Yes, the ISATs begin in Champaign today! If you drive around town, you will see lots of signs up motivating kids and reminding parents. (By the way, make sure to feed your kids and make sure they sleep this week ... in case you don't normally do that.)
For those of you who don't know ... ISATs (Illinois Standards Achievement Tests) are given to 3rd-8th graders state-wide and are used to evaluate the schools (not the individual children ... although parents are given their child's scores). When I was in school, I think I took the Iowa Basic. These are the tests that determine funding. Under No Child Left Behind, schools must show adequate yearly progress in order to maintain or gain more funding.
I've taken many standardized tests; studied them ... I hate them. They are just not accurate representations of the test taker. I don't think they can appropriately speak to the quality of a teacher or a school. This is especially important now as so many teachers take so much time teaching the test and how to test. Obviously, I am a teacher that thinks you can learn anything by doing. (I do this with my preschool class, at home with my kids, and my fitness classes ... embed goals into activities). This can be done at every level.
Why can't we teach kids content and have a test that appropriately measures the knowledge of the content?
And why not give schools that don't meet AYP MORE money, not less, since maybe they need it more to help their kids pass the test (maybe the teachers were worried about if the kids were eating well, clothed, had books to read, had a safe place to play and make friends).
Anyways, I also find it fascinating how the kids are so geared up for ISAT week ... letters home, pep rallies, candy (lots of candy). I just find that it is so odd that this is the week that the schools celebrate.