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Education Leaders Call on ISBE to Go Back to the Drawing Board on Assessments

After a report commissioned by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) found that ISBE's proposal for overhauling the state assessment for grades 3-8 needs major revision, a coalition of education advocacy groups including the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and Illinois Families for Public Schools held a press conference this morning urging ISBE to adopt several of the report’s recommendations.

Beginning in December 2021, at the request of ISBE, the Center for Assessment (CFA) surveyed educators and conducted focus groups with education leaders statewide to gather feedback about the state’s proposal. CFA used the responses to develop assessment recommendations.

During the press conference, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery stressed that the number one issue in teaching right now is the overtesting of students.

“Our testing regime has gone too far. Students are tested and tested under the current testing regime, and we're teaching children that school isn't about learning, it's about a series of tests. The right assessments are integrated into what's happening in the classroom.”

CFA’s primary findings show there is very little support for a statewide interim assessment system for grades K- 8 and that any local use of interim tests should be decoupled from high-stakes accountability measures used to evaluate and rate schools. Interim or “through-year” testing means three-times-a-year rather than annually administering the state test. The coalition – along with parents, teachers, and legislators – has opposed ISBE’s proposal to increase testing since it was released a year ago.

“We’re talking about culturally-relevant, curriculum-embedded assessments. Not an outside, commercialized source – but actually creating authentic assessments tied and aligned to curriculum. We have the resources that we haven’t had in a generation – we need to put them toward good use in restructuring these systems that we know haven’t served our most vulnerable,” said Illinois Federation of Teachers Director of Union Professional Issues Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith.

Some of the additional recommendations include:

  • ISBE should improve current state assessments to the extent possible under the current testing vendor contract, including shortening the time it takes to get test results back to educators and families and improving the information that is shared when scores are reported.

  • The state should take a lead role in articulating what balanced assessment systems look like and providing professional development on the effective use of a variety of assessment information, including classroom-based formative assessment practices.

  • The state should develop a theory of action for state assessments: what does ISBE expect to achieve via the implementation of a state assessment system beyond compliance with federal testing requirements?

  • The development of a plan for revamping the state test system should proceed “deliberately and responsively.”

Chicago Public School elementary school teacher Aaron Bingea said, “Any momentum developed in your learning community that you work so hard for as a teacher is immediately broken every time you have to give a state test or a standardized test."

The education coalition will continue to urge ISBE to work with educators, families, and assessment experts to build a more balanced assessment system. Visit the Teach not Test campaign page for more information.

20th District State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas concluded by saying, “As legislators, we have the responsibility to lock arms with our educators, with our parents, with our community leaders about what is possible. We need to reimagine and we need to recommit to that because we know that what happened in the past did not work."

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