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CPS Blinks, Will Administer PARCC To All Students

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 2, 2015 10:25PM

Faced with the possibility of losing federal funding, Chicago Public Schools said it would administer the 10-hour long Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized exam to all students from 3rd through 8th grades.

Illinois State Schools Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch and state school board chairman Rev. James Meeks wrote in a letter to CPS.

“While we cannot prevent CPS from asking the U. S. Department of Education for a waiver (from testing requirements), we will not be joining into that request because we believe that PARCC, which is fully aligned to the Illinois Learning Standards, should be given to all Illinois students. To be raising this issue now when CPS should be preparing to administer PARCC to 100 percent of its eligible students is irresponsible to the students of your district.”

CPS originally intended to administer the PARCC to only 10 percent of its students, saying it didn’t have the necessary technical capabilities to administer—and students lacked the skills to take—the computer-based exam. The Department of Education threatened to withhold $1.4 billion in funding to Illinois school districts if CPS failed to comply with its demand. Furthermore, the Illinois State Board of Education could have could have stopped recognizing CPS (which received most of that federal funding) as a district if CPS didn’t comply with the demands.

The district’s reversal was seen coming a mile away. Chicago School Board president David Vitale said “we cannot accept the risk.” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said “I continue to personally and professionally believe that to administer PARCC this year is not in the best interest in our students” and added all schools were instructed to prepare for the exam as if they would be part of the pilot program. “I do regret the uncertainty we have caused our schools,” Byrd-Bennett said.

The PARCC will begin being administered March 9 and schools have 20 days to complete the process. Third through fifth graders will take the test on paper, while middle schoolers will use computers. Already, parents across the district are mounting opt-out campaigns ahead of the March 9 testing date. The Chicago Teachers Union released a statement criticizing the School Board for catering to pressure.

“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.”