CPS investigating alleged ‘teacher misconduct’ with test boycott

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UPDATE: Following Thursday’s interviews at Drummond, CPS officials visited Saucedo on Friday to continue their investigation into “teacher misconduct” related to the recent ISAT boycott. CPS officials said that, unlike Thursday, no students were questioned on Friday.

Saucedo teachers said that CPS investigators only interviewed teachers who didn’t boycott the test.

Investigators from the Chicago Public Schools Law department interviewed students and staff today about possible “teacher misconduct” related to ISAT testing at Drummond Montessori, where some teachers refused to administer the standardized tests as part of a highly publicized teacher protest earlier this month.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said in a statement that the district wants “to ensure students were comfortable during the time the test was administered,” although he could not confirm any specific allegations.

The district has not yet disciplined any teachers at Drummond or at Saucedo Scholastic Elementary, where the entire faculty also boycotted the test. But Hood said that teachers do face possible discipline, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Drummond parents who “opted” their children out of taking the exams  – which CPS is phasing out and will not count this year toward students’ promotions or entry into selective schools – cried foul after learning that investigators had questioned some children without their consent.

“Don’t use these kids as pawns in this political game,” said Jonathan Goldman, a parent and chair of Drummond’s local school council. “Given that the allegations that has been made generally is that perhaps teachers were actively encouraging parents to opt their students out, then they should be talking with the parents. It’s the parents who made the decision.”

Goldman and other parents say they don’t understand why CPS did not notify parents or ask for permission before interviewing students. Some parents, including Mike Staudenmaier, called the school after learning of the ongoing investigation to ask that their children not be questioned.

Staudenmaier said he was “infuriated” that the school district would interrogate children at the school without attempting to notify their parents. 

“I’m not a lawyer but this seems completely unethical and reprehensible,” he said. “They know how to reach us and they chose not to attempt to reach me or any other parent, probably because they recognized they wouldn’t have any sympathy from us. So they harassed our kids instead.”

Hood did not respond to the parents’ criticism, but described the investigation as routine. He said that any time there are allegations of teacher misconduct, students and staff may be interviewed. He also clarified that CPS had sent investigators from its Law department, and not actual attorneys, to Drummond to conduct the interviews.

In an interview with Catalyst Chicago, Hood said that “CPS may conduct similar investigations at other schools around the district.” Although he declined to name the other schools, the comment is a likely reference to Saucedo.

The Chicago Teachers Union has vowed to fight any discipline.

Read CPS’s complete statement below. 

“Chicago Public Schools is meeting and talking with students, teachers and staff at Drummond Elementary School about ISAT testing to ensure students were comfortable during the time the test was administered. CPS officials only spoke with students who opted to talk with them and the investigation does not pertain to any student disciplinary issue. Students who chose not to take the state-required ISAT test last week do not face discipline from the District. CPS has decreased the number of standardized tests issued each year, but the District is required by Illinois law to administer the ISAT, and the test is tied to federal and state funding for schools.”