ILLINOIS – In a joint letter with the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Education Association (IEA), the Illinois Principals Association, and the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) is calling on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to postpone standardized testing via a U.S. Department of Education Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) waiver for the 2020-2021 school year.
COVID rates continue to surge around the state, even before factoring in holiday travel and gatherings. It is likely that hospitals will continue to be at or near capacity, and the number of deaths will continue to be high. Increasingly large numbers of students and their families will be impacted. In this environment, rife with trauma and uncertainty, students’ academic performances are a reflection of their social, emotional, and economic context, and are likely much different than they would be in a more stable and predictable educational environment.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said, “Our students have had a tough year filled with trauma and instability. Curricula have been disrupted to accommodate the adaptations teachers continue to make to ensure that students are getting the best possible instruction during this crisis, whether in-person, in a hybrid model, or remote. The standardized tests developed to assess learning during a normal school year will prove inaccurate and unreliable, and they will take precious instructional time away from students when we need that now more than ever. Our goal is to protect the safety of our students and school communities and maximize teaching and learning.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every corner of the state. Despite the committed efforts of educators to provide the most robust, appropriate, and safe educational experience for our students, the pandemic’s disruptive force has meant that students have had inconsistent and uneven experiences within schools, across districts, and among regions.
“It is imperative that we look out for the social and emotional needs of our students during this pandemic as much as we look out for their academic progress. Testing of this nature creates unneeded stress in a year that’s been full of added stressors,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association. “We need to keep our students safe, physically and emotionally, and help them keep concentrating on what they need to learn, not why they need to test.”
The gross inequity the pandemic has reinforced, both in health and economic outcomes, means our least resourced students feel the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. “Schools across the state have been forced to close because of this pandemic – and the last thing we should be doing is forcing children out onto the streets and into schools as the virus surges. I urge ISBE to take a stand that truly values the safety of our overwhelmingly Black and Brown students and their families – and seek a federal waiver from these tests in this dangerous time,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest union. IEA represents Pre K-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States.