A Parent’s Guide to Standardized Tests in Chicago Public Schools

This is a DRAFT prepared with the CORE Testing Task Force. If you know of additional tests or have corrections, please email me.

If your child attends Chicago Public Schools, they are subject to a complicated and overwhelming system of standardized tests. While students are repeatedly filling in bubbles on answer sheets and preparing to fill in bubbles on answer sheets, they are missing out on the fun, creative, exploration of the world that education could and should be about. Instead, the current testing regime replaces the joy of learning with the bureaucracy of learning. Parents, we are not alone in our feeling that these tests terrorize our students, our fellow parents, our student’s teachers and our entire schools.

Standardized Tests in Chicago Public Schools.
Test Frequency and population Description
First and Second Grade
DIBELS 3 times a year

All students

  • Arch-nemesis of elementary school teachers largely because it must be administered orally and individually, usually without additional support. Thus, while the teacher is in the hall testing one student at a time for days and days, what are the other students doing? Watching movies or busywork, unsupervised. Ask your child, she’ll tell you.
Third through Eighth Grade
ISAT Once a year, for an entire week

All students

  • Ultimate terror for every child. If your 3rd, 6th or 8th grade child doesn’t score higher than 1 in 4 of her peers, she’ll flunk and have to attend summer school. No matter what her grades were. Then, if she doesn’t score higher than 1 in 4 of his peers then, she’ll have to repeat the grade. And, even though your child tests for a week, CPS only uses only one of the math and reading sessions to determine promotion. Thus, 30 or 40 bubbles can overrule an entire year of evaluations from your student’s teacher.
  • That same subsection is used to determine if your seventh grader can take another test for potential enrollment in a selective enrollment school.
  • Also, if your child’s school doesn’t score to keep up with ever-increasing state requirements, the entire school faces possible closure.
  • And, by the way, the test is SECRET. The tests are never made public.
  • In 2008, the state incorrectly scored the ISAT. Thus, CPS sent thousands to summer school based on faulty scores.
Benchmark testing Three times a year for three days each

All students

  • Incredibly boring and redundant.
  • Tests basically the same information as the ISAT.
  • Not currently a high-stakes test.
Constitution Test Once a year

Seventh and Eighth grade

  • Students must pass this test, one on the state constitution and one on the federal constitution, to graduate.
  • The blue study booklet is hated by all.
  • It is purely a memory test.
  • If she fails, she takes it over and over.
ACCESS Once a year, for three days and more.

English Language Learners but often affects all students

  • Does this test know what’s best for your child? CPS thinks so. If your child tests to a certain score, she is removed from the bilingual program. If she can not test to that score, she will never be removed.
  • Students are tested in English proficiency in four? different tests, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking? The speaking portion is administered individually, thus your child is pulled out of class, missing whatever the teacher is teaching for that time period.
  • Even if your child is not an English Language Learner, she might be affected. For instance, if the Language Arts teacher is testing one class, your child cannot go to Language Arts.
Curriculum-based” 4 times a year

Special Education students

  • Despite being “included”, your child is removed from her general education class and tested again and again.
  • Worth noting, while special education students are often set in a general education, when standardized tests come around, they are quite obviously removed from the rest of the class to test.
Explore Once a year for two days

Eighth graders

  • More of the same. Two sections test basically the same information as the ISAT. The other section is an interest inventory designed to “help” students select a career.
  • The results from this test are used to “program” students in high school. In other words, students are placed in remedial or advanced classes based on this test rather than student, parent, or teacher input.
High school entrance exam Once a year

Selected seventh graders

  • AGAIN testing basically the same information as the ISAT.
  • This test, combined with the student’s ISAT scores, provides most of the determination as to whether your child will be the one of ten to get in to a selective enrollment high school.
  • SECRET test, not viewable by the public.
Algebra exit exam Once a year to eighth graders
  • Students must pass this exam to get high school credit for their Algebra class.
NAEP, Scantron, TRC
  • Other tests your school may have signed up for or been selected to take
Total 15 days minimum.

24 days for an eighth grade special education, English language learner (which does happen)

A massive waste of time, money and energy that bores your child and makes school boring.

We have listed these as “days” of testing because a 1 ½ hour test disrupts the entire schedule of a school day: classes are eliminated or shortened, bilingual or special education services are eliminated or shortened, even lunch may be switched to a cold lunch or have its regular time moved.