Parents want more play, fewer tests in public schools

King Elementary mom says plans for busing students at closing school not enough.

April 17, 2013

Leo adjusts his paper mask and helps a friend make one that looks like Captain America. Sara stacks up blocks with her friend, Lizzy. Phoebe sits and plays on her mom’s lap.

They’re all sitting on blankets in the hall on the first floor of Chicago Public Schools headquarters—a place usually reserved for angry protesters waiting to testify at monthly Board of Education meetings.

Organizers of the demonstration say the type of play-based learning the kids are doing is being pushed out of public schools to make room for more standardized testing in the early grades. The demonstration  was put together by a local arm of the group called More than a Score.

“My first grader this year is taking, I think seven different standardized tests, and the total administration of these would be 20 times,” Cassie Creswell said.

Her daughter goes to Goethe Elementary, a high-performing school in Logan Square.

Creswell said she’d hoped a longer school day would lead to more free time, but that hasn’t happened.

“It really ends up being many, many more hours devoted to reading and math, and reading and math, and reading and math,” Creswell said. “It’s good to be able to read. It’s good to do math. But it’s not the only thing in life and it’s not the only thing that 6-year-olds should be doing.”

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an e-mailed statement that the longer school day gives every child a full lunch and recess so they can “reboot and return to their classroom refreshed and ready to learn.”

Carroll also said the district’s Chief of Accountability John Barker is reviewing all existing assessments, so that schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett can “analyze their use and purpose to ensure that each one adds value to children’s learning.”

It is unclear if any current assessments will be eliminated. Currently, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students take five different tests, and some are taken multiple times throughout the school year.