Dumping the PARCC and students having “skin in the game.”

John Dewey

Yesterday the Illinois State Board of Education announced it was dumping the PARCC exam for high school students in the state.

They will still require its use in third through 8th grade.

As a temporary measure the state will pay for students to take the ACT SAT in order to be in compliance with federal regulations.

Certainly the movement to opt-out and wide-spread criticism of the PARCC exam had something to do with the ISBE’s decision.

It is clear to me that nothing in the ISBE’s decision should cause that movement to stop.

How much this will actually change things remains to be seen. State law still requires that teachers be evaluated in part based on student measures of performance.

“There was no element of skin in the game for the kids — they didn’t know why they had to take the exam,” said Argo Community High School District 217 Superintendent Kevin O’Mara, president of the High School District Organization of Illinois.

“It threw off our whole spring calendar.”

“Skin in the game.”

What educator talks like this? This is the language of Wall Street, not classrooms.

Is the purpose of assessing instruction and student learning a matter of having students feel that they have skin in the game?

It is true that students knew that their own performance on this test would have no impact on them personally.

But what if it did?

The skin in the game that matters is students having ownership of their learning.

It is unlikely that the great educator John Dewey would talk about “skin in the game.” But if he were ever to use such a phrase in relation to the classroom he would mean student searching for the meaning of a good life and social justice, as creators of knowledge and engagement in participatory democracy.

Raise Your Hand’s statement on Illinois PARCC scores. “A manufactured bar to label students as failing.”


Today the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released preliminary PARCC results that purport that less than 30%  of students in Illinois are meeting expectations in English and math. While ISBE has been attempting to manage public response by saying no one should be shamed by this, many will still claim that this shows that the majority of our schools, teachers and students are failing.

RYH firmly rejects this assertion and maintains that PARCC is an illegitimate measure of student achievement and, worse yet, a blatant waste of scarce resources in a state that ranks at the bottom of the nation for state funding of public education and near the top for inequity across rich vs poor school districts.

The PARCC governing board intentionally set PARCC’s manufactured bar so that they can label the majority of students as failing.  As many national media outlets reported last month, many of those setting the cut scores disagreed about the thresholds for achievement. This is not surprising because cut scores are disputable, subjective judgments, not inherent properties of a test. There is no such thing as the “correct” cut-score.

The company that created PARCC, Pearson, has still never released a technical document demonstrating that it is even a valid and reliable standardized test.  Practice PARCC tests shared with public last year were deeply flawed.  $40 million and 12 months later, we still have no evidence that PARCC tests are a useful measure of the Common Core State Standards or general student achievement. Many states agree. Nineteen of the 25 states plus DC that originally signed on to the PARCC consortium have dropped the test (only 7 states plus DC are now participating), vastly undercutting the intended premise of being able to compare states with one another.

Our state and city’s education leaders must stop using test scores to attack schools rather than support them. While PARCC is not high-stakes this year, we know from today’s ISBE board meeting that PARCC will be used to judge schools next year.

A test designed and scored to intentionally move the bar out of reach of the majority of students only further compounds the failed policy of defunding, closing, and privatizing schools.

RYH will continue to share information with parents on the right to opt their students out of this test and share the important update announced recently that there will be no financial penalties from the Feds for districts or schools that have high opt-out rates.

– See more at: http://ilraiseyourhand.org/content/ryh-statement-preliminary-parcc-results#sthash.l3Ba67tk.dpuf

Illinois PARCC results are bad, but IEA’s Klickna refuses to challenge Common Core and PARCC assumptions.


Partial results of the Illinois PARCC test were released today and they were bad.

After warning school officials that the results could be dismal, Illinois’ state superintendent of schools published some limited results from the controversial PARCC standardized test that showed just single-digit percentages of students exceeding expectations.

Illinois becomes the first of the 11 states plus the District of Columbia who use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test to release any results — albeit, only statewide scores from children who took the test online. Pencil-and-paper exams also were given; those are not yet ready.

Of those students statewide in grades three though eight and some high schoolers, students performed better on reading tests than math tests, except for third graders. The percentage of high schoolers enrolled in Algebra I or Integrated Math I who exceeded expectations was zero. The highest proficiency percentages came from eighth graders in English, where 38 percent of students met or exceeded expectations.
Nobody expected anything different.  Parents and teachers joined together last year in their criticism of the PARCC, with thousands of parents opting their children out of taking it.
The National Eduction Association has been critical of what we call toxic testing. Yet in Illinois our IEA President Cinda Klickna responded to the poor but expected results with a statement that all but accepted the assumptions of both the Common Core and PARCC.
The results of the Partnership for Assessment of readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests are neither a surprise nor a cause for alarm.
PARCC is a new test, based on new standards. These results cannot be compared with the tests PARCC replaced, as they are quite different from each other.
These results provide a kind of baseline. However, since the test is being revamped, it’s unclear how useful this year’s test and results will be.
We agree with superintendent Tony Smith that “the results shouldn’t be used to shame teachers or schools.”
The new standards remain in place and we expect to see improvement in the years to come as the new test is refined and teachers become more familiar with the standards.

I’m opting to ride Amtrak to Springfield for opt out even though my union doesn’t support us.


Wednesday will be the first Springfield Lobby Day that I’ve traveled there by Amtrak. In the past I drove with others or rode a union bus.

My union doesn’t support HB306, State Representative Will Guzzardi’s bill that clarifies and strengthens parent rights to opt their children out of the terrible PARCC test.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers and their Chicago affiliate do support it. It makes IEA President Cinda Klickna’s explanation to me about their failure to support the bill  even more of a puzzle.

I wrote the IEA leadership and our IEA lobbying department asking if they would meet with me and a group of parents to at least discuss the bill.

Klickna said she would be out of town. She offered nobody else as an alternative.

Director of IEA Government Relations, Jim Reed, said he would meet if he wasn’t at a legislative committee meeting and offered that we could meet with our IEA region’s lobbyist.

Klickna suggested that I lobby for funding and against pension cuts.

Readers and fellow activists will recognize this comment as the snide piece of work it is.

Tomorrow I will lobby for parents, kids and against high-stakes testing. All of which is in accord with the policy of my national union, the National Education Association. And should be the practice and policy of the IEA.

Jim Broadway writes:

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Inc. (PARCC), a non-profit developer of high-stakes tests that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts, got paid $1,226,557.00 by the Illinois State Board of Education this fiscal year. All in one lump sum, no waiting.

That’s more than the organization’s total income in 2013.

Broadway adds:

Who are these anti-PARCC voices? Actually, I receive email from educators for and against PARCC (but by far more from those who are against having the test administered this school year). An organized effort to make it possible for parents to let their kids “opt-out” of  the test without punishment is also under way.

A leader in the effort is a group called “Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education.” Raise Your Hand was established in Chicago in 2010 and has focused mainly on issues unique to the Windy City (such as the closure of 50 schools in a single year). But PARCC has stimulated membership growth in all corners of the state.

Raise Your Hand Executive Director Wendy Katten tells me members of the group from Chicago and from other counties plan to be in Springfield Wednesday to meet with legislators and hold a news conference on the topic of HB 306, a bill to let students opt-out of a state test. Here is the pivotal paragraph of the bill:

“A student is not required to take a particular State assessment under this Section if that student’s parent or guardian requests, in writing, that the student be excused from taking the State assessment. The State Board of Education shall, by rule, (i) determine the form of the request; (ii) ensure that no student, teacher, school, or school district is negatively impacted, through grades or evaluations, due to a student being excused from taking a State assessment; and (iii) ensure that students who are excused from taking a State assessment are offered supervised instructional or enrichment opportunities during the time the State assessment is being administered.”

Raise Your Hand supports the bill. State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), sponsor of HB 306, recently told news mediaabout the bill and introduced a parent who said she was threatened that she would have to pay a fee for her children to attend a Chicago charter school if the children did not take the PARCC test.

Another Chicago group called “More than a Score” has also protested what it calls “bullying” by ISBE. The group offers parents “useful advice” and documents to help parents opt their children out of PARCC and other state tests.

Guzzardi’s bill is on second reading in the House. Numerous “impact notes” have been filed on the bill, but only one says it would cause negative impact. ISBE’s note alleges HB 306 would jeopardize $1 billion or more in federal funding. While that may be true in a technical sense, it is beyond the fringe of our reality.

HB 306 was filed in late January. It was approved by the House PK-12 committee on Licensing Oversight by a 3-2 vote, a partisan roll call with Democrats voting in the affirmative. Co-sponsors of the bill, Democrats whose legislative districts are in or near Chicago, were joined recently by Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville).

The bill has until April 24 for the House to vote it over to the Senate where it would need to be approved by the Senate Education Committee and passed by the full Senate before it would go the Rauner’s desk – where it would be vetoed. Could three-fifths of both chambers vote to “override” a veto in the fall? Probably not.

Whether the Guzzardi bill survives an expected veto from Governor Private Equity is not the point.

Parents already have the right to opt out. And the opt out movement is large and growing.

Guzzardi’s bill simply clarifies and spells out parent rights.

However, if the state’s largest teacher union isn’t willing to stand (or even meet) with parents against bad education practice, what does it say about its leaders?


Tim Furman: Illinois Red Alert for PARCC hearing.


– Tim Furman blogs at TBFurman.

Raise Your Hand is letting people know that there’s a hearing in the Illinois House about the PARCC and its many problems. It’s at 4 PM, Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

Here’s the hearing notice. The committee has a lot of bills before it, but this hearing isn’t about a bill; it’s about the topic of PARCC. Around the state, PARCC is problematic for any number of reasons, and it is certainly a cluster here in Chicago; it appears that the legislature is starting to hear about it.

Here are the members of the committee.

If you have something to say about the PARCC, now is the time. It’s useless to complain without presenting your case to the people who can actually do something about it. The assessment cycle is right around the corner, and if legislators are going to be accurately informed about the PARCC and how it’s playing out in Illinois, it’s going to have to come from you.

Here’s what you can do. You can testify, either in person or in writing. It’s easy.

Here’s the direct link to the witness slip for the hearing.    Remember, if you submit testimony, you still have to fill out a witness slip to go on the record. Go!

From the Illinois State Board of Ed’s Chris Koch comes more PARCC craziness.


The following information about the Illinois PARCC tests from President of the ISBE Christopher A. Koch.

As we work together to implement our new assessment system, we have heard from a number of high school educators with concerns regarding PARCC implementation this spring. In response to these concerns, we have worked with our vendor and are able to offer a one-time opportunity to allow districts their choice of the sets for the high school PARCC assessments during the 2014-15 administration.

For this year only, districts may opt to change from the state-selected ELA III and Algebra II/Integrated Math 3 to one of the following combinations of tests:

  •  ELA I and Algebra I/Integrated Math 1


  • ELA II and Geometry/Integrated Math 2

Currently ELA III and Algebra II/Integrated Math 3 are scheduled to be loaded into the Pearson system.

If – and only if – you intend to change this current selection, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TV729JZ by Dec. 5 and confirm your new choice of tests so that we can submit the correct high school student data for your newly selected courses. You will be asked to provide contact names and numbers for district staff with whom information regarding logistics may be shared.

We apologize for the tight time frame; however, we will not be able to honor change requests after Dec. 5. This is to provide your staff time to load any needed information to SIS and enable you to enter all relevant paper PNP/accommodations data prior to the Dec. 8 print deadline. If local district staff do not make changes in the systems by the above deadlines, the state-selected set of ELA III and Alegbra II/Integrated Math 3 will be designated for students.

This is a one-time option that we are providing in direct response to feedback from high school educators. We listened to your concerns and worked to provide this flexibility. This is a very tight timeframe and in order for you to take advantage of this opportunity it will mean additional effort from your staff within the next week to meet these immovable deadlines.  

Recall that in October CPS asked for a delay in PARCC testing.

Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett said Wednesday that she’ll ask the federal government to delay the rollout of a new and controversial state exam for grade school students this spring.

Byrd-Bennett told school board members that fully implementing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test is “unwarranted,” and that she will instead talk to the U.S. Department of Education about expanding a limited pilot program for the test.

The letter appears to be Koch’s answer to the concerns about the PARCC.

A CPS teacher explained to me.

“Koch “responded” to educators’ & parents’ pleas that the test that he bought was too difficult for the students, and so ISBE was forced to purchase the “easier” leveled tests for this year only (2016 we all take ELA III, Math 3). However, districts must express that they want the easier tests by Friday using  surveymonkey that went out to thousands of people.”

Vote early and vote often.

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