseteacher  |  February 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    mcd, Just to reassure you, CPS kindergarten teachers spend tremendous amounts of time teaching critical thinking, comparisons between stories, connecting past experiences to literature, and other higher level thinking skills. I teach kindergarten and this is how I run my classroom. (the same goes for math and science) However, you are correct in that there is a huge push for all kids to be reading. And there are too many kids in a room.

  • 37. Answers on NWEA TESTING/COMMON CORE STANDARDS  |  February 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Common Core are standards in education. Common Core is not a test.
    Common Core is not a curriculum.

    NWEA Is a test given to kids on a computer. The test follows the child. As the child answers the questions correctly the questions get more challenging. The test will stop if the child is not answering the questions correctly. The test will also rank your child nationally. My daughter takes it 3 or 4 times a year at school. With each test she improves.
    The test is taken in the first weeks of school to guage where your child is entering school, then it is given at the end of the 2nd quarter to see where the child is mid year and then one more time in May as the year is ending. The scores follow the child every year. so you can compare a Spring score to the following Fall school. it is a unique test and gives parents so much more information about where the child stands academically. I like how it ranks your child nationally. Fortunately we always get good news . The downside is that if your child is having a bad day and just gets a few questions wrong the test will shut down. I even heard at some schools where kids dont care simply answer the questions wrong to get out of testing but I am sure that does not happen much or it just depends on the climate of the school.
    I am very happy to hear the NWEA is going district wide

  • 38. anonymouseteacher  |  February 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Actually, while common core standards ARE standards, there is a test called Common Core that will measure how well students have mastered those standards. My administrator has been told that the district does not expect even a third of CPS students to pass the Common Core exam when it begins.

  • 39. rmcd  |  February 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Thank you, anonymousteacher — that makes me feel better. Though I still think kindergarten is too early to push reading 🙂

  • 40. Esmom  |  February 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    I can’t believe the summer school threat is real. Has anyone confirmed that? I have a feeling it’s a scare tactic. A despicable one, at that. My son had tremendous ISAT anxiety at our old CPS school. The pressure was, I think, inadvertent, but still very real. I think the threat of summer school would have pushed him into a full-blown nervous breakdown.

  • 41. Sped Mom  |  February 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Schools are telling kids they’ll have to go to summer school?! You’ve got to be kidding. Do you know how hard it is to get summer school for the kids with disabilities who severely need it?! Those teachers must be making idle threats. But, who knows? Anyone?

  • 42. mom2  |  February 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Click to access 605.2.pdf

    This link explains the need to get above the 24th percentile on the ISATS or they must take summer school in order to be promoted to the next grade level

  • 43. Sped Mom  |  February 28, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks. I see it applies to certain years:

    Elementary School Promotion Standards For Students in 3rd, 6th and 8th Grades

  • 44. AW  |  February 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    This is really helpful info — thanks to everyone who explained the Common Core. I really haven’t heard much of anything about the change. And I must admit that a new test makes me nervous for high school admissions (apparently my oldest will be in the second group admitted to high school under the new test).

    Re: test prep, my (admittedly limited) experience is that very little test prep is done in my son’s RGC to get ready for the ISATs — and he did well last year without much prep (99 math / 97 reading). This year there seems to been even less prep…. so it should be interesting to see if he does about the same. However, in light of the testing change and after reading the high school posts, the possibility of an academic center placement is suddenly looking very attractive.

  • 45. mom2  |  March 1, 2012 at 7:50 am

    It appears you can “opt out” of taking any standardized test in Illinois, but in CPS, if you do that in grades 3, 6 or 8 for the ISATS, they can hold your child back from getting into the next grade.

  • 46. reading at an early age becareful what you wish for....  |  March 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Speaking of pushing reading at kindergarten my daughter has been diagnosed with Myopia, Near Sighted. Myopia just gets worse because every perscription gets stronger and stronger. tHe doctor stated that Myopia is becoming epidemic with young school age chlldren because they are reading up close causing the eye muscles to strain. hence near sightedness. My daughter reads up close with the computer and with books at home. This is causing lots of problems with her sight. She is now 8 years old. I am afraid she will be wearing coke bottle glasses by 5th grade. Your damned if you do and damned if you dont. If you are having this problem with your child, I have been looking into alternative therapies for eye strain. There are lots of work- outs you can give your eyes to stretch the muscles without laser surgery. fyi

  • 47. Magnet mom  |  March 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    #rd, at my kid’s magnet school, they have been doing test prep as part of their regular stuff for the past month. In social studies and in reading/writing, they have been doing those “extended response” sheets which I have no problem with since my kid needs to organize this thoughts. It’s helped for sure. His anxiety isn’t so bad although they did mention to the kids about summer school which I thought was mental. The administrators had a meeting with the parents and said to not worry about it all and don’t bother stressing your kids at home with extra prep.

  • 48. northcentermom  |  March 1, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    My daughter’s classroom has been doing incredible amounts of ISAT prep since they returned from Winter Break. I’m so over this! There has not been one social studies lesson since early January, science has moved from studying units to review and cramming, bouncing from topic to topic. Every year the principal stands up at the open house and states that they don’t teach to the test. We are at a neighborhood school which gets very good ISAT scores. How can you state that you don’t teach to the test when most of the assignments that are graded and on parent portal are specifically ISAT practice packets or ISAT Coach review units!

    I agree with the private schools who don’t spend an enormous amount ot time doing test prep then use the tests to identify challenges or areas where a student may be working above or below grade level. Isn’t that how standardized tests are supposed to work. I can see the value in some practice so kids become comfortable with the format, but 8 weeks of worksheets is crazy. Students are being robbed of real instruction and learning.

    The kids are stressed and becoming turned off on learning because of all the worksheets. Like a previous poster mentioned, there has been no novel or literary study since before the Holidays. I have not seen any writing assignments outside of extended response practice. It has been all reading comprehension and these “packets” that “instruct” on different literary and language elements. I honestly don’t think there has been much instruction at all lately, just work packets and review. Maybe if CPS did actual instruction for the 8 weeks leading up to ISATs we would not be talking about a longer day or longer year!

    We have been extremely supportive of public education in general, and our school in particular, but are seriously considering a move.

  • 49. cps alum  |  March 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Don’t blame the schools…. blame NCLB and all of the education reformers! CPS closes schools, fires teachers and principals based on test scores. Principals will soon get bonuses based on test scores and teachers will be rated based on student progress. School districts loose federal money if their schools don’t meet AYP. The stakes are so high that teachers are mandated to do test prep because that is all that the board, politicians or the public look at to rate the quality of the school. Teachers hate test prep… but their principals mandate it. Teachers would much prefer to do innovative lessons that build critical thinking skills, but the ISATs don’t test for this. The fun subjects — science, social studies, art and music aren’t tested, so why concentrate on those. I fear it will only become worse when Common Core is instated.

    This isn’t only in the city, but occurring in many suburbs too. I get the sense that most of the people on this board didn’t go to city schools and remember what it was like in their own schools 20 years ago. Well I went to CPS schools in the 80’s I don’t remember much test prep outside of a week or so Junior year before the ACT test.

    As a public school teacher in the suburbs it pains me to say that it seems the only way to get away from the test prep is to go “off grid”. Private schools don’t have conform to NCLB, so they can actually teach kids.

  • 50. Laura  |  March 1, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    My reading class has done some review this week with literary elements and figurative language. They are in 8th grade and really have just been burned out. We take MAP/NWEA three times a year. We did Common Core once this year. And a good chunk of them tested for Selective Enrollment and private schools. As teachers, we are hearing that ISAT is soon on its way out, as we are instructed not to even use the Illinois State Standards any more. I love MAP/NWEA because the results are immediate, it gives me data to plan my instruction, it tells me who needs extra help in certain areas, and it is nationally normed. ISAT does none of that.
    The pressure we endure is definitely from Central Office, but I often think those bankers on the board would not be able to pass most of the tests they make our students take.

  • 51. kiki h.  |  March 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Is MAP/NWEA the same as Scantron?

  • 52. Harry Jozefowicz  |  March 2, 2012 at 8:37 am

    To the mom who is worried about teaching to the ISAT. The schools are graded on how well the students perform on the ISATS. This is normal throughout the system. You need to monitor your child ISAT scores immediately. 4th grade scores count toward entry into Ogden Gifted. 5th grade scores count toward entry into Academic Centers. And 7th grade scores count toward SEHS’s. Good Luck. Push for 110% effort and that is all you can do and throw away the video games. My son just nailed it. 300 out of 300. Total score 894. Lane tech alpha plus he plays baseball. Green n Gold forever. LT Alum.

  • 53. CJ  |  March 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I believe this will be the last year for the ISATs. The new thing is something called Common Core. The thing about the ISATs is that they are used to judge a school’s success and the students’. Can one test do that? I like the benchmarks better for my daughter’s progress.

  • 54. anonymouseteacher  |  March 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    My school had a pep rally for the ISATs. I watched part of it and thought, “aren’t pep rallies supposed to be for happy events?”

  • 55. Bookworm  |  March 2, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Thank heavens we don’t have pep rallies or any pressure at our school. I think it best to ignore the isat as long as you can.
    To a large extent even scantrons are a snap shot of one day especially if taken out of the context of a pattern of results.
    Parents lament teaching to the test but choose school models that support this kind of thinking- down to silly tests to get in. Whatever testing measures are used in the future will they really be better?
    If no one believes the isats an adequate mesure why does everyone on this site love to crow about their kid’s scores?

  • 56. Westloopeducator  |  March 3, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I hope that all the liberals who continue to vote the Chicago democrats into office are now happy that their children have no chance of success in education. Emmanuel now and Daley before him are only interested in pandering to the black and Latino voter bases and could care less about middle class average white kids. Emmanuel just wants you to leave the city anyway as everything he does with the schools is an attempt for him to raise more money for future runs for office. He does not care about CPS but only the La Salle Street and Hyde park monied crowd. He will continue to do everything in his power to get what he wanst as he is an authoritarian dictator devoid of democratic principles. When he made his horrid comment about 25% of the students in CPS not amounting to anything, it was never picked up by the media in a big way. He has bought and sold this city for so many pieces of silver.

  • 57. midschlSCIENCE  |  March 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    My take on it is this:

    Could the aims of my curriculum

    And the ISAT Science test (or the NWA for that matter) be any more divergent?

    I am fortunate to have a principal who somewhat recognizes that test prepping kids for the 7th Science test makes scores go up a little. Doing the opposite does the opposite – whoop de doo! How about that for data analysis, this years kids know the difference between palmate and pinnate leaves! monocots and dicots! meiosis
    and mitosis! exo and endothermic! Charles Darwin m^&7rf9ckin evolution!

    The exec. summary of the common core manifesto points to this trivial pursuit vs. authentic assessment. Let’s hope districts can live up to new means of testing student growth in Science

    We’ve been studying Energy since coming back from the break.
    I had the 7th kids do the prep book (and the grading) on their own and I’ve been signing off on a checklist since Nov. Last week I cut out the checklists and threw away the books.

  • 58. cps alum  |  March 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I just spoke to a friend in Northbrook. Her 5th grade son has been in tears and worried sick for the last week about the upcoming ISATs. He is a great kid, very smart, but he is not a good test taker. He is really down on himself about how he is going to perform. My friend, who is from another country, just can’t understand all the stress put on kids over a stupid test.

    My point is this that this madness is happening even in the suburbs with the best schools.

  • 59. Chicago Mama  |  March 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    @ 45 – only if your kid doesn’t go to summer school for not taking ISAT can he be held back. I wonder whether this policy is actually enforced ? Anyone know a kid who flunked for not taking ISAT or summer school?

    @ 49 – I went to college with a CPS valedictorian who’d never take algebra. I’m not sure the 80s and 90s were such a great time for CPS either.

    Ive noticed very little test prep for ISATs at our school.

  • 60. anonymous  |  March 31, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Harry Jozefowicz giving advice is a joke. Of course he lives thru his kid. Why not, after his loan on his former home on Kilpatrick was foreclosed, he filed bankruptcy case #09BK34698, and he swindled his girlfriend of four-and-a-half years out of $30,000 by promising to marry her, then broke up with her via text message? He is under investigation for a domestic assault committed in January 2012. His red 2009 Ford Escape is currently the subject of a lawsuit pending repossession. But he will continue to rant “YOU NEED TO…” to try to feel superior to other parents. Follow your own instincts, not his.

  • 61. mayfairam  |  May 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Does any one have information regarding the fall ISAT make up testing? I am having a tough time finding any info on the ISAT website.

  • 62. Get cats Meow Toys  |  June 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once

  • 63. WLMom  |  July 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    The 2013 ISAT scores for all CPS schools have been posted at You may look for your overall school score. It’s under Assessment Reports. They are all in excel files.

  • 64. anonymouse teacher  |  July 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Its interesting. The chart shows that in CPS overall, for the composite score for 2013, around 10% of students exceed standards. I’d love to see how many of those kids who exceed are in the top 10-20% economically-city wide of all CPS kids–my guess is there’s a strong relationship. There were only 13 schools that had half their students exceeding, and nearly all of those were gifted/classicals.
    I was kind of depressed to see, that even with all the work my colleagues and I put in this year, even with the longer day,my school still has about 30% of our kids not meeting standards. I know we have a lot of students with IEPs and a lot of ELLs and I know we did better than many schools, but still.

  • 65. IB obsessed  |  July 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    @65 Well what % of the students at your school are ELLs and Spec Ed? If it’s close to 30%, then don’t be discouraged. It makes sense that big measurable gains with those students take years to accomplish.

  • 66. local  |  July 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    From district299 blog:

    Rodestvan said 4 hours, 7 minutes ago

    The Chicago Public Schools yesterday released a statement on the standardized test scores of elementary school students with disabilities using the Illinois State Standards Test (ISAT). This year the Illinois State Board of Education raised what is called the cut scores for meeting or exceeding standards on the ISAT and the percentage of all students meeting or exceeding was expected to drop sharply.

    Only 52.5 percent of the district’s elementary students met or exceeded state academic standards in 2013 covering math, reading, and science. Which is a nearly 22-percentage-point plunge from a year earlier.

    CPS did not think it was fair to compare the percentages of students meeting or exceeding using the new more difficult cut scores so they performed what is called a recalculation of all ISAT test scores going back to 2001 for comparative purposes. Based on this approach CPS issued a press release stating: “Chicago Public Schools today released preliminary data from the 2013 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) showing that the District’s Meets or Exceeds (M/E) composite scores grew by 1.8 percent this year marking 12 years of progress made by CPS elementary school students with 65% of all schools increasing their M/E scores.”

    The press release discussed various demographic groups, but not students with disabilities, I wondered why? Today I was able to download the full CPS report including the recalculated current data for students with disabilities and for those without. What did it show?

    In 2013 16.5% of CPS elementary school students who were tested on the ISAT meet or exceeded state standards, in 2012 using the recalculated data only 15.5% were meeting or exceeding state standards. So on the face of it there was a small improvement. But federal law under the No Child Left Behind Act measures disabled students relative to the performance of their non-disabled peers using the “gap” between their performance scores as the critical indicator. So looked at in this way we see in 2013 57.8% CPS non-disabled elementary school students were meeting or exceeding standards and back in 2012 55.8% of non-disabled elementary school students were meeting or exceeding standards.

    So in terms of the “gap” in 2012 it was 40.3 percentage points and in 2013 it was 41.3 points. Comparatively year to year things actually got worse for disabled CPS students compared to non-disabled students even using CPS recalculated data. But to put this in perspective if we go back to 2001 and look at the “gap” between CPS students with and without disabilities we find it was only 19 percentage points.

    Simply put students with disabilities in the Chicago Public Schools have been left completely behind.

    Rod Estvan

  • 67. local  |  July 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Re: ELL & Sped
    “It makes sense that big measurable gains with those students take years to accomplish.”

    Hmm. I wonder if that’s actually true. It might seem like “common sense” but I wonder if it’s true. If appropriate and adequate resources and techniques are employed, I think these students can make leaps and bounds within even one year (must have read that somewhere or heard it from sped specialists).

  • 68. anonymouse teacher  |  July 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    @66, nearly 70% of our students are ELL and or poverty level. And I think we have about 15% sped. I appreciate the gentle response though. I really want to see more progress, and we did improve again this year, I guess I have the goal of “until they all make it” in my head.
    @68, The best research on language acquisition indicates it takes between 5-7 years for a child to fully catch up to peers who speak English as their first language. Children can be nearly perfect verbally and still have serious deficits in reading and writing. Those of us in the bilingual/ESL field understand reading and writing to be the iceberg issues below the surface of the water. These skills are much, much more difficult to develop. I do believe “appropriate and adequate resources and techniques” help though and that its important to hold high standards for all kids.

  • 69. Chris  |  July 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

    @61 Usually you have to call your local school to determine if, and when, they will be holding make-ups. There is a general window of time during which they can be held and, in the past, the school could select a range of dates during that time. Previously, the school would have to individually order the materials, so you’ll want to contact the testing coordinator with enough time for them to order tests for the grade level of your child.

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