Despite the fact that the federal government only mandates standardized testing for 3rd grade and up, the Illinois State Board of Education wants to add K-2nd grade to the state standardized testing system via the new three-times-per year interim test they are proposing, which would look much like the NWEA MAP or other commercial through-year standardized tests.
This K-2nd testing would officially be optional, but the state would cover the cost for districts, and with the high-stakes of 3-8th grade testing, most districts would make use of it.
Please add yourself as a signatory of this petition to ISBE. We'll be delivering it before ISBE votes on the new state testing plan later this year. We're also working on legislation to prohibit state testing before 3rd grade; you can read about it here.
Tell ISBE: No state testing before third grade! K-2 is too young to test!
There is absolutely no reason to subject our youngest learners in Illinois, whom we want to engage in the love of learning and the joy of school via exploration, inquiry and play, to the pressures of standardized testing, sorting and tracking at the age of 5. Early childhood learning should be free from this harmful practice. As the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) states, “Standardized testing in the early years causes stress, does not provide useful information, leads to harmful tracking and labeling of children, causes teaching to the test, and fails to set conditions for cooperative learning and problem-solving.”
State standardized testing in K-2 is not valid and reliable, not required by federal law and not wanted by the majority of teachers, parents and administrators who know that standardized testing isn't developmental appropriate for children under age 8. Kids this age are in a period of rapid and uneven growth; their physical, cognitive and social-emotional well-being will be negatively impacted by devoting time to testing. And their learning potential should not be judged on what a standardized test might show at any given moment of their school day. Illinois currently uses the KIDS observational assessment for kindergartners, which is a tool where teachers collect observational data, and it is not used as a high-stakes accountability test, and this is different then what ISBE is now proposing for K-2.
Moreover, most countries do not subject students to annual standardized testing—even when they are eight years and older. It is very common to use standardized tests no more than once in grade school, once in middle and once in high school (="grade band testing".) We are already overtesting older students and do not need to extend this problem to students ages 5-7 who may not even have the fine motor skills to take such tests or emotional capacity to comprehend and cope with testing. ISBE, we urge you to drop this inappropriate and ill-conceived plan.
Public comment at December 15, 2021 ISBE meeting from Cassie Creswelll, IL-FPS directorRead more
New research shared in Ed Week recently confirms what ed experts have been saying for years, which is that tying teacher and admin evaluations to student test scores is deeply unfair in inequitable school systems, harmful to school culture, and not beneficial to student achievement. Researchers from Brown, Michigan State, University of Connecticut and UNC Chapel Hill analyzed a multitude of data from 2009 to 2018 and found no evidence that this policy had even a small positive effect on student achievement.Read more
As we’ve shared, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has been talking about adding an additional state test for months, which would increase state testing to 3x a year and add an optional—but state-funded—component to test students in K-2 even though the feds don’t mandate state testing for students under 3rd grade. We’ve been part of a coalition working with teachers, assessment experts and other orgs to push back against this, as the type of interim test ISBE wants to use has been shown to have harmful effects on teaching and learning, and is not supposed to be used as high-stakes.Read more
EVERY CHILD CAN REFUSE STATE TESTING!
Especially this year, using time and money to administer state tests isn’t what our children and our schools need:
(Español sigue abajo)
What is state testing in Illinois for Grades 3–8?
State testing in Illinois for Grades 3–8 consists of a series of tests. Nearly all students in Grades 3–8 take the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), which tests students in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Students in Grades 5 and 8 also take a science test (ISA). Students with severe learning disabilities take a different test, called the DLM-AA. Students who are English Language Learners also take a test called ACCESS, which tests their proficiency with the English language.
How is state testing different in 2021?
Unlike previous years, results from state tests will not be used for rating schools or for other state accountability purposes. School districts will have more flexibility about when to administer the test. And no school will face penalties this year for low participation, including loss of funding.
What is opting out of the state tests?
“Opting out” of the test is a decision not to take the tests.
How can my child opt out of taking the state tests in 2021?
In Illinois, a parent can request that a child opt out of the tests but children must refuse the test themselves. We recommend that the parent submit a letter to the school indicating that the child will not take the state tests. However, the child must also inform the teacher that she or he will not be taking the tests. You can use these sample letters to opt out of the tests: bit.ly/ILOPTOUT2021 (in English & Spanish)
What if I have chosen remote learning for my child?
All state tests must be taken in person, even if the parents have chosen remote learning for their child. Families that have chosen remote learning can opt out of the tests if they don’t want their child to go to school to take the tests. You do not have to send your child to school just to participate in state testing.
Will my child be penalized for not taking the test?
No. There are no consequences for not testing and your child should not be punished for opting out of the state test.
Will state tests help my child or school in 2021?
The unique challenges of this school year, including changes to the test administration, mean that the test results this year cannot be used reliably to compare with results from previous years. The delays in getting test results to schools mean they will not provide information that can be used to help your child this year. Schools and teachers will gather better information from everyday instruction that will be more useful for helping your child learn.
What will my child do when tests are being administered to other children?
Students should be given an alternative educational activity while other children are taking the test.
Optar por No Participar en las Pruebas Estandarizadas de Illinois en 2021
¿Que es la prueba estatal en Illinois para los grados 3–8?
Las pruebas estatales en Illinois para los grados 3–8 consisten en una serie de pruebas. Casi todos los estudiantes en los grados 3–8 toman la Evaluación de Preparación de Illinois (IAR), que evalúa a los estudiantes en Artes del Lenguaje Inglés y Matemáticas. Los estudiantes de los grados 5 y 8 también toman un examen de ciencias (ISA). Los estudiantes con discapacidades de aprendizaje severas toman una prueba diferente, llamada DLM-AA. Los estudiantes que están aprendiendo Inglés (ELL) también toman una prueba llamada ACCESS, que evalúa su competencia con el idioma inglés.
¿En qué se diferencian las pruebas estatales en 2021?
A diferencia de los años anteriores, los resultados de las pruebas estatales no se utilizarán para evaluar las escuelas o para otros propósitos de responsabilidad estatal. Los distritos escolares tendrán más flexibilidad sobre cuándo administrar el examen. Y ninguna escuela enfrentará sanciones este año por baja participación, incluyendo la pérdida de fondos.
¿Qué es optar por no participar en las pruebas estatales?
"Optar por no participar" de la prueba es la decisión de no tomar las pruebas.
¿Cómo puede mi hijo/a optar por no tomar las pruebas estatales en 2021?
En Illinois, los padres pueden solicitar que el/la estudiante opte por no tomar las pruebas, pero los estudiantes deben rechazar la prueba ellos mismos. Recomendamos que los padres envíen una carta a la escuela indicando que el/la estudiante no tomará las pruebas estatales. Sin embargo, el/a estudiante también debe informar al maestro que no va a tomar las pruebas. Puede utilizar estas cartas de muestra para optar por no participar en las pruebas: bit.ly/ILOPTOUT2021 (en ingles y español)
¿Qué pasa si he elegido el aprendizaje remoto para mi hijo?
Todas las pruebas estatales deben realizarse en persona, incluso si los padres han elegido el aprendizaje remoto para su hijo/a. Las familias que han elegido el aprendizaje remoto pueden optar por no hacerse las pruebas si no quieren que su hijo/a vaya a la escuela para hacerse las pruebas. Usted no tiene que enviar a su hijo/a a la escuela solo para participar en las pruebas estatales.
¿Será penalizado mi hijo/a por no tomar el examen?
No. No hay consecuencias por no hacer pruebas y su hijo/a no debe ser castigado por optar por no participar en la prueba estatal.
¿Las pruebas estatales ayudarán a mi hijo/a o a la escuela en 2021?
Los desafíos únicos de este año escolar, incluyendo los cambios en la administración de pruebas, significan que los resultados de las pruebas de este año no pueden usarse de manera confiable para compararlos con los resultados de años anteriores. Los retrasos en obtener los resultados de las pruebas a las escuelas significan que no proporcionarán información que se pueda usar para ayudar a su hijo/a este año. Las escuelas y los maestros recopilarán mejor información de la instrucción diaria que será más útil para ayudar a su hijo/a a aprender.
¿Qué hará mi hijo/a cuando se le administren exámenes a otros niños?
Los estudiantes deben recibir una actividad educativa alternativa mientras los otros estudiantes están tomando el examen.
Laws and policies at the federal, state and local level have attached high-stakes consequences to standardized test scores for students, teachers and schools. The resulting overuse and misuse of standardized testing harms children and schools. It distorts both teaching and learning in the classrooms. High-stakes testing negatively affects children's emotional and mental health. It's narrowed curriculum and educational experiences. And it is used as a lever to under-resource, punish, and close schools in the very communities most in need of educational resources. Families who want to take direct action to oppose the misuse of standardize testing can refuse to allow their children to participate in these tests.
Although the federal government says public schools must administer certain tests, it does not say that every child, against their and their families wishes, must participate in the testing. Although the Illinois State Board of Education does not recognize parents' right to opt children out of testing, they have said districts can develop a policy for those students who refuse testing.
We recommend notifying the school ahead of time that your child will be refusing state testing and requesting info on how the school is planning for students who refuse to test. We have sample language and an FAQ on refusing state tests here. If you have questions, you can call or text 413-3OPTOUT or email [email protected].
Fair Test, a national advocacy group, has extensive background and resources on how and why to opt out here and on the problems with high-stakes standardized testing that motivate families to refuse testing here.
If you are concerned about the impact of standardized testing on children and schools, make sure you are on our mailing list to receive updates about testing-related policy and legislation.
Background on federal and state testing requirements
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) almost two decades ago and now under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal government has required all public schools in the United States to administer annual testing in reading and math from 3rd to 8th grade and once in high school and science testing three times across 3rd through 12th grades. English-language learners' proficiency is assessed every year (on top of these other tests in academic subjects, which are administered regardless of a student's fluency in English.)
States can choose which tests to administer to fulfill these requirements. The state pays for federally-mandated testing with state and federal funds. The results of these tests are used as factors in the state's school tier rating system.
For 3rd-8th grade math and reading, Illinois previously used ISAT, then PARCC, and now they use a test that is a slightly shorter version of PARCC, the Illinois Assessment of Readiness or IAR.
After many years of administering ACT, and then briefly PARCC, Illinois now requires high schools to administer the SAT to all 11th graders to comply with the federal requirement for annual testing in high school. Illinois is now also requiring districts to administer PSAT in 9th and 10th grade. (Read about our concerns with how the vendor for the SAT and PSAT is selling student data here.)
For science, Illinois uses the Illinois Science Assessment; this year it will be administered in grades 5th, 8th and 11th.
Students with the most severe cognitive disabilities take neither IAR nor SAT, but instead take an alternative assessment the DLM.
Finally, English-language learners from K-12 are given the ACCESS test to assess their proficiency and need for services as emerging bilingual students.
The state uses these scores as factors to assign a rating of your school's performance (Tier 1-4). Refusal/opt out affects your school’s state rating in two ways. Schools that do not have at least 95% participation will not be able to receive the top rating (“Exemplary” or Tier 1) from the state, and after three years in a row under <95%, schools may be assigned a Tier 3 rating (“Underperforming”).
Also, students who refuse are counted as not having met expectations (even though there's no obligation under federal law to do so). Crucially though, since changes in the federal law passed in 2015, a low rating is not tied to punitive policies but to additional funding for things like improving curriculum or climate. (See p. 84 here.) And note that after many years of mass opt out across the country, the federal government has still never penalized any state or district for low participation rates.
How to find out what testing is taking place at your child's school
The first step in pushing back against the misuse and overuse of standardized testing is knowing what testing is taking place. State law requires each public school to report to the IL State Board of Ed and to parents:
- which tests are to be given;
- when they’ll be given and how long they’ll take;
- who is requiring the tests (i.e. state, district, etc);
- which students will take the tests and
- finally, if the results of the test are to be used for purposes other than for guiding instruction, what they’ll be used for, such as promotion, course placement, graduation, teacher evaluation or school ratings.
If your school hasn't sent this information home or posted it online by the 30th day of school, ask your principal to provide it. Some testing is required by federal or state law, but much is at the discretion of districts and schools. Here's the most recent schedule for 2022 state-mandated testss.
High-stakes attached to testing for the students themselves in elementary school is rare in Illinois outside of Chicago Public Schools. In public high schools, students must take the SAT in order to receive a diploma. Check with your school and district administrators and ask for documentation in writing of how test scores will be used; it is their legal obligation to provide you with this information.
You can also check whether your school has provided the IL State Board of Ed with this information via the ISBE website. If the info sent to ISBE seems inaccurate or is missing, let your elected school board or local school council know that your school is out of compliance with state law.
Legislation on testing
Check our legislation page for current testing-related legislation that we are supporting or opposing.
Unfortunately, there are currently no bills to clarify parental rights around opting children out of state-mandated standardized testing. In the past, we have supported bills (like this one in 2018). Under that legislation, parents would be able to notify schools in writing that their child was opting out of any state-mandated standardized testing. The child would be provided with an alternative educational activity during test. There would be no negative consequences for students, families, teachers, administrators, schools or districts. A law like this especially needed to protect children who are not capable of refusing testing themselves but who are directly harmed by participating in testing.
- FairTest: Info about opt out, national and state policy on testing, test-optional college admissions and more, e.g. an explanation of how schools and districts will not lose funding no matter how many students opt out: "Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School"
"Taking Stock: Achievement in Illinois Under NCLB" (2016, Center for Urban Ed Leadership at UIC): Research comparing PARCC to ISAT and NWEA MAP from the Center for Urban Ed Leadership at UIC: "Once cut scores are removed from the mix, achievement patterns on the ISAT, NAEP, ACT and most other standardized tests look remarkably similar. The same is true for recently published results from the 2015 PARCC exam. All of these tests predict each other’s results with high levels of accuracy."
"The Fraud of Computer Scoring on the Common Core Exams" (2016, National Education Policy Center) Describes the problems with computer scoring of written responses. All answers on IAR tests are scored by computers, including essays and extended responses. Computers rely on superficial features and statistical patterns to score answers and cannot meaningfully evaluate high-level thinking skills.
SB3099 is a bill written to benefit the College Board and ACT, Inc, allowing them to sell or rent sensitive student data that they access through questionnaires administered along with tests like the SAT. RYH Action urges parents and privacy advocates to submit a witness slip to oppose this bill in hearing tomorrow (3/12/2018)Read more