Protest march planned for Thursday in Austin

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Thursday, parents and teachers will march from Oscar DePriest Elementary School – where teachers are refusing to administer the ISAT – to the former Emmet Elementary building, one of 50 schools closed by CPS last year.

The group says what happened to Emmet – along with three other now-shuttered Austin public schools – is evidence that standardized testing has hurt Austin and other Chicago communities.

The march will begin at 3 p.m. March 13 at DePriest, 139 S. Parkside Ave., and end at Emmet Elementary, 5500 W. Madison St.

Action Now parent leaders like Zerlina Smith, who helped organize the massive opt-out at Saucedo Elementary, have decided to march in Austin to show that African-American parents, teachers and communities are fighting back against high-stakes standardized tests that disproportionately harm low-income students of color.

“The ISAT and other standardized tests rob our children of important instructional time, and the scores are used as an excuse to close schools,” Smith said in a written statement.

“I have a daughter who will be in kindergarten next year, and she will be taking at least eight standardized tests. The mayor’s kids go to a private school that only has one standardized test per year. Why aren’t our kids given that opportunity?”

Smith will speak at the event, as will a teacher from DePriest who’s refusing to administer the ISAT. Lettrice Jamison, a parent who had four children at Emmet before it was closed and served as the president of the school’s LSC, also will talk.

Organizers of Thursday’s march say high-stakes tests have become a destructive tool of the “corporate education reform movement” that allows school officials to label low-income African-American students, teachers and schools as “failing.”

These standardized tests are used as justification for school closings and charter expansion, despite the fact that in its 2011 report to Congress, the National Academy of Sciences committee stated, “There are little to no positive effects of these [test-based accountability] systems overall on student learning and educational progress, and there is widespread teaching to the test and gaming of the systems that reflects a wasteful use of resources and leads to inaccurate or inflated measures of performance.”

Just as African-American parents, teachers, students and communities organized against school closings and turnarounds, march organizers say Thursday’s event shows a base can be built that is ready to challenge any corporate measures that harm the education of children.

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