(Copyright 1999. The Tattoo. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

November 15, 1999

Chicago teens trash tests

The Tattoo

Instead of sitting down for tests, students in Chicago are
standing up for themselves.

Some high school students are fed up with the myriad of
standardized tests that are mandated by the state of Illinois.

"You're learning this 'cause it's on the test, but you're not
learning it 'cause it's relevant," said Will Tanzman, a senior at
Whitney Young High School, a magnet school in urban
Chicago. Tanzman is moderator of the Organized Students of
Chicago, or the OSC.

"In the Chicago public schools, everything needs fixing,"
Tanzman said.

A group of students from Whitney Young believed they
could make a difference -- and formed the OSC to pull it off.

"We've been kinda talking about standardized tests. We had
five our junior year," said Tanzman. 
So the student group decided to focus on tests as a cause of
stress for students.

Tanzman said multiple choice tests don't reveal anything.

"The tests aren't accurate," said Tanzman. "They're very

The OSC organized a sit-ion for one of the tests last school
year. About 10 students purposely failed the test.

They did not break any rules by doing this, but were
punished for it.

Tanzman said the chief executive officer of the Chicago
school district "didn't say anything about our punishment
until it reached the news." The students had to serve 10 hours
of community service, to which they did not object.

Phil Hansen, the chief accountability officer of Chicago
Public Schools said he has "grown to respect" the student
protestors. "They're very intelligent, very well-spoken young

Hansen said in order to attend Whitney Young, a selective
high school, students have to take standardized admissions

The director of internal affairs for OSC, Whitney High senior
Manuel Rodriguez, said, "We just think they're being

One of the tests is used to determine promotion in the third,
sixth and eighth grades, Hansen said.

About 10 percent of the students fail this exam and must
attend a six-week summer school, he said. After the program,
a retest, and teachers' recommendation, 5 percent of the
students end up repeating a grade, Hansen said.

Tanzman said the Riverside Publishing Co. said "the tests
were limited and not to be used for the sole purpose of

However, Tanzman said, the test company then said it was
fine because the city is paying it to administer the tests.

Hansen said Tanzman "had a cynical point of view" on this

There is intense test preparation and a lot of class time spent
on how to take the tests, such as the five paragraph essay
format, Tanzman said.

"The teachers got pressured from the principal to raise the
(test) scores," Tanzman said.

Hansen said the lower performance schools do spend more
time preparing for the exams. However, the high performance
schools use some class time "working on the skills" such as
"inferences and making comparisons," he said.

Rodriguez said while teachers support their endeavors, they
"can't say anything publicly 'cause they're afraid they might
lose their jobs."

Hansen said parents haven't commented either.

Commissioner Theodore Sergi of the Connecticut Department
of Education said all standardized tests "have a purpose of
improving teaching and assessing progress of the students.
Everyone realizes there is a useful purpose but it can be
abused. It hasn't been, yet."

Tanzman and his group do not think the tests are all bad.
There is something the tests could be useful for, Tanzman

"You can just look inside the classrooms and see the schools
are failing. Ninety to 95 percent of Chicago schools' students
who go on to Chicago junior college end up taking remedial
classes," he said. In that case, he said, the tests could
determine promotion.

Tanzman ranks among the top 10 percent of his class and
would like to get involved in education policy in the future.

The standardized curriculum throughout Illinois, Tanzman
said, "ignores free thinking and creativity and treats students
like they're sponges who are supposed to soak up the
standardized curriculum and point of view instead of teaching
them how to think for themselves."

Tattoo staff writer Chantelle Garzone contributed to this