CPS Will Give PARCC Test District-Wide

Chicago Public Schools today announced it will give the controversial standardized test, PARCC, to the entire district, as required by state and federal law.

The announcement is a reversal of the district's plans to only give the test to 10 percent of schools because of multiple concerns with the test.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett admitted during a phone call this morning that it is mostly the threat of losing possibly a billion dollars in funding from the state that pushed her to make the change. In a statement, she explains:

“I continue to personally and professionally believe that to administer PARCC this year is absolutely not in the best interests of our students. However, we cannot risk the devastating financial cuts threatened by the Illinois State Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education and our students' futures by administering PARCC to only 10 percent of schools."

Last week, the district sent yet another letter to the State Board of Education requesting that CPS be given another year to comply with the federal testing requirement.

The state board responded just a few days later with a firm “no” to that request -- but also reiterated warnings that the district could not only lose funding but also no longer be recognized as a district.

CPS Board of Education Vice-President Jesse Ruiz explains it was the district's last effort to delay the test.

“We just think that we needed more time and the State Board of Education differed in that opinion. So, that was the prolonged discussion that we’ve been trying to get a meeting of the minds,” said Ruiz. “The state was firm. It has the power to frankly unrecognize us as a district, which frankly I did to a school district back in 2006 when I was chairman of the State Board of Education so I can appreciate how real these ramifications could be. And so, in the best interest of our students, I didn’t think we could jeopardize their funding and the health and well-being of our school district for the additional time that we were hoping to get but we weren’t able to get.”

     The testing window for PARCC opens in one week, on March 9.

The district says third- through fifth-graders will take the test with paper and pencil -- and sixth- through eighth-graders will take the test online, as will the few high-schoolers who are also required to take the test.

Altogether, it's about 230,000 students in CPS who will be taking this test.

This test has many critics, including the Chicago Teachers Union, whose members will be giving this test to students. The union is disappointed for a number of reasons.

Both the union and the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand have been saying that the district and the U.S. Department of Education are only threatening the district with the loss of funds -- that the two agencies won't make good on those threats.

They also argue, like CPS, that the district isn't ready and that any test results will be skewed and therefore worth little.

So, they're suggesting that parents across the city opt their children out of taking the test.

“We're encouraging parents across the city to opt their children out of this test,” said CTU’s Director of Organizing Norine Gutekanst. “We’re asking them to write a letter to their principal to say, ‘My child will be refusing to take the PARCC test, and I expect you to treat my child with kindness, courtesy, and dignity when my child says they are not going to be taking the test.’ And we’re hoping that parents across the city take us up on this because if we are able to show that parents really want more instructional time for their kids, and if parents across the city stand up for the right of their children to learn, along with our teachers, we are going to be able to win back instructional time that our children deserve.”

CTU says it's also extremely concerned that teachers and test coordinators are being asked to agree to developing and carrying out a PARCC security plan. The union fears the members will be held accountable if and when there are any technological problems.

Read the full statements from CTU and Raise Your Hand below.

CTU:

The Chicago Teachers Union is extremely disappointed in the decision of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) throughout the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district in the wake of intimidation by the Illinois State Board of Education and U.S. Department of Education. The district’s choice to back down from state and federal threats to withhold education funding if the PARCC was not administered throughout CPS allows for continued policy measures to disrupt the lives of students, handcuffs classroom educators and holds the sword of disinvestment over children and communities who need resources the most.
 
“This has the potential to blow up and be a tremendous failure, because CPS itself has said the district may not be able to handle a proper rollout at this time due to technical issues and frustration among students, teachers and administration over administering the test properly,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “But instead of understanding those issues, the state and the feds decided to threaten to withhold resources from a district that’s one of the most poorly resourced in the nation.”

By changing course on a previous decision to limit the PARCC to just 10 percent of CPS schools students, the district will continue to burden elementary school students with the inhumane pressure of over-testing, valuable time away from classroom instruction. A number of CPS teachers who have taken the sample PARCC test have stated that the assessment is inappropriate for the target 3rd through 8th grades, and is coyly designed for students to fail.

The district’s decision to administer the PARCC test comes nearly a year to the day after the boycott of the now-defunct Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) by teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy on March 3, 2014.

Raise Your Hand:

Parents throughout Chicago will be joining others across the nation in choosing to opt out their children from the controversial PARCC test. This test, which has not been proven to help student or teacher evaluations, will take away weeks of valuable instruction time from our classrooms.

Parents won’t be bullied by the Illinois State Board of Education or the Federal Department of Education into forcing our children to take a test, which according to research and evaluation from credible national education experts, has not been properly field-tested, has no validity studies and contains significant technical glitches.

Although no state has ever lost federal funding due to student opt-outs refusal to administer a standardized test, we are not surprised that CPS has caved to the threats of ISBE.  However, as parents, we refuse to subject our children to an unreliable test that coincides with a poor national education policy, which we believe is harming our classrooms and school systems. We will continue to support the "opt out" bill currently sponsored in Springfield, which clarifies and simplifies the right to refuse the test and will ensure that there is no threat of punishment or negative repercussions to students who do not take the test.  By enacting "opt out" legislation, our legislators will protect the interests of students and families and not the big business interest of corporate education giants such as Pearson.

State Superintendent of Education Chris Koch from ISBE released the following statement about the decision.

“We’re pleased to see that CPS will be moving forward with the assessment of all students. We believe it is a matter of equity and fairness that all students be able to demonstrate their mastery of the Illinois Learning Standards, so that appropriate support can be provided to ensure they remain on track for success in college and careers. Many districts throughout the state have spent months, even years, preparing for the new assessments and we are committed to working with CPS as they begin preparations.”