CPS students skip standardized tests to protest

April 25, 2013 5:46:36 AM PDT
Hundreds of Chicago Public Schools students traded their school books and pencils for picket signs.

Some were scheduled to take mandatory state tests Wednesday. Instead, they are now protesting proposed school closings.

The students say that they are over-tested and that it all ties in to the district's plan to close down some underutilized schools. This protest was designed specifically to coincide with a school board meeting that is under way at CPS headquarters and also coincide with state mandated testing for juniors in high school.

"I am a junior, and I am boycotting the second day of PSAE testing. It is unnecessary and is only being used as an excuse to judge our schools," said Alondra Andrade, Curie High School student. "It is important for students to be part of the boycott and take this action because the mayor wants 54 elementary schools to close down."

The students who are part of a newly formed group called Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools are skipping the test that is required for them to graduate. They plan to deliver a letter to school board members demanding a moratorium on school closings.

The district plans to close 54 under-enrolled and underutilized schools this year. CPS sent out letters and made calls to students' homes Monday and Tuesday urging them to be in school Wednesday, but many students say they plan to take makeup tests at a later date.

"We are still unhappy, still being ignored, and still mad at Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education; because of this, CSOSOS has organized this boycott to show the mayor and the school board that we are over tested, under resourced, and fed up," said Brian Stirgus, Robeson High School student.

However, students say it is their First Amendment right to protest. They say they believe that educators should support it instead of hinder it.

But when the student protesters tried to enter CPS headquarters, they were turned away by in-house security and Chicago police.

"The commitment to engage and to listen permeates this administration and will continue throughout," said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Byrd-Bennett did not acknowledge the protesters downstairs during the school board's scheduled meeting.

CPS instead issued a statement saying, "the only place that students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life. Today's test is one of the most critical exams our students will take. Every adult should support and encourage our students to make sure they are in school."

A student organizer told ABC 7 Chicago he was "not at liberty" to reveal who paid for the busses that transported the demonstrators to downtown.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis -- an outspoken critic of standarized testing and school closings--said CTU had no part in the protest:

"In terms of us putting some kids up to doing something, that is absolutely outrageous. But if people are inspired by our work, that's something completely different," said Lewis.

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