Illinois opt out bill is now headed for the Senate.


Tim Furman notes a rare vote from House Speaker Madigan. 

My state Representative Will Guzzardi’s testing opt out bill seemed to have more setbacks than last years Bears defense.

A week or so ago it seemed to be headed for a committee graveyard.

But parent and teacher activists didn’t give up.

Raise Your Hand and More Than a Score mobilized their activist base to call, email and travel to Springfield.

Did RYH’s Wendy Katten and MTS’s Cassie Creswell rent an apartment down there? It seemed like it.

Yesterday the House came through and voted overwhelmingly to pass HB 306 with both Democratic Party and Republican votes, sending the bill to the Senate side of the Capitol.

I watched the debate on live streaming. While some observers praised it as a genuine policy debate, I was once again shaking my head, listening to so many of these politicians display such total ignorance on a issue they were about to vote on.

It brought back memories of my discussions with them about pensions.

It is rare for so many to have the power to make decisions that impact people’s lives and know so little.

Outside of the U.S. Congress.

As someone who has spent a lot of time having face-to-face sessions in Springfield lobbying on a range of issues, this comes as no surprise.

To his credit, Will Guzzardi calmly repeated the same truth to the same repeated questions.

“No, this does not encourage parents to opt out. It simply codifies their rights.” 

“No state has been penalized by the feds, and the feds have been less than forthcoming in saying whether they have the right to penalize a state.”

In the end the vote was 64 to 47 in favor of the Guzzardi bill. It was the first bill Guzzardi introduced after he was took office in January following his defeat of the incumbent Toni Berrios, daughter of the Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios.

He ran for the Assembly seat promising to work for a progressive agenda.

Chicago’s Democratic Party African American legislators could be found on both sides of the issue.

Several took to the microphone to express concerns over how the confluence of over-testing and lack of funding, services and technology put their constituents’ children at a disadvantage.

The House Democratic majority’s leadership was also divided.

Hyde Park liberal Barbara Flynn-Currie, who is House Majority Leader, voted no.

Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan, who rarely votes on a bill at all, voted yes.

Teacher unions were also divided.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers supported the bill.

The Illinois Education Association, which voted to support the concept of opting out at our state Representative Assembly, took no position on the Guzzardi bill, but voiced concerns over threats to funding and threats to teachers who might face disciplinary measures for advocating for opting out.

10 Replies to “Illinois opt out bill is now headed for the Senate.”

  1. Mr. Klonsky I have a question. I spoke to my sons principal several days ago about his MAP test which requires him to go to “enhancement” courses at his JR high. These courses seem to be nothing more than wasted time in my sons day. The principal told me there was nothing he could do because of my son not scoring well enough. I have thought about opting out for some time. If my son did not take the MAP would the School be required to place him in something other than so-called “enhancement”? I don’t believe in these tests and they drive my wife crazy with fear that our kid is not on par. I smell a rat!!!!
    What is the true reason for these tests? Federal Dollars? State Dollars?
    I cant get anyone at the school district to level with me, simply talking points. I cannot stand being in the dark on such things, can you shed some light? Valley View School Dist. Bolingbrook


    1. There is no federal or state requirement that I am aware for the MAP. Perhaps current teachers or administrators can comment.

    2. Ill tell you what the point is. Making money. The Department of Education has federal dollars aplenty to go around to school districts(62 billion maybe is their budget). States get money if they get kids to take these myriad tests (Race to the Top education gimmick). Knowing this, private companies (Pearson, NWEA, and hundreds of others) develop the tools, tests, curricula, etc. that districts now need to pass these tests. And so crucial dollars in each district are now being gobbled up by private companies who have no real vested interest in the kids at all, but do rake in millions padding a bottom line. As a parent, if you understand this gimmick for what it is, you should be outraged.

      Let me be clear. I am a teacher. I take my profession seriously. What has been done to my practice just over the last few years is a travesty of epic proportions. Instead of teaching kids to read, write, think, speak, use technology, and develop some sense of a moral foundation (character is what we call it now), I spend inordinate amounts of time doing test prep, fretting about my results, and distancing myself from good practices in favor of those that will secure my job. Because 1 or 2 bad years of data from my students could be the end of me.

      At the same time, this has all happened because the teaching profession has become too insular and resistant to weeding out its weakest. Teaching doesn’t get the best and the brightest candidates, and as a result, our children don’t demonstrate global equivalence to other countries in terms of knowledge in core subjects. It is not as simple as that (factor in poverty of course), but if teaching was more fluid for those in charge to hire and fire the best talent, the profession as a whole would NOT be crying out for so much testing to make sure the students are learning. Teaching is incredibly difficult, but the idea that we need more protections in our profession, and not less, has always annoyed me. The question is, how does the profession of teaching attract more intellectual and gifted talent out of colleges? Hate to say it, but the fact is teaching is a fallback for many students who don’t posses the intellectual rigor and capability to truly “instruct” our kids. These are well meaning, good people, but teaching is too important to leave it to well meaning people. We need more intellect.

      Teaching programs in the U.S. routinely draw the lowest 1/3 of students in terms of intellectual abilities from all other majors? Why? Well isn’t that answer simple enough? Who the hell would want to grow up to be a teacher today? What a thankless job, and our profession has allowed the media to portray us as greedy, lazy, and overpaid.

      Map is a scam. Period. The software itself, and the test the kids take, can be a useful tool for helping teachers see areas of need for their kids. But it is routinely used to evaluate teachers, not to give them a tool to use to work with students on areas of need. And kids, who get used to taking the thing 3 times a year in many districts now from 3rd grade through 8th (some places even earlier), come to see themselves only as the number the test spits out at them. Listen to me very carefully when I explain this to you. I have taken the Map test, as a teacher, hundreds of times, year after year. I can score at the highest levels of the test. But on other attempts, my score drops drastically despite my same efforts. I could take the test 5 times in 5 hours and get 5 different scores, with wild ranges in between. What is my point? Our kids are not machines and robots. They take the test just like I do. Sometimes they can produce a consistent output year after year. But many kids have a bad day and don’t give a shit. Or get a result that was somewhat lucky based on the guessing the test allows. Its a multiple choice test that gets harder as you get more correct…either raising your difficulty of questions or easing them if you get many wrong. It doesnt always produce an accurate result. Yet where I teach, our life somewhat depends on those results, and as teachers we all direct our energies into helping kids master this test. It makes me sick.

      1. I believe the American Statical Association has cautioned against using test scores on standardized tests to judge the quality of teachers. Moreover, the disaggregated data from international testing indicates that our students from high socioeconomic backgrounds perform very well. Even our low socioeconomic students outperform students from a similar demographic background in other countries. Why would you decry the current testing culture and then point out testing performance to indicate the poor quality of our teachers?

        In addition, while we have all observed teachers who perhaps should leave the profession, that number is hardly as high as you appear to indicate. I am also rather tired of the best and brightest mantra; I have seen no evidence tying teachers who had top grades in college and beyond with their students’ grades. Teaching requires a much broader skill set than the ability to obtain top grades. I recently read an article on the selection of teacher candidates in Finland. They purposely do not limit their pool to the “best and the brightest.”

        I totally agree that the current emphasis on testing is and has warped what we know to be good practice. I just do not buy the narrative that tries to blame poor teachers for the supposed “failure” of public education.

  2. Students not performing well on international benchmark assessments has nothing to do with a testing culture. America ranks lower on some of those core areas than third world nations. Of course its not just the teachers who are responsible for this. Poverty is a tremendous factor, as is lack of resources, poor facilities, language barriers, etc.

    But so is the person in front of the student. And if you want to deny or diminish that fact, I would ask you to examine carefully what most state teaching programs demand of a student to become a teacher, and what kind of content knowledge is required to teach critical subjects to our students. It ain’t much. Have you ever taken a basic skills test? Pass that and the key to the kingdom is yours. That is a travesty.

    I teach English to 8th grade students, and I have a literature background for my B.A., and a teaching program completed for masters. I am the only individual in my entire building who has a literature degree. Does that make me a great teacher? Of course not. But as a citizen would you be concerned if the rest of the teachers in my building did not study literature in college, did not spend several years dissecting various authors and learning about various periods of thought that developed from those writers? Why does that situation persist in elementary and middle schools across the country?

    I’ll tell you why. How does $30,000 dollars a year in salary? Don’t tell me that we are just fine because anyone in front of the students can effectively do this. Its not my anecdotal experience and its certainly not supported by how the students perform.

    Where are the American students in medicine, engineering, and science? At the lowest levels of enrollment the country has ever seen. Why?

    Respectfully, I only offer that the profession of teaching does not draw the kind of quality candidates that other professions do simply for the fact that the profession itself has been denigrated to the point to where there is very little prestige, honor, or social value to teaching itself. Why would people who possess intellectual rigor become a teacher? Has society promoted that as a destination? Does the media? Does the salary?

    Wall street gets the best math minds. Our great speakers and debaters go into law school. Take one look at what those professions earn over a lifetime and what a teacher earns, and you have your answer for why this disparity persists. It does not work this way in Europe or Asia, where teachers are revered and the profession is still honored (in general).

    There is no guarantee that a person of higher intellect is going to be a great teacher. None and I am not saying that they are correlated. But these candidates simply never decide, in general, that teaching is a destination at all unless it says “Professor”. Until we change that dynamic our profession suffers from the kind of “brain drain” that limits our capacity to effect meaningful learning in students on the kind of scale that would bring us competitively into the global economy and 21st century. Not a single teacher in my middle school building is a history major, yet every nearly every teacher in my building teaches history. Why does America continue to lead the world in IGNORANCE from its students in terms of their own knowledge of American history.

    Raise the prestige back to that of being an honorable calling…pay it for what it is worth in society, and watch our profession make the need for such ridiculous testing obsolete.

  3. “Where are the American students in medicine, engineering, and science? At the lowest levels of enrollment the country has ever seen. Why? ”

    Because higher education costs are prohibitive. Because the jobs are not there. When business starts calling for more STEM workers, it isn’t because of a shortage. It is to drive down the cost of hiring. More workers, lower salaries. We already produce more STEM graduates than there are STEM jobs. Medicine? Unless you train for a prestigious specialty, the $$ aren’t there. Since healthcare has been privatized it isn’t the internist making a good living and a common complaint is they are spending more time filling out paperwork than practicing medicine which is now according to an algorithm that demands clearing a certain number of patients within a certain amount of time. Engineers? Well, forget engineering that deals with infrastructure. As long as there is no disaster, nobody wants to pay for something so boring and it is getting harder and harder to make a middle class income.

    As to being competitive in the global marketplace. Are you kidding? If our own multinational corporations don’t outsource our entire economy, we will continue to be globally competitive although great harm has already been done with the ongoing destruction of the middle class. We have never scored at the top on international test competitions and yet we have managed to be a world power (with our mediocrity). Perhaps, just perhaps, we should be looking at other factors to explain our success? Defining success by how well one does on standardized tests does not seem to be elevating the quality of our schools, and the attack on teachers is driving well trained teachers out of the profession. In the current atmosphere, I would never encourage anyone to go into the teaching profession.

    After having said that, I agree with you that by the time students reach the age of subject area instruction, their teachers should have a subject area degree/specialty/training in addition to an educational degree. during the elementary years, teachers have to be generalists even if they have a content area degree. The training in teaching is as important as the content specialty. There are plenty of specialists who do not belong in a classroom, and I hope no one in your school is standing in front of their class lecturing for 45 minutes everyday. (Nearly every teacher teaches history? Do you mean social studies? Including you? What grades are in your middle school?) I don’t think there ever was a golden age of teaching in the U.S. where teachers were revered particularly if respect is defined by financial compensation. College professors have had a certain level of success and prestige, but the business model of education is quickly destroying that professional avenue. We have PhDs wandering from college campus to college campus trying to put together a living as layer after layer of administrators are added. How is it we used to staff our higher education institutions with tenure track faculty and did not saddle students and their parents with crippling debt?

    All that being said, I suspect that if we sat down together, I would find myself agreeing with your frustration more than not.

    1. Yes. I don’t want to blame the overwhelming majority of good people who do their best every day to try and teach students. Nor do I want to say that our teachers in this country lack the capacity to stretch, challenge, or raise the intellectual discourse in the classroom. I just want to see our really gifted college graduates say…”Yeah, I want to teach.” Men or women. Does that condition exist today? Hardly by any measure.

      Of course there are bad apples, just as there are in any profession. The microscope on us though is so great, so intense, that we simply can’t afford it to be too insular and too resistant to change. I want to see our teaching programs produce tougher standards. I want to see more applicants rejected. I want to see content knowledge required for any adult who portends to teach core subjects. In my building, as long as it is only 1 period a day, ANYONE can teach social studies to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. People do their best.
      But does these seem like good educational practice to you? It is not isolated. Since Social Studies is not tested, does it matter who is in front of the students?

      This is not the teacher’s fault. It is the value society places on our profession. It is the pool of candidates that principals have to choose from.

      You’ve made some points that I’d have to investigate, and perhaps my viewpoint is a bit narrow. Good discussion nonetheless.

      1. I hope we meet here again. Our viewpoints are shaped by our worlds. I have the luxury of wandering farther afield since I am now retired. I think we could trade war stories, though, in a less public forum.

      2. Mark I think perhaps you haven’t done enough time OUT of teaching to appreciate the high rate of efficacy our profession enjoys. Been to a doctor lately? Took my 10 years to find a decent one. CPA? Lawyers?

        When I was in sales I was amazed at how the worst salespeople became management. Ever read Dilbert? It’s popular for a reason. I’d hold up teaching to any profession as a model.

        Insular? Under the microscope? The facts the we are targets doesn’t mean that we should eat our own. It means we need to fight back.

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