Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mayor Rahm to Chicago: Take your tests and shut up!

Posted By on 03.01.14 at 08:02 AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel being interviewed in his City Hall office Friday afternoon.
I was in the midst of reading this fascinating review of Diane Ravitch's latest book on the privatization of public education when the updates started to pour in regarding Mayor Emanuel's most recent assault on CPS.

There's a connection. Ravitch is the historian who's moved from the right to the left as she's realized the wreckage right-wingers have made of public education in this country. Meanwhile, Mayor Emanuel still clutches on to these outdated policies even as the rest of the country tries to move on.

Why else would the mayor keep insisting that public school students take the ISAT, a standardized test that's being phased out and is arguably of no relevance whatsoever?

The latest update is that Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the mayor's handpicked schools CEO, has instructed principals to tell teachers that their schools will lose funding if students don't take the test.

That comes on top of Byrd-Bennett's warning that teachers who don't give the test will lose their state certification.

Which would effectively ban teachers from teaching. Which is what the system does to teachers convicted of criminal offenses, like abusing children.

Oh, Mr. Mayor—what's with the hardball?

I thought you were supposed to be playing nice—in time for next year's election, conveniently enough—as you tried to convince the public that you're not really Attila the Hun. Appearances to the contrary.

In regard to schools that means no more cuts, closings, or senseless top-down ultimatums. Why then are you making such a mountain out of this ISAT molehill?

The ISAT used to be the high-stakes gatekeeper that determined admission into selective-enrollment high schools, as well as school rankings, teacher ratings, and so forth.

But now it's just one of several standardized tests to which CPS students are subjected. There's the REACH, MAP, EXPLORE, DIBELS—excuse me if I can't remember them all.

It seems that just as people start to second-guess the value of these standardized tests, along comes Mayor Emanuel to try to drag us back to the educational policies of President George W. Bush.

This latest showdown started recently when teachers at Saucedo Elementary—located on the southwest side—voted not to give the ISAT, which caused Byrd-Bennett to respond with the first ultimatum.

Wait—another update! Teachers at Drummond Elementary—located on the north side—just voted not to give the ISAT. Despite B3's ultimatum.

Oh, no. The rebellion's spreading. What's an all-powerful mayor to do?

On the one hand, it's hard to justify making kids take a standardized test that's no longer relevant. Especially since so many teachers, parents, and students don't want anything to do with it.

So it might be a good idea to quietly let the teachers take their stand, and let the kids who don't want to take the test skip it. And then sort of pretend the whole thing never happened.

You know, how Mayor Daley probably would have handled it.

On the other hand—actually, I can't think of the other hand. Other than the mayor doesn't want it to look like a bunch of teachers can tell him what to do.

You know what he thinks of teachers and Karen Lewis, their union leader.

Here's what you should do, Mr. Mayor. Stick to Polar Plunges with Jimmy Fallon and leave the schools alone. Haven't you learned? Every time you intervene, you only make things worse.

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