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Chicago ends standoff, agrees to give new state test

Chicago Public Schools ended its standoff with the State of Illinois over the new mandated standardized state test.  

All students in the Chicago district will have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam this spring. Schools will start giving the test next Monday, March 9th.

“I continue to personally and professionally believe that to administer PARCC this year is absolutely not in the best interest of our students,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said Monday. “However, given the threat from (the state), there is absolutely no choice.”

The Illinois State Board of Education sent a letter to the district on Friday reiterating its stance that if CPS only gave the test at 10 percent of its schools,  it could risk losing $1.4 billion in funding.

The requirement means that CPS students will now face a barrage of tests for the remainder of the school year.

“There’s barely a week without a testing window. It’s just horrifying,” said Wendy Katten, head of the parent group Raise Your Hand.  The organization has been increasingly vocal about the overuse of standardized tests.

Indeed, there are just three weeks between now and the end of the school year when CPS will not be giving some kind of standardized test. One of those weeks is spring break. Of course, not all students will have to take all of the tests and not all students are taking the test every day. But, Katten said, it’s still disruptive to the school environment.

“Some schools might have 30 computers and 800 kids; they’re probably going to take the whole window of testing,” she said.

In all, 230,000 CPS students will take the PARCC. John Barker, the district’s chief of accountability, said 3rd through 5th graders will take the PARCC exam on paper, while 6th through 8th and high school students in Algebra 1 and English 1 will take the test on computers.

A second phase of the PARCC exam will be given between April 27th and May 22nd. Additionally, CPS will give the final phase of the district-mandated NWEA MAP test to all kindergarten through 8th grade students between May 11th and June 12th. The last day of school is June 16th.

In that same time, CPS students will also take a series of tests, called REACH, that are used to evaluate teachers. The ACT is being given to high school juniors March 3rd, and students enrolled in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs will be tested the second and third weeks of May.

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale said students who would have otherwise spent three hours taking tests will spend roughly 13 hours doing so.

Katten said her group and others will continue to push for an Illinois “opt-out” law that would allow parents to remove their child from testing. Currently, Illinois has no such provision and state officials say the only way around taking a test is if the student refuses it. 

This article has been updated to reflect that students enrolled in Algebra 1 and English 1 will have to take the PARCC exam.  

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