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Chicago Parents Form Coalition to Promote State Test Boycott

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An alliance of Chicago Public Schools parent groups is encouraging students not to take the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

The planned Chicago boycott illustrates the growing frustration among parents nationwide who say they are concerned about the effectiveness and excessive nature of standardized testing. A new national coalition, called the Testing Resistance & Reform Spring, announced earlier this month that it is working to coordinate grassroots boycotts, protests, and petitions aimed at reducing and modifying student testing in an effort to secure large-scale reforms. In New York, for example, parents and educators are holding a rally March 29 called "iRefuse—the Great American Opt-Out" at a Port Jefferson Station high school football field on Long Island.

Representatives from the Chicago group, More Than A Score, launched its boycott this week, announcing that so far 500 children at 29 schools won't take the ISAT, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune. Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) and the Chicago Teachers Union are among the groups forming the coalition.

Chicago is replacing the ISAT with the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress assessment—known as the NWEA MAP test—which will be used for school and student assessments, promotions, and eligibility to competitive schools. But the Tribune story says that district officials still want students to take the state test in order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

More Than A Score has launched an online petition protesting the administration of the ISAT in Illinois and has almost 1,500 signatures. The group's website provides parents with guidance on opting out of the tests, including form letters.

Earlier this year, Chicago Public Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett was criticized for writing a letter to parents that highlighted the importance of taking the NWEA MAP test for school promotions and admission into competitive schools, according to a Tribune storyWhile the Chicago Teachers Union said Byrd-Bennett was trying to "scare" parents from opting out, a district spokeswoman said in the story that the letter was "consistent with our pledge of transparency and parental choice."

Now this week, Byrd-Bennett issued a letter to principals warning that teachers' state education certification would be at risk for refusing to administer the ISAT, according to a story published in the Chicago Sun-Times

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