Everyone remembers ISAT week and the massive amounts of preparation that went into it. From pep talks to countless amounts of sample questions, we as students realized there was likely some great importance to the mythical ISAT even if we never really understood what it was. After the test was taken, there were rarely any tangible rewards to show for our efforts, and it was understood that the test was a necessity, one that had to be taken and not questioned.
As the push for standardized curriculums and testing pushes new limits, the reasons compelling this drive seem to be increasingly lost. Statements such as “what’s good for our kids?” and “equal education for all” get thrown around frequently, but the politicians that speak them don’t ever seem to have to give a definition to what exactly they mean by those words.
Many teachers detest standardized testing. The jury is still out as to how students are benefiting from it. And yet, despite this, the drive for standardized testing is moving faster than ever leaving the priorities of politicians who are pushing for standardized testing in question.
In fact, the ISAT as we know it will soon be no more, phased out in favor of a new standardized test. This leaves the scores of this year’s ISAT nearly useless and the taking of it essentially a formality. Despite this, Illinois is still having all students take the test instead of translating the weeks of meaningless preparation for more significant learning.
Many teachers and parents alike are crying out over this, and in Chicago a group called “More Than A Score” is organizing a formal protest and boycott of the test. The group has reported that so far nearly 500 students will not be taking the test because their parents are having them opt out of it.
While the protest of this year’s ISAT is great, the boycotting of it is not necessarily so. Unfortunately, given the current system in place due to No Child Left Behind, schools will have more to lose from their students not taking the test. If less than 95 percent of a district’s students do not take the test, the risk of not being able to qualify for federal funding comes into fruition.
Schools obviously need funding, and there is already precious little of it. To put that in danger would harm schools more than taking a useless ISAT. To not take the test or simply blow it off could also tarnish the image of the school, making the ability to get grants more difficult in the future.
“We want to be the same school we’ve always been,” said an anonymous Illinois Principal to the Vidette Editorial Board. “We want to do our best until the very end. Isn’t that the message we want to send our students?”
It is unfair that schools are judged solely by test scores and that so much depends on them, such as funding. However, for the time being this is how it is. It is unfortunate, but to boycott the ISAT this year could do more harm than good.
It is great that teachers and parents alike are challenging the system of standardized testing. Going into the future, it will be important to do so if any change will be made. What defines a school needs to be more than just test scores, a message that can be sent through protest but not boycotts that could negatively impact schools.