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More standardized tests in Illinois schools? Vote delayed as educators raise alarms

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CHICAGO — A proposal to require Illinois public schools to give standardized tests three times during the next academic year instead of once — intended to better track students’ progress post-pandemic — has been put on pause to give educators and parents more time to weigh in, officials said Thursday.

The Illinois State Board of Education was tentatively scheduled to vote June 16 to issue a request for proposals to design and deliver a new interim assessments for elementary students.

“Educators and families went to incredible lengths to keep students on track throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next few years will be critically important to helping students reach their fullest potential,” ISBE said in an online fact sheet. “These assessments allow teachers to pinpoint knowledge gaps and immediately adjust instruction and support to match students’ needs.”

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But while the plan it still in early stages, the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers decried the idea as “not the way to best serve our students.”

“When assessments happen like this, good teaching comes to a halt,” Dan Montgomery said Thursday. “Test prep in the classroom would not just happen once a year, in the spring, but throughout the year. We’re saying, ‘Hey, time out.’ Our students and teachers are exhausted.”

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The plan would create more “state mandated, high-stakes standardized testing for students and will cost over $200 million,” Montgomery said, adding that the union is asking ISBE to “engage the public, including students, parents, educators, and assessment experts, before seeking a new testing approach.”

ISBE did not confirm that figure.

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Officials at the Illinois Education Association, who signed on with IFT and other education groups to a statement opposing the proposal, said they “hope that ISBE puts the brakes on this and takes time to get input from all the stakeholders — educators, parents, everyone.”

“We learned throughout the pandemic that collaboration among stakeholders leads to the best outcomes, and this is no exception,” IEA spokeswoman Bridget Shanahan said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education denied a request from hundreds of Illinois school districts and State Superintendent Carmen Ayala that federally mandated testing be waived for a second year due to pandemic hardships.

Instead, the federal education department gave Illinois school districts the flexibility to postpone the Illinois Assessment of Readiness tests until the fall — an option rejected by the vast majority of school districts, who tested students this past spring.

ISBE spokesman Max Weiss said in a Thursday email that, “The proposed (request for sealed proposal) for the new interim assessment will not be included on the June board meeting agenda.”

“We are continuing to gather stakeholder feedback on how to improve this federally required assessment to make it a shorter, more useful, actionable, and equitable tool for teachers and families, which is our goal,” Weiss said.

Montgomery, with the IFT, said if concerns from educators and parents prompted the state board to hold off on voting on the new assessment proposal, “good for them.”

“They listened to teachers and constituents who are saying, ‘We need stakeholder involvement, and we need to reduce, not increase, student testing,’” Montgomery said.


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