ISBE ESSA Listening Tour

Last week, representatives from ISBE were in Chicago to review significant points of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and take testimony on how the state should incorporate the accountability measure required by the legislation. It was designed for policy types from organizations affected by ESSA, but attending a 4:30 meeting in the Loop on a Thursday isn’t always easy. I was one of a handful of parents who spoke. Here’s my statement:

My name is Caroline Bilicki, and I am a parent of three children who attend CPS. I am also an active member of a Local School Council, belong to the Illinois PTA, and volunteer with Illinois Raise Your Hand. I previously sat on the Illinois Assessment Review Task Force in 2014 and 2015.

I am here today to testify on the state’s continued emphasis on testing and accountability of children, and its policies to enforce the same. I’ve read your powerpoint slides, and you can argue that they use different language, that the tests are to provide accountability of teachers and administrators, and systems.

As I tell my children, you can keep repeating that, but it doesn’t make it true.

As a parent, as a problem-solver, as a thinker, as a humanist, I refuse to believe that any system that has children taking SIX YEARS of yearly standardized tests to measure their achievement tells me (or you) anything about my children as students except that they’ve learned how to take a standardized test. The system you’ve created doesn’t create accountability and better education; it creates haves and have-nots, a system that is so focused on the outcome that it forgets what the purpose of public education is.

Illinois must take strong steps to be included in the innovation assessment pilot to explore authentic assessment. Authentic assessment is important. Much more important to short-term well-being and long-term outcomes of students. My children’s teachers’ authentic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses has added depth and nuance to my understanding of my children as students, as well as added value to my relationships with each of my children. Standardized test results are worse than a value-add; they are a value-subtract because they take so much time and so many resources away from the process of daily learning.

Frankly, I am sick of it. I think our children would be collectively better off if the state mandated ways for parents to become involved in their children’s education that improved children’s well-being.

This system is grounded entirely on the notion of comparisons, and that comparisons are good. Comparing students is a harmful practice. It’s harmful to the students themselves, and it’s harmful to teachers, schools, communities, districts and educational practice in general. Teddy Roosevelt famously quipped, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Please stop robbing elementary education of joy.


One thought on “ISBE ESSA Listening Tour

  1. Leigh says:

    I happened upon your blog and couldn’t agree more. Family Involvement = Student Achievement. Part of ESSA requirements is that schools must have two way open communication with families and give them a voice into our children’s education. My school just adopted LivingTree in response to that and as a teacher and mom of three myself, what a powerful tool! We’re able to converse back and forth, voice concerns, and really feel like one cohesive group. LOVE it! Thanks for sharing your voice on testing robbing the joy out of the elementary classroom. I love my students to my very core, but when we have to medicate our babies to deal with the assessment stress, I hate my job!

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