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Opt Out harassment of teachers and children continues at Chicago's Taylor Elementary School... One CPS teachers further experiences with administering the PARCC test and honoring the rights of parents and children to Opt Out...

Note: I will continue to blow the whistle on conditions and experiences of my employment related to so-called standardized testing that I believe are not appropriate for teachers and other employees as well as students within Taylor School, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). One big question now is how much deception is coming from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), since it seems that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared clearly during his recent Chicago visit that the federal government would not be imposing financial penalties on schools and districts that opt out.

Administrators at Chicago's Douglas Taylor Elementary School continued to harass children and teachers over the Opt Out from the PARCC tests during the first week of the testing program.What is to be done? My hope is for an immediate, authoritative cease-and-desist order to be given regarding any circumstances reported regarding the bullying of teachers as well as that of students due to the piloting of a companys (Pearson's) standardized test in the state of Illinois. While Substance has reported that in many schools and "Networks" within Chicago's large public school system there has been no harassment of teachers, parents, and children, it is clear that in Network 13's elementary schools, someone is helping principals and assistant principals in what may be the most egregious form of bullying (probably, illegal bullying) in Chicago in March 2015.

DAY TWO OF PARCC AT TAYLOR. Worse than Day One.

Day Two of PARCC testing, Thursday, March 12, 2015, was actually a worse experience than Day One, at Taylor Elementary School on Chicago's Southeast Side. Why worse? Because the question has to be asked: How can something like this just continue?

The administration of Taylor School decided to up the ante by denying the validity of a new Opt Out form brought in by one student as well to continue monitoring the implementation of the PARCC in an intimidating manner. (See Substance report below on this months page, titled: One CPS teachers experience giving the PARCC Test While PARCC opt outs are generally being respected, administrators at at least one South Side school, supported by their Network, tried to bully kids and teachers on the first day of PARCC 2015...)

Before testing we were told by a "coordinator" over the intercom in the classroom that we would not experience the issues we had the day before regarding students who brought in Opt Out forms for not taking the test.

The students would be given their tickets, and if they were not taking the test they would simply be picked up and taken elsewhere. From what I have been told from other teachers, this is what was already happening with other students in the building who were opting out. It was also what we were informed would happen before the PARCC tests began.

I relaxed after hearing this. I sensed that the students relaxed from hearing this. We shouldnt have.

Taylor Elementary School during during PARCC testing 2015. Substance photo by David Vance.Shortly after my students and I entered the computer lab, the principal, William Truesdale, entered and stood guard this time. Mary Rosen, from Network 13, remained out in the hallway, (with a phone to her ear when I saw her). The computer teacher assigned to us yesterday (in this, her lab) had been abruptly changed to another testing location. One of our PSRPs, the local school council (LSC) representative, was assigned to be with us today in the lab instead.

The mood of the room changed as Principal Truesdale entered and stood guard. I began reading the instructions prepping for the test.

I will not go into the specific, major technological hurdles we had to get through to start the test on every computer. Suffice it to say that it was much worse than the day before and took at least a half hour. After all, the regular teacher assigned to that lab had been pulled away by the administration.

Then the students were led by me through the prep steps up until their very next move, with directions from me reading from the manual, again, was going to be to hit the button to begin the test. The students were just frozen and following the directions with the principal standing there as he was. The manner in which this is apparently required in Illinois forces children/students to choose between defying the authority and directions of the school personnel in front of them or defying the Opt Out consent letters signed by their parents.

I had received a response of the same blank staring straight ahead look -- as if I was not there -- when I asked the principal if he had spoken to the person who just informed us that morning that we would not have to go through this again as yesterday. So I continued reading. At the very last moment, again, this time a different student who thought he was opting out blurted out a question something along the lines of What do we do if were not taking the test?

I stopped and turned to the principal and said, We have a question, Dr. Truesdale-? There was a pause as the room was staring at him, waiting for a reply.

At that point Principal Truesdale said that anyone who had a letter already on file in the office was to go with him. One student who brought in an Opt Out form that morning signed by his parent held it up and began to line up with the other students opting out.

Principal Truesdale stated: If we do not have a letter already on file, you must take the test.

As the student was waving his sheet saying that he had the sheet and was not taking the test, I walked over to the principal and stated that there was no such deadline.

'SHE'S REFUSING TO GIVE THE TEST! 'SHE'S REFUSING TO GIVE THE TEST!'

At this point, in front of the lab full of students as well an additional PSRP who had been called in to assist with the technological issues of getting started, the principal proclaimed, SHES REFUSING TO GIVE THE TEST! SHES REFUSING TO GIVE THE TEST! And he went almost running out into the hallway, apparently to tell Network 13s Mary Rosen. It was becoming clear to everyone that he was determined to claim that I was refusing to administer the test, when in fact all I was trying to do was defend the rights of the children whose families wanted them to Opt Out.

I think that it is fair to state that everyone in the room was more-or-less stunned, shocked, and bewildered by this behavior on the part of the principal.

I witnessed jaw-dropping and widened eyes on the students nearest me regarding this behavior. I said aloud that I was not refusing to give the test; I had just been helping with trying to get the thing started.

Who knows what happened or what was reported to whom in the hallway, but when the principal reentered, the question remained of what to do with the student still standing there with the new opt out sheet.

The principal restated that only those sheets "already on file" would be honored.

Everyone remained frozen, including the principal. I stated that as per administrative directive only students with opt out sheets already on file were to line up (or stay in the line). The one student was thusly singled out as directed by the principal of the school in this manner. Note: After the group of students opting out left, the student who remained refused to take the test. He was not pressured to do otherwise. I instructed him/her to simply sit and read his/her book. And I, as a CPS teacher who is required to follow administrative directives or face disciplinary action, was such a good soldier that doing my job is making me sick to my stomach, even as I was accused publicly by the principal of refusing to obey the directive to give this test as a condition of my employment.

After the principal left with all of the students opting out except the one student, another student questioned aloud: Why cant they just let the kids not taking the test not take the test?

Two students together told me they were sorry that you were bullied by Dr. Truesdale like that.

Students told me later that they had my back about not refusing to give the test. (And yet there I was, not exactly having their backs by giving them this test.) [I need to note this: I am not one of the popular or favorite teachers. I am a teacher who is rather old school as well as a tough grader such that, though I have heard it before on occasion, the surrounding circumstances need be pretty bad for students to say they got my back as happened here.] There were further, major technological problems related to students starting the test who had not taken the test the day before, having been opted back into testing by their parents/guardians (see notes below re phone calls they received). These students finally needed to be taken elsewhere in order for that situation to be handled without holding up the rest of the tests. DAY THREE

No one else was particularly assigned to the guard duty of monitoring in the computer lab today. The students who were opting out said they were refusing to take the test (or that they were not taking the test) as they were given their tickets; the assigned PSRP, the same as the day before, began texting while this was happening. I am not sure if that was connected, but a short moment later the assistant principal arrived, standing at the doors threshold. We were then informed that any students not taking the test were to line up. The student who had been refused entry to this opt out group yesterday was included; another student who brought in an opt out sheet this day was allowed; as for a student who jumped into the line, for whom I said I had no knowledge of him/her having any opt out form signed by a parent/guardian, the assistant principal also just took him/her out with the group. I believe it was Felicia Sanders, Deputy Chief of Schools for Network 13, who, at some brief moment later during the test, popped her head in as the principal also popped his head in for whatever reason. OTHER NOTEWORTHY NOTES + QUESTIONS

On Day One of PARCC testing, Tuesday, March 10, Principal Truesdale informed the Taylor LSC at its monthly meeting that if 100% of the students did not take the test, Taylor School would lose funds. He showed them some kind of a letter to prove it, so my words to the contrary seemed meritless. By Wednesday, March 11, some parents/guardians who had signed sheets opting their children out of the PARCC test changed their minds after receiving phone calls from the school. The students reported to each other and teachers that their parents were being told if they didnt take the test the school would lose funds. By Friday, the number of students parents/guardians requesting that their children instead now take the test had increased due to these phone calls. CPS parents/guardians should be able to believe what they are told by their childs school administrators, Barbara Byrd Bennett, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and assorted talking heads from the Illinois State Board of Education regarding the loss of one honking billion dollars in federal funding if students do not take the PARCC test and/or that a particular school will in fact lose funds if its students do not take the PARCC. Regarding this exact funding loss, however, United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, responded to questions on Thursday, March 12, 2015 re the honking billion dollars in threatened federal monies with: Youre making stuff up. You dont have your facts straight. Illinois Raise Your Hand and the Chicago Teachers Union contend on one MYTH v. FACT flyer: The State Board of Education claimed that schools would lose funds if students did not take last years test, but no schools in CPS lost any money. No CPS school has ever lost money from not taking a standardized test. In New York last year, 67,000 students opted out of the Common Core test and did not lose state or federal funds. CPS and the State Board of Ed are making overblown threats to scare families from opting out of this unnecessary test. Will the CPS administrators who opted to up the PARCC testing ante by making such scary phone calls inform parents/guardians of Taylor School and other schools that it is a MYTH that schools will lose funds if students opt out of the PARCC, a FACT that schools will not lose funds ? One must wonder if their salaries are paid by the taxpayers or PARCC.

Might all CPS parents/guardians as well as students be informed (by such phone calls or letters) that it is also being reported now at http://bobbraunsledger.com that Pearson (testing company of PARCC acclaim) is alleged to be spying on students via their social media accounts during PARCC testing? As a teacher, I can file a grievance for administrative bullying over what I have experienced during this PARCC testing, for what that will be worth. For this, I will be required to testify before someone from CPSs Equal Educational Compliance Office (EECO), under conditions in which as a matter of professional courtesy they might allow me to have my union field representative present, and I will not be informed of any outcome.



Comments:

March 16, 2015 at 11:24 AM

By: Anne Tenaglia

continued #PARCC harassment

You are a brave individual and I think you know where this is all going regarding your kool-aid-drinking principal. Please know that 54,000 Badass Teachers have your back. Many of us are spreading the word and blogging about your situation. Your kids know what's right, maybe they are tweeting about it. Thank you for standing up for what's right.

March 17, 2015 at 7:00 AM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Cockroaches

Thank you, thank you Susan for reporting the blow by blows of this insanity. So many people (especially teachers) are grateful. I keep thinking about how your report is like shining a light on the cockroaches. They can't stand it!

March 17, 2015 at 8:14 AM

By: Maureen Cullen

Bullying for Pearson

Bullying, intimidation, harrassment, interfering with job responsibilities, there a lot to address here. Send an email.

bbyrd-bennett@cps.edu

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