Illinois: Legislature Bans Testing of Young Children

A big win for all those opposed to the mandatory testing of very young children.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 11, 2022

Samay Gheewala, 312-380-6324, [email protected]

IL LEGISLATURE PASSES ‘TOO YOUNG TO TEST’ ACT

Bill will safeguard grades PreK-2nd from state testing

Young children will be protected from any current or future plans to expand state standardized testing into prekindergarten through second grade if Governor Pritzker signs a new Too Young To Test law passed by the Illinois General Assembly this session.

The Too Young To Test bill, SB 3986, received broad and bipartisan support from legislators and a coalition of Illinois parents, educators, researchers, and advocacy orgs concerned about the possible encroachment of the state testing system into PreK-2. The Too Young To Test bill prevents the state from requiring or paying for any non-diagnostic standardized testing of children before third grade.

“Too Young To Test seeks to safeguard the early years by ensuring that the Illinois State Board of Education does not spend finite resources or require standardized assessments in K-2 that have been proven to be developmentally inappropriate during such a fluid time of child development.” said State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate. “Instead, the state should invest in research-based practices that support whole child development such as play-based learning, social-emotional skill building, and teacher coaching. Especially after the unprecedented disruptions of these last two years, we cannot forget that the same part of the brain that registers stress and trauma is also responsible for memory and learning.”

“Our decisions about state standardized testing should reflect evidence-based research and provide reliable data,” chief House sponsor of SB 3986 State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) said. “Encouraging schools to focus on unreliable standardized tests for children too young will change the focus of classroom instruction and create further inequity. We need to direct our education resources and energy toward proven strategies that enrich the classroom experience for our youngest learners.”

Assessment experts, teachers, and early childhood researchers all agree that test scores from children below age eight are not statistically reliable or valid measures of what children know and can do and should not be used to assess academic achievement or school performance.

Despite this, the Illinois State Board of Education has been considering a proposal to add optional, state-funded K-2 testing in Illinois to the existing 3-8th grade tests. That proposal has been unpopular with parents and teachers. A petition from grassroots public ed advocacy group Illinois Families for Public Schools calling on ISBE to drop the plan garnered over 1300 signatures from parents and community members in over 150 towns and cities across Illinois.

Too Young To Test wouldn’t restrict the ability of districts, schools, and teachers to use or develop assessments paid for with local funding dollars. It also does not stop the state from creating or funding tests or evaluations used for screening or diagnostic purposes.

Since the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, overtesting has become a significant problem in early elementary school because younger students are being prepped for high-stakes tests in later grades. “We are relieved and encouraged by the General Assembly’s action to set clear criteria for what types of assessment the state can develop, fund and require before third grade.” said Cassie Creswell, director of Illinois Families for Public Schools.

“Before age eight, and even after, kids should be learning via play, exploration and inquiry, and the way teachers assess what they’ve learned should reflect that. What parents want for their children is small classes with teachers who use meaningful assessment methods, not more contracts with commercial test vendors,” added Creswell. “Governor Pritzker has said he’s committed to Illinois becoming the best state in the nation for families raising young children, and we think the Too Young To Test bill is an important part of fulfilling that. We hope we can count on him to sign this bill into law as soon as it gets to his desk.”

Too Young to Test was supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including the Chicago Teachers Union, Defending the Early Years, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois School Counselor Association, Learning Disabilities Association of IL, and the National Association of Social Workers – IL Chapter.

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About Illinois Families for Public Schools

Illinois Families for Public Schools (IL-FPS) is a grassroots advocacy group that represents the interests of families who want to defend and improve Illinois public schools. Founded in 2016, IL-FPS’ efforts are key to giving public ed parents and families a real voice in Springfield on issues like standardized testing, student data privacy, school funding and more. IL-FPS reaches families and public school supporters in more than 100 IL House districts. More at ilfps.org.

Sharon Eva

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