Culture of Testing emails from CPS teachers

I'm at a CPS elementary school - mainly low income, mainly Latino.  I have NEVER experienced such intense pressure to bring scores up before!  The pressure is such that we are mandated to start using the ISAT test prep books ("Buckle Down") by the beginning of December so that we can finish the books (180 pages of mind-numbing readings with multiple choice questions following) before the testing period.

Even worse, the nature of the tests (multiple choice, mostly non-fiction) pushes teachers to use equally boring and mechanical activities in regular lesson plans.  This is especially true in classes with lower level bilingual students.  I have been told to print out readings from a website and use them in my daily activities to best ensure that my students' scores go up.  This would be in place of spending time on novel study and related activities.

I have been told that common core is all about higher-order thinking and rigorous texts, but the reality seems otherwise.  No matter what anyone says, if the tests are multiple choice, the best preparation will be more tedious multiple choice work.  This prepares kids for the tests but does NOT prepare them to think, analyze, enjoy reading or any of a million other possible things they will do in their adult lives.

We all collectively, parents, teachers and CPS need to ask ourselves what it is we want our students to be able to do.  Then we need to design assessments that measure that.  We are nowhere close to doing so right now.  Instead, we are in the process of dumbing down the whole educational system so that schools are little more than test prep factories.  I believe this sad situation will lead to LESS engaged students, MORE dropouts and utter disaster for CPS.