On the heels of the 2013-2014 ISAT test results being released, a number of people showed up at the November 10th Board meeting with plenty to say. We are posting several of the speeches here, with permission.
I have tried to approach the Board directly about the Charter Oak test scandal issue, but no pathway I have tried has borne fruit…so here I am at the podium.
Throughout last year’s ISAT investigation at Charter Oak, teachers who were questioned by the District’s attorneys answered all questions honestly and fully. They copied all of their ISAT preparation materials and turned them over to the District’s attorneys. They behaved professionally, not talking about the investigation and refraining from going to the press in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation.
For their forthrightness, compliance, and professionalism, they paid a terrible price. Although the State Board of Education determined there was NO cheating on the ISAT and not a single teacher’s license was revoked, the District turned what could have been a simple of tightening up ISAT preparation and ISAT special education protocols district wide into a scandal that dismantled a school and disrupted a community.
I drove to Springfield myself and talked to the ISBE. The person with whom I spoke could not fathom why this molehill had been turned into a mountain.
At the beginning of this investigation, the Peoria Federation of Teachers was told that the investigation was an effort to oust the principal and that our teachers would not be implicated. We knew better, and we prepared for the worst.
Taking the advice of our attorneys, we held our cards close to the vest instead of making sensational comments in an effort to go tit for tat with the District and the media. Whereas we played it smart legally and protected our teachers, our teachers’ reputations were smeared time and time again as the District played to the press, going so far as to have a public display, via their attorney, at a Board meeting and by PUBLICLY humiliating two of our teachers, teachers who were victims of lax ISAT training, not scoundrels who sat in a dimly lit room, changing answers on students’ answer sheets.
I am VERY proud of the teachers for the way they handled themselves, both the teachers involved in the investigation and the teachers who, throughout the process, helped do everything they could to maintain a sense of normalcy for the students at Charter Oak and our other 26 schools.
The teachers at Charter Oak met with the Union near the end of last year, and their main objective was to get things back on track at the school. The teachers worked hard last year and this year, hoping the dust had finally settled, and then the headline ‘ISAT Scores Down Sharply At Charter Oak’.
Certainly, anyone familiar with the turmoil last year would have predicted a sharp decline in student achievement to be reflected in the test scores. That said, ironically, the anomalies from the previous year’s test scores after a year’s worth of scandal, $100,000 in attorneys’ fees, and an upset in staff are still a mystery.
There are plenty of scapegoats but no real answers.
I asked the Board and the administration to stand up for Charter Oak after the most recent PJ Star article about the school. Had they, this speech would have been unnecessary.
I’d like to see the Board of Education, especially those of you who have toured Charter Oak and have seen the teaching and learning going on there, to speak up and come to the school’s and the District’s defense.