Raise Your Hand puts CPS on notice: PARCC


Cassie Creswell of Logan Square at a November "Park the PARCC" rally in the Thompson Center

Raise Your Hand (RYH), a grassroots parents organization created in 2010, put the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on notice Monday, Mar. 2, after CPS reversed their decision to defy a State mandate about a new standardized test called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). 

CPS said that they would administer PARCC to 66 of its more than 600 schools, extending a pilot program that began last year. The remainder of the schools would continue with NWEA-MAP and EPAS exams. 

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) countered with a letter stating that there is a federal requirement to administer the test to every child from 3rd to 8th grade and some high schools, unless the student is exempt. And that they are responsible for Illinois' compliance with the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) requirements.  

To back that up, they threatened that any district, including CPS, will lose their Title I funding if they do not comply. And, they will seek to recoup funds spent on test booklets unused by the district as well as any restocking fees charged to ISBE by their testing vendor.

The ISBE increased the threat by stating that those with Title I School Improvement Grants (SIG) "are required to administer the state accountability assessment pursuant to terms of these grant awards and the assurances signed by all districts in receipt of these funds. Any district that has a SIG grant and fails to administer the PARCC exam will jeopardize its funding." 

“There are huge, huge financial sanctions that have been very clearly delineated to us. It would be irresponsible for me to even put us in that position of danger, of losing the funds, given our financial conditions now,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS CEO.

“I continue to personally and professionally believe that to administer PARCC this year is absolutely not in the best interests of our students, however, given the threat from (the Illinois State Board of Education), there is absolutely no choice that I can present to this board and to our community.” 

RYH fired back about the testing which is to begin on Mar. 9. "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." 

They went on to point out that 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."

Christopher Koch, IOBE's State Superintendent of Education, has now sent a letter to all parents explaining what the test is to do. It ends with, "Importantly, we encourage you to talk with your children and share that while this is an important test, it only yields one piece of information about them and their school’s progress. Students’ school attendance, the school climate and culture, classroom work, homework, projects, local tests as well as sports and extracurricular activities all contribute to helping children grow and learn."


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