CPS Officials Pressured to Administer PARCC Tests

Published March 11, 2015

Chicago Public Schools officials announced they will administer the Common Core-aligned tests to all students, after attempting to limit the tests to a small group of students for the first year of testing.

In January, CPS officials made national headlines by announcing they intended to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams in reading and math to some but not all students. The Chicago Teachers Union initially led the effort to slow the testing implementation, along with a parents group opposed to Common Core.

State Superintendent of Education then sent a letter to CPS officials threatening their Title I and state funding if they did not administer the new testing.

Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools Barbara Byrd-Bennett wrote the following in a March 2 letter to parents and guardians:

“During the past few months, you may have heard about the implementation of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) in our schools. I am writing to let you know that, after careful consideration and discussion, Chicago Public Schools plans to move forward with the administering of PARCC District-wide beginning March 9. Although we continue to believe that a pilot in 10 percent of our schools would have been best for our students, we cannot risk the devastating financial cuts of more than $1.4 billion threatened by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the U.S. Department of Education and our students’ futures by administering PARCC to only 10 percent of schools.”

Bent to ISBE’s Will

Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, says he expected CPS to bend to the will of ISBE.

“It’s not surprising,” Dabrowski said. “When the powers are holding hundreds of millions up, it does have an impact. There’s a lot of politics involved in that. After all, the Common Core movement is very powerful, out of Washington [D.C.]. Of course, the funding is coming from the federal government. As it increases, it’s going to have more impact. They’re tying these things to the Race to the Top program, and the more money involved, the more it makes it difficult to separate decision making from funding. That’s certainly the case here.”

Dabrowski says support for the Common Core standards is dropping nationwide.

“There’s been a dramatic drop in the number of states supporting Common Core,” Dabrowski said. “That’s because many places feel like they’re losing control. The fact is the link between money and being forced to do something that may or may not be in your best interest is a big driver of that. It behooves the cities and states to maintain as much local control as they can over their educational standards so there can be a variety in education. That forces competition and different models, rather than having one common standard of testing dumbing down the whole system.”

Common Core removes local control and the ability for schools to innovate, Dabrowski says.

“Oftentimes [legislators] may have good intentions, but promoting a top-down, national-level approach can conflict with what an individual state is trying to do,” Dabrowksi said. “A state could have a different approach that is just as successful, but may have a different, innovative approach.”

History of Bullying 

Dabrowski says the Chicago Teachers Union is one of the major opponents of Common Core, which adds a layer of irony to the situation.

“It’s very ironic,” Dabrowski said. “It’s the same administration and unions that are the ones that showed their power by holding a strike and keeping 400,000 kids out of school just a few years ago. They don’t like being bullied right now, but it’s ironic that these are the same people that bullied the very kids and parents they’re supposed to take care of. They don’t see a connection there.

“That’s the whole message out of this,” he continued. “This has nothing to do with the children. It’s all about the money and the resources. When the bureaucrats and the systems align, they will work closely together, often not in the interest of children. Sometimes, the alliances between the administration and the unions break down, and there’s a fight for that power. Again, always at the expense of the children.”

Jeff Reynolds ([email protected]) writes from Portland, Oregon.

Image by Lauren Brown.