WBEZ | opt out http://www.wbez.org/tags/opt-out Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Saucedo teachers spend Day 1 of ISAT teaching; concerns raised about intimidation http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IMAG2400.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy declared victory Tuesday, saying their protest of the state&rsquo;s Illinois Standards Achievement Test is working. The teachers said they spent the first day of ISAT testing doing what they set out to&mdash;teaching.</p><p>A week ago, teachers at the Little Village school voted unanimously to refuse to give the exam, which normally carries high stakes in Chicago but is being phased out this year. The school district has said boycotting teachers could lose their jobs or even their teaching certificates.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m very, very happy to say today was a victory,&rdquo; said special education teacher Sarah Chambers after the final bell rang at Saucedo on the first scheduled day of testing there. &ldquo;Overall it went smoothly. The kids who were opting out had the test placed in front of them and they were immediately removed to an opt-out room, where teachers who were refusing to give the test&mdash;the boycotting teachers&mdash;were able to teach them,&rdquo; said Chambers.</p><p>Social studies teacher Ferris Akrabawi&nbsp; said he led students in readings from Mahatma Gandhi&#39;s 1922 trial for sedition. &ldquo;One person&rsquo;s insubordination is another person&rsquo;s&hellip; cry for change,&rdquo; Akrabawi says he taught students.</p><p>But the teachers and activists also decried what they said were heavy-handed tactics on the part of schools to try to get students to take the ISAT. <em>Hear more about this by pushing PLAY above.</em></p><p>Chambers said at Saucedo, some parents who had opted their children out of testing rescinded their opt-out letters after getting calls from the school. She said some teachers who had originally voted to boycott the exam ended up administering it, fearing for their jobs.</p><p>In other parts of the city, a teacher from Otis Elementary in West Town said opt out forms signed by parents weren&rsquo;t respected, and kids were given the test anyway. A dad from Jane Addams Elementary on the Southeast Side said his nine-year-old daughter had to watch classmates eat candy and ice cream after they took their test; kids who opted out didn&rsquo;t get any.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey said it was &ldquo;child abuse&rdquo; to put test booklets in front of students whose parents had opted them out of the test. Because state law requires the test be given to all students, some schools handed out test booklets and had teachers read instructions, even to kids who had opted out. Opt out advocates say that put kids as young as eight years old in a situation where they had to choose whether to follow their parent&rsquo;s instruction to skip the test or their teacher&rsquo;s instruction to complete it.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re hearing all these accounts of bullying,&rdquo; Chambers said. &ldquo;Why is this occurring? It&rsquo;s occurring because our CPS is controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And he is a bully.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS parent Cassie Creswell urged the mayor and school officials to be more sensitive to the demands of parents. Creswell said Emanuel had effectively opted his own children out of the ISAT by enrolling them in a private school that gives few standardized tests.</p><p>The district did not respond to questions about particular incidents at schools, but CPS says it won&rsquo;t tolerate acts to coerce or intimidate students into taking the ISAT.</p><p>However, officials say they are in conversations with the state about disciplining the boycotting teachers.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Parents want the right to opt their children out of testing</strong></p><p>On Monday, two dozen Chicago parents filed a complaint asking the American Civil Liberties Union to determine whether parental rights are being violated when it comes to opting their children out of the the ISAT.</p><p>&ldquo;Parents are being asked to rescind their opt out letters, children are being told to call up their parents and opt them back in&mdash;egregious violations of parental rights, egregious mistreatment of children,&rdquo; said Creswell, who is part of the anti-testing group that has spearheaded the opt out effort in Chicago, More Than a Score. The group advocates for less standardized testing in schools.</p><p>But the Illinois State Board of Education says there is no legal mechanism in state law for parents to opt their children out of the federally required accountability exam. All schools must test all third through eighth graders, the state says. Illinois law does allow for students to &ldquo;refuse to engage&rdquo; with a test. Students must be offered the test,&nbsp; but they can refuse it and sit quietly through the testing process, or, if a district allows, read a book during the test, the state board says.</p><p>The state has encouraged parents to have their children take the ISAT. &ldquo;Testing is another point of information that educators can use about children,&rdquo; Illinois State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch said. Scores this year will give an indication of how well students are performing against new Common Core standards, he said.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools is not saying how many students have opted out of the ISAT; activists say it&rsquo;s at least 1,500 kids at 80 schools. Some 171,000 Chicago students were scheduled to take the ISAT.</p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815 School board approves $363 million spending package for system restructuring http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-approves-363-million-spending-package-system-restructuring-106835 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/photo(1) - Copy.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Board of Education approved a $363 million spending package Wednesday that will help pay for Chicago Public Schools massive restructuring plan.</p><p>CPS wants to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202">close 54 schools</a>&mdash;the most any school district has ever taken on in a single year. In all, the plan will affect 132 schools and each action will be voted on by the school board on May 22. &nbsp;</p><p>Initially, district officials said the move was necessary to address CPS&rsquo;s ballooning deficit. But any savings won&rsquo;t come for several years because the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-will-go-further-debt-pay-upgrades-receiving-schools-106627">plans to go further into debt</a> in order to fix up the receiving schools and others that need upgrades.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she wants classrooms at the remaining schools to &ldquo;pop,&rdquo; so that students want to come to school.</p><p>But when Garvey third grader Asean Johnson stepped up to the microphone, barely able to peer &nbsp;over the podium, he rattled off a list of the things his elementary school already has&mdash;a &ldquo;well-stocked library, an award-winning garden,&rdquo; an art room, a computer lab and several science labs.</p><p>&ldquo;These are things you say that you want all schools to have but intentionally left these facts out of the fact sheet given to the parents in the community,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;Why would you take Marcus Garvey away from us?&rdquo;</p><p>Garvey elementary is slated to close and students will be sent to nearby Mount Vernon&mdash;a move parents, teachers, and even the <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/19251135-474/editorial-what-a-half-empty-school-looks-like.html">Chicago Sun-Times editorial board</a> say is questionable. &nbsp;</p><p>Board members became slightly more outspoken on the closings issue during Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting. Mahalia Hines, a former principal and current board member, pressed CPS officials on what specifically they would be doing to help students with special needs.</p><p>Hines raised concerns about the utilization formula not accounting for special education programs and told district officials they would need to review the safety plans at some of the schools. She said she took a few of the routes from closing to receiving schools and was shocked.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a route I&rsquo;d send my child,&rdquo; she said, referring to the walk from Melody to Delano Elementary. &ldquo;They are going to have to come back with some better options that that&hellip; There is no way, no way, I would send my child (on that walk). And I&rsquo;m not voting for anything I wouldn&rsquo;t vote for for my child. OK?&rdquo;</p><p>It was clear that board members have been visiting the schools on the list of closures. At one point, board president David Vitale thanked a woman from Henson Elementary for showing him around the school last week. Henson is slated to close and students will move to Langston Hughes Elementary.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>&lsquo;Community engagement&rsquo; shorter for some</strong></h2><p>For months, parents, teachers and other community activists have been fighting to pull their schools off the chopping block. CPS is on its <a href="http://www.cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/4_15_2013_PR1.aspx">fourth round of community engagement</a> and many of the same faces came out again Wednesday for a final push. Formal public hearings end next week.</p><p>But for some groups, this latest round of public forums is the first chance they&rsquo;ve had to speak out. That&rsquo;s because a number of schools affected by the restructuring were not on any of the previous lists of schools eligible for closure.</p><p>Courtenay Elementary is one of them. A small school with lottery admissions on the North Side, it is slated to merge with nearby Stockton Elementary and move into the Stockton building. Courtenay parents are upset not only that the basic structure of the school will change into a large, comprehensive neighborhood school, but also because they didn&rsquo;t see the proposal coming.</p><p>&ldquo;I strongly oppose the merger of Courtenay and Stockton,&rdquo; said Mila Cohen, whose daughter is in Courtenay&rsquo;s special education program. &ldquo;The mayor says the time for negotiation is over. This is insulting because there was no negotiation. There was no notice. No dialog and certainly, no transparency. Courtenay was never on any action lists and why should it be?&rdquo;</p><p>Cohen said the only reason the school is not Level 1, the highest performance rating CPS gives, is because there wasn&rsquo;t significant growth above the school&rsquo;s already high scores. &ldquo;By this logic, CPS would downgrade Harvard for not improving every year too.&rdquo;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Dueling Protests</strong></h2><p>There is a sharp divide in the debate over school closings and improving the school system and the scene outside CPS headquarters before the meeting started Wednesday illustrated the tensions.</p><p>Outside, students, many of them juniors who were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/students-want-boycott-state-test-106735">boycotting the second day of state testing</a>, chanted &ldquo;Education is our right, we won&rsquo;t go without a fight!&rdquo; while indoors, a large group of parents from UNO, Noble and Chicago International charter schools chanted, &ldquo;Padres unidos, jamas de a vencidos!&rdquo; (Translation: The parents united, will never be defeated!)</p><p>The groups had starkly different messages. The students said they want CPS to stop using their standardized tests to justify shutting down schools. While, the parents argued that the performance, mostly measured by standardized tests, is reason that CPS should open more charter schools.</p><p>The charter parents, decked out in T-shirts and bright yellow stickers, are part of a new group called <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-cps-board-charters-20130423,0,6849188.story">Charter Parents United</a>, or CPU. A press release about the group ASGK Public Strategies, a firm founded by David Axelrod, says the group formed to &ldquo;voice the concerns of one group whose views have been missing from the recent debate about fixing Chicago Public Schools.&rdquo;</p><p>CPU also argued that charter schools should be funded equally. But in the district&rsquo;s most recent budget cycle, CPS touted the fact that charter schools got equitable funding as a result of the Gates Foundation&rsquo;s District-Charter Compact. In all, charters <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-schools-budget-avoids-staggering-cuts-draining-reserves-100680">got a $76 million increase in funding</a> from CPS this year.</p><p>But parents protesting with CPU didn&rsquo;t agree and continued to argue that the schools were not funded fairly. Yeni Jiminez has four children, two at UNO-Carlos Fuentes, one at Noble-Golder College Prep and another in college.</p><p>When asked by a reporter what programs she felt were missing from her children&rsquo;s schools, Jiminez said, &ldquo;I have to go right now, but I do believe that children definitely deserve equal funding.&rdquo;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>&lsquo;NO&rsquo; votes</strong></h2><p>School board members rarely vote against any of the district&rsquo;s proposals, but yesterday, Mahalia Hines and Carlos Azcoitia voted &lsquo;no&rsquo; to expanding some of the city&rsquo;s charter schools.</p><p>Both voted down a proposal to add seats to Chicago Virtual Charter School. The resolution ultimately passed 4 to 2. After the meeting, Hines said she&rsquo;s not against the school, or any school, but doesn&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s wise to expand at a time when the district is trying to &ldquo;right-size&rdquo; itself.</p><p>Azcoitia also voted against adding a KIPP charter school in Englewood and the expansion of KIPP&rsquo;s ACT campus.</p><p>The measures ultimately passed, and next year several new schools are set to open.The board also approved a high school expansion for UNO-Rogers Park, despite <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/19166036-761/state-investigating-handling-of-98-million-grant-for-uno-charter-schools.html">a state investigation into the network&rsquo;s finances</a>.</p><p>CPS plans <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/proportion-privately-run-chicago-public-schools-increase-104303">to open about a dozen new schools</a> next year.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F89469144&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 10:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-approves-363-million-spending-package-system-restructuring-106835 Parents want more play, fewer tests in public schools http://www.wbez.org/news/parents-want-more-play-fewer-tests-public-schools-106700 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Play_131704_bv1.jpg" style="height: 452px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Pritzker school kindergartener, Leo, plays with LEGOs at Chicago Public Schools downtown headquarters. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" />Leo adjusts his paper mask and helps a friend make one that looks like Captain America. Sara stacks up blocks with her friend, Lizzy. Phoebe sits and plays on her mom&rsquo;s lap.</p><p dir="ltr">They&rsquo;re all sitting on blankets in the hall on the first floor of Chicago Public Schools headquarters&mdash;a place usually reserved for angry protesters waiting to testify at monthly Board of Education meetings.</p><p dir="ltr">Organizers of the demonstration say the type of play-based learning the kids are doing is being pushed out of public schools to make room for more standardized testing in the early grades. The demonstration &nbsp;was put together by a local arm of the group called <a href="http://morethanascorechicago.org/">More than a Score</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My first grader this year is taking, I think seven different standardized tests, and the total administration of these would be 20 times,&rdquo; Cassie Creswell said.</p><p dir="ltr">Her daughter goes to Goethe Elementary, a high-performing school in Logan Square.</p><p dir="ltr">Creswell said she&rsquo;d hoped a longer school day would lead to more free time, but that hasn&rsquo;t happened.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It really ends up being many, many more hours devoted to reading and math, and reading and math, and reading and math,&rdquo; Creswell said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s good to be able to read. It&rsquo;s good to do math. But it&rsquo;s not the only thing in life and it&rsquo;s not the only thing that 6-year-olds should be doing.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an e-mailed statement that the longer school day gives every child a full lunch and recess so they can &ldquo;reboot and return to their classroom refreshed and ready to learn.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Carroll also said the district&rsquo;s Chief of Accountability John Barker is reviewing all existing assessments, so that schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett can &ldquo;analyze their use and purpose to ensure that each one adds value to children&rsquo;s learning.&rdquo;</p><p>It is unclear if any current assessments will be eliminated. Currently, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students take <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Performance/Documents/SY13PreK-2TrackRAssessmentCalendar.pdf">five different tests</a>, and some are taken multiple times throughout the school year.</p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/parents-want-more-play-fewer-tests-public-schools-106700 'National Opt-Out Day' organizer says 'We won't fly' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/national-opt-out-day-organizer-says-we-wont-fly <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//TSA grandma pat down.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>James Babb is the co-founder of <a href="http://wewontfly.com" target="_blank">wewontfly.com</a>.&nbsp; His is one of many grassroots organizations popping up around the country in protest of full-body scanning at airports. Wednesday has been dubbed &quot;<a href="http://wewontfly.com/opt-out-day/" target="_blank">National Opt-Out Day</a>&quot; in protest of the new screening methods.</p><p>Babb says that under other circumstances, the enhanced procedures might be considered sexual assault.&nbsp; He hopes to highlight the privacy and health dangers of the scanners by calling on travelers to &quot;opt-out&quot; of the scanners.&nbsp; However, when a passenger exercises their right to forego a scan, they must submit to a pat-down by a TSA employee of the same sex.&nbsp; Factoring in estimates by the TSA, it would take a total of around 15 minutes to put 100 people through a body scan &mdash; but at least 6 hours to pat down the same number of travelers.</p><p>Eight Forty-Eight spoke with Babb about the opt-out and his objection to the alleged intrusion of privacy.</p><p>TSA Administrator John Pistole detailed the new pat-down procedures in a <a href="http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/holiday_travel.shtm" target="_blank">public service announcement </a>from the agency.</p></p> Wed, 24 Nov 2010 16:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/national-opt-out-day-organizer-says-we-wont-fly