ISAT drills in the age of Mayor Rahm

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Mayor Rahm appears to be deep in though in this picture, but when it comes to the ISATs, its hard to know what hes thinking.
  • AP Photo/Paul Beaty
  • Mayor Rahm appears to be deep in thought in this picture, but when it comes to the ISATs, it's hard to know what he's thinking.

In solidarity with the students and teachers who are just finishing week one of the ISAT madness, I went to the dentist and had a tooth drilled.

I figured if they have to be miserable, let me be miserable, too!

Two hours under the drill is about the only thing worse than having to give or take a meaningless standardized test like the ISAT.

Actually, this has been going on for longer than one week. For some teachers and students it started almost two months ago with test preps.

Think about that. Even though the test is being phased out and has no bearing on admission to high school or college, CPS spent money to offer test prep classes.

What's next—test preparation for ancient Aramaic?

Like I always say—there's two kinds of broke in Mayor Emanuel's Chicago.

There's broke as in, we can't afford a system-wide chess program, to pick just one example. And broke as in—don't worry, we still have money to prep kids for a meaningless test.

I know about the test prep because a Facebook friend posted a YouTube clip of one class. At first I thought it was a joke—like something out of Monthy Python. The only thing missing was John Cleese.

The clip shows an unseen consultant leading a class filled with CPS teachers through the lesson of what they, the teachers, will eventually teach their students.

It's heavy on the repetition. So, for example, in one sequence the consultant says, "we will."

And the teachers repeat, in unison: "We will."

Consultant: "Use."

Teachers: "Use."

Consultant: "Two strategies."

Teachers: "Two strategies."

And so forth, building to the climax.

Consultant: "How many strategies are we using?"

Teachers: "Two."

Yay, teachers!

Anyway, after I watched the clip, I started making calls to find out the backstory. And I wound up talking to the teacher who secretly filmed the video.

I'll call this teacher Coffy—in honor of the lead character from that epic Pam Grier flick,which I happened to see yet again just last week. 'Cause only a badass like Coffy would have the guts to blow the whistle on such bullshit.

As Coffy explained, it was a consulting class put together by the Office of Strategic School Support Services—or OS4, as it's lovingly nicknamed. It's a central office entity created by Mayor Emanuel even as he was supposedly cutting central office spending to the bone.

In this case, CPS paid grammar school teachers about $20 an hour to attend four hours of professional development training on how to lead test prep sessions for the ISAT. I'm sure the consultant made much more than that.

Essentially, the consultant is teaching the teachers what they will eventually teach their kids.

"I think most of the teachers were going along and repeating what the consultant said out of politeness," says Coffy. "But I didn't repeat it. I'm not much of a person for repeating things like that."

At one point, Coffy surreptitiously took out her cell phone and recorded about two or three minutes. "I couldn't believe what was going on. I thought—people have to see this."

Coffy posted the tape on YouTube on February 4, and it's drawn almost 200,000 hits. Here, watch it yourself.

Think of it as education—Mayor Emanuel style.

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