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IFT Takes on Over-testing

4/14/2014

Across the country, the public is realizing something teachers have always known  - that the increasing calls for accountability and standardized testing over the last decade are hurting students and education. A report released in 2013 by the American Federation of Teachers confirmed that unnecessary over-testing is reducing critical instruction time and detrimental to kids.

As a byproduct of so many tests and accountability measures, vast amounts of personal, professional, and performance data is being collected from teachers and students. The collection and tracking of the data has created privacy concerns, as well.

Delegates to the 2013 Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) Convention passed Resolutions (No. 4, 12, and 23) that recognized these issues, and the union is dealing with them head on. During this session of the General Assembly, the IFT has been working with other education stakeholders to introduce and advocate for three important bills to ensure data privacy and determine just how testing is impacting our kids.

K-2 Testing
Studies have already shown that intensive testing on our youngest learners causes undue stress and anxiety. To ensure that K-2 students aren’t subject to high-stakes testing before they are developmentally and emotionally ready, we have introduced SB 3460. The bill would prohibit the administering of any test on K-2 students that is not diagnostic in nature or necessary to identify academic needs. While the legislature hasn’t yet taken up this bill, its Senate sponsor (Cunningham) is scheduling a subject matter hearing to examine the issue. The hearing is expected to take place in Chicago in late April. Both IFT and the Chicago Teachers Union plan to testify at this hearing.  

Impact of Testing
The IFT is also advocating for HB 5330, a bill designed to get a complete picture of the impact of testing in Illinois. This bill requires the formation of a task force to study the cost, number of assessments at the state and district levels, and amount of critical instructional time lost due to testing. The task force would include teachers, parents, school board members, and other stakeholders. By May 2015, the group would develop a comprehensive report and make recommendations to the General Assembly to help lawmakers make informed decisions about education and testing.

HB 5330 passed the House with bipartisan support in March. It is expected be considered in the Senate before session ends in May.

Data Privacy
To ensure that data collected by the Illinois State Board of Education is securely stored in the digital “cloud,” we are working to pass SB 3092. The bill would protect students’ and educators’ personally identifiable information while in the care of third party vendors. The bill also requires accountability of educational entities or contractors with access to that data. It would restrict third party vendors from using the data for commercial purposes without consent, as well as strengthen data protection under state statutes for students and teachers. 

This bill was recently amended to reflect concerns from some higher education stakeholders, and will likely be considered by the legislature in late April.

We know that these privacy and testing issues are critical to our students' education. The IFT will continue to lobby for passage of these important bills on behalf of our members and Illinois students.


To stay informed on the status of these IFT initiatives and other important legislation, visit www.ift-aft.org weekly for Legislative Updates.



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