How much propaganda can ISBE continue on behalf of PARCC nonsense? Raise Your Hand challenges ISBE over PARCC claims, basically calling Meeks and Koch liars

The Raise Your Hand coalition has issued a statement challenging the claims by the Illinois Board of Education (ISBE) over the PARCC claims. The "Raise Your Hand" coalition has emerged since its founding three years ago as one of the most important and well informed critics of the crazed policies, including massive testing, of corporate "education reform."

The appointment by Governor Bruce Rauner of the Rev. James Meeks to the post of President of the Illinois State Board of Education marked a new culmination in the reactionary career of the Mega Church pastor who compared the Chicago Teachers Union to Chicago's worst street gangs. Meeks's claims to be a force for improving public education for the children of Chicago and Illinois has regularly been challenged for the lies, some (like the street gang comparison) have been outrageous.Their statement follows:

Raise Your Hand Parents Charge Superintendent and ISBE with Misleading Public About PARCC

CHICAGO, February 5, 2015 -- Parent education advocacy group Raise Your Hand (RYH) sent a letter to State Superintendent Chris Koch and recently appointed IL State Board of Education Chair James Meeks charging them with misleading the public and threatening school districts unnecessarily with regards to administration of the PARCC exam.

“Instead of threatening districts across the state with loss of funding, ISBE should be doing everything in its power to make sure taxpayer dollars are going to the most vital areas in public education. Protecting the interests of children across Illinois not corporate interests of Pearson or regulatory interests of the federal government should be the fundamental duty of the state board,” said Cassandre Cresswell of Raise Your Hand.

Raise Your Hand, which, along with CPS and several Illinois School districts has been strongly advocating for a one-year delay on the PARCC exam and has collected over 5,600 signatures on its petition in that effort. The Raise Your Hand letter points out several inconsistencies in recent statements from the ISBE:

1) ISBE never even requested further ESEA flexibility but they now claim the US Department of Education refused to grant this flexibility.

2) ISBE misinterpreted language from a USED letter and exaggerated claims that the state would lose $1.2 billion in federal funding. Withholding of federal education funds that would result in a net loss to and impact on classrooms and children would be unprecedented.

3) ISBE is allowing many districts to administer the test solely via paper-pencil due to technical issues on PARCC/Pearson’s end but has not disclosed this to the public.

4) Neither ISBE nor PARCC has produced any validity studies for PARCC field-testing; as such, administration of PARCC may be in violation of Illinois School Code.

5) ISBE has already chosen not to comply with requirements in the NCLB waiver granted in April 2014 and is picking and choosing which parts they claim will lead to loss of funding.


5 February 2015

Dr. Christopher Koch, State Superintendent of Education

James Meeks, Board Chair Illinois State Board of Education

100 N 1st ST Springfield, IL 62777

Dear Superintendent Koch and Chairman Meeks:

We have serious concerns about the threatening and misleading letter that you sent to Illinois school districts on January 30, 2015. You have not listened to the voices of administrators, teachers and parents across the state who have asked you to seek a one-year waiver for the PARCC. We have also learned that some districts are receiving approval for using all paper-pencil testing due to tech issues discovered during field testing. This information needs to be made public to taxpayers and stakeholders.

In addition: 1) The letter misleadingly threatens dire consequences if all students do not take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. No state has ever lost Title I funds for deliberately breaching the assessment requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) sec. 1111(b)(3)(C). At most, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has prevented state agencies from keeping a small part of the Title I funds at the state level; there has never been a net loss of funds.

For example, California had permitted half of its 8th graders (219,000 students) to take a test aligned to 6-7th grade content standards for several years. As a consequence, ED required that California’s department of education had to pass on 6% of its Title I administrative funds directly to the districts. Last year, California unilaterally administered the Smarter Balanced assessment as a field test, without any reporting at the student or school level and with 5% of the students taking an exam in either math or English, not both. ED granted them a waiver. This year, Massachusetts unilaterally allowed its districts to choose between the PARCC and the MA assessment for which they received the sanction of a letter of reprimand.

2) You threaten to create the very consequence you hope to avoid: the loss of Title I and other funds to school districts. We fail to see how a limited assessment of students with a test of dubious quality would imperil their education, compared to the denial of multiple funds. This is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

3) High schools giving the PARCC will not be testing all students in English and math in any single grade. Instead, students will take the assessment based on what courses they completed, which means that some students will not take any assessment. In addition, high school districts were given the choice of which (partial) cohort of students to test this year---either those completing first year, second year or third year coursework; and so there will be no uniformity across the state in which year will be tested this spring. There is no provision in the ESEA testing requirements or Illinois’ flexibility waiver for either of these modifications. Your position appears to be that the federal law cannot be violated except when you want to violate it. Why do you get to pick and choose which part of the law you will comply with?

4) The PARCC has not been shown to be valid and reliable. As stated above, some districts are using pencil-paper versions due to technical glitches discovered during field testing. Other students are taking the electronic version on a variety of devices, with different screen-sizes and resolutions. Without validity studies completed, the validity of the test across different modes and platforms (especially for different student subgroups) is uncertain. As such, we question your commitment to "implementing valid and reliable performance measures for our schools" and the legality of using the PARCC in its current forms as an accountability assessment under IL School Code sec. 2-3.64a-5(i) and ESEA Sec. 1111(b)(3)(C)(iii), which require that all assessments be shown to be valid and reliable.

5) The State Board of Education (ISBE) could have pursued a one-year waiver to postpone the PARCC assessment but refused, despite petitions from the public, school districts and legislators asking you to do so. We do not understand why you wrote the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in November 2014 to ask what current law stated -- something we already knew -- rather than seeking reasonable, temporary changes to the Illinois test schedule like those that were granted in California last year.

6) It is unclear how ISBE will comply with the ESEA requirements for grade-span testing of students in science. No students will be assessed in science this year. This means that unless next year’s 5th graders and 12th graders take science exams, which they have never previously done, Illinois will violate the federal requirement that such students be assessed in science between grades 3-5 and 10-12. Are we to believe that in only a year, Illinois will be able to commission, design, and field-test a valid and reliable science assessment for 5th and 12th graders?

7) ISBE has violated the terms of state testing law in the past. From 2011 to 2013, ISBE failed to assess students in grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 in writing despite state law requiring it to do so. ISBE argued then that the General Assembly did not appropriate enough money.

We call on you to retract the threats you’ve made to districts, produce validity studies for PARCC, and seek the one-year testing waiver that parents and districts have asked for.

Sincerely, Wendy Katten

Executive Director on behalf of Raise Your Hand

[About Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education: Raise Your Hand is a growing coalition of Chicago and Illinois public school parents, teachers and concerned citizens advocating for equitable and sustainable education funding, quality programs and instruction for all students and an increased parent voice in policy-making around education.]


February 20, 2015 at 10:58 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

Why are so many parents, students & teachers opposing the PARCC tests?

(This is from the February For Peace and Justice, newsletter of Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace & Justice.)

Why are so many parents, students & teachers opposing

the PARCC tests that are to be given in March and May?

Who has the right to decide the future of public education? Is it educators, parents, and other working people-- or big corporations from the Business Roundtable, like Exxon Mobil?

Corporations are trying to block us from exercising our right to be the ones who make changes in public education. One result is called Common Core, which uses tests like the PARCC (“Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers”) to see whether children are learning what corporations think they should learn. These tests are to be given in Chicago in March and May.

Why are so many teachers, parents and students up in arms against these new standardized tests-- which they judge to be even worse than the unfair standardized tests that have been used for years ?

To begin with, these tests mean great stress for children--and their teachers and parents--and serve no good purpose.

They are called “standardized tests,” but that doesn’t mean they were scientifically constructed by educators, or tested on a representative sample of children. They are based on “standards” that are unproven and untested. Generally, they are also culturally biased against working class, poor and minority students whose vocabularies and experiences are usually quite different from children in affluent families. Their cultures are usually not represented in tests.

What amazes many people is that study after study shows that what standardized tests actually measure is the students’ class backgrounds: the higher the parents’ income, the higher the children’s test scores. (Readings that show all these facts: Chris Carter, “The Case Against StandardizedTests”;;unitedoptout. com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/04/ArizonaMarch302014.pdf; ew/articles/2014/05/ 07/30letter-5.h33.html #).

Students from all backgrounds have already been frustrated by the new books and computer lessons that go with Common Core tests.

After taking practice PARCC tests, many children have come home crying about how confusing they are. (For examples, see the recent More Than a Score webinar on PARCC testing at minute 39:41-- or see )

It’s useful to look at the experience of states, such as NY, where students have already taken PARCC tests. Before the tests were given, Pearson Corp. explained that they had purposely decided to set the passing grades so high that only 30% of children would pass. That’s exactly what happened--70% of the children failed! This was a terrible new experience for most children. Their teachers knew all their work and had judged them to be progressing normally for their grade levels.

But the corporations who want Common Core and the tests that go with it think that a very high failure rate is just fine. From their standpoint, students need to be “stretched to meet higher standards.” According to them, when children fail, they try harder.

On the other side are educators and parents. They know that when children are set up to fail, they become discouraged, and hate school.

So should we just go back to what we had before? No. The aim of thoughtful people is to save AND improve public education.

So then, what’s to be done? Is it wrong to assess how well children are progressing? Not at all. But there is strong evidence that other kinds of assessment are effective. These include using portfolios of children’s work, evaluations of their individual and

group projects, and fair tests that can be used to improve teaching and learning.

Tens of thousands of teachers, parents and other working people are protesting. Why?

* PARCC tests increase the already overwhelming number of standardized tests being given to students. They require more hours of class time, usually on computers, and more months of teaching for the tests.

* PARCC tests, created by the Pearson Corporation, are filled with confusing questions, often with no clearly correct answers in the multiple choice selections.

* Teachers are pressured to spend most of the time preparing students for tests based on narrow Common Core standards, leaving little or no time for art, music, languages, physical education, critical thinking-- essentials for a curriculum inclusinf learning about problems in our society and possible solutions.

* Next year more will be at stake in PARCC tests. Teachers will be given bad marks and can eventually be fired, if their students get lower grades than students in affluent neighborhoods,—as if teachers can overcome the problems many children face--poverty, racism, unemployment. This adds insult to injury, since the tests are no good for any child: they are based on the dismal Common Core curriculum.

* Neighborhood schools may also be unfairly graded as “failures” and shut down, or shaken up by outsiders.

* When the grades on the tests are finally available to teachers, it will be impossible for teachers to use them to help the children, because Pearson won’t allow teachers to see the questions and answers, or how particular children answered specific questions.

Can the PARCC tests be re-written so they are valid, and promote well-rounded education? --Not as long as they are based on the privately owned and copyrighted Common Core curriculum and standards. The tests will reflect the faulty standards they are based on. Common Core is a total package-- starting with what it says children must know or be able to do at each grade level, regardless of whether it’s age-appropriate.The stated aim is to produce “career and college ready” graduates--which means students are ready to fill jobs in corporations or go into the military. Most parents have a larger vision. They consider their children to be more than a score on these tests. Most parents want children prepared to build a democratic society with peace and justice. This is not what corporations are after.

Serious public discussion across the nation is essential so everyone can help to decide what kind of public education and assessment is needed. Throughout the U.S. parents, teachers, students, and others have organized a movement which encourages students to refuse to take (that is, opt out of) the PARCC tests. Last year tens of thousands opted-out from PARCC and other standardized tests. This includes Chicago.

We can all empower ourselves by working with others to oppose what is wrong and exercise our right to decide what kinds of changes are needed. Corporations can not be allowed to produce a lockstep workforce, and an obedient military--for the sake of maximizing profits.

In Chicago right now, empowering ourselves means participating in the fight against the PARCC tests. Call or email us to describe your experiences and raise questions, and to get updates and information about planned actions.

Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice, 773.250.3335;

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