OPT OUT NEWS: Panel at the monthly CORE meeting shows scope of Opt Out movement and some aspects of the racist attacks on Opt Out parents (and children) by top CPS officials, including principals and 'Network' administrators...

Above, six of the nine panelists who spoke about their organizing of the 2015 PARCC Opt Out during the March 23, 2015 meeting of CORE. Left to right, Monique Redeaux, Alison Eichhorn, Akash Pandey, Sophie Carlson, Anne Carlson, and Xian Barrett. The two posters (see below) provided the more than 60 people attending the presentatioin with specific details of the Opt Out organizing at Lindblom High School (poster with Alison, left) and Drummond Montessori Elementary (Carlson, right). Substance photo by Tammie Vinson. Despite the early Spring snow, more than 70 people arrived at Chicago's Letter Carriers union hall at 39th and Wabash for the monthly meeting of CORE (the Caucus of Rank and File Educators), which was scheduled to feature a major panel discussion on the recent Opt Out movement in Chicago against the PARCC tests in the elementary schools. The panel consisted of teachers, parents (who are also teachers) and students who had organized Opt Out at their schools, as well as a summary of the extent of Chicago's Opt Out from the CORE leadership. Clearly, as the discussion and other information showed, the 2015 Opt Out was the largest in history in Chicago, and was a significant part of the explosion of Opt Out that has been taking place across the USA against both PARCC and its twin, the "Smarter Balance..." testing program. Between them, PARCC and Smarter Balance... cover most of the states in the USA at this time with a corporate testing program supposedly aligned to the "Common Core" and ostensibly promoting what officials of the U.S. Department of Education and others call "higher standards."

The CORE agenda began as usual with the singing of the union song "Solidarity Forever" and some milling around as people got food (CORE meetings always provide a modest meal and child care). Almost before everyone was settled, CORE Co-Chair Sarah Chambers introduced Nettlehorst Elementary School teacher Michelle Gunderson, who gave a brief talk framing the discussion against the background of corporate testing and the general attack on the public schools of the United States.

The meeting then heard from more than a dozen teachers (some of whom are also parents) and students who had helped organize and lead this year's Opt Out in Chicago. As the discussion progressed and involved those not on the panel itself, it became clear that the Chicago Public Schools administration has been avoiding direct confrontations with parents and students in more privileged (usually more White) public schools, while directing numerous (often illegal) attacks on children and paretns who try to do Opt Out at the majority of the city's public schools, which serve Black and Brown children who are usually poor and working class.

To help people understand the organizing that went into the 2015 Opt Out, teachers at two of the schools held up posters detailing the work that had been done at their schools. Above left, Alison Eichhorn (Lindblom High School) holds the description of what was done at her school (see the text of the article for the points on the poster). Substance photo by Tammie Vinson.The meeting also heard reports from several schools where administrators have been lying to parents, students and teachers about Opt Out and the PARCC, and in some cases making threats to those who are doing Opt Out.

Earlier on March 23, CORE members picketed outside King High School. The reason is that the King administration has threatened veteran teacher David Robbin and, also, the administration is refusing to accept out opt letters and refusing to recognize student refusals. King High School was not alone in the draconian measures attempted against student, teacher and parent rights, but was surprising to some because its students are almost all middle class (King is a "College Prep" high school and requires admission standards for its students).

Noted by some is the irony of the fact that one of the best organized Opt Outs took place at another South Side "college prep" high school, Lindblom. There was no explanation as to why the administration at one school (King College Prep) proves so tyrannical while the administration of the other (Lindblom) has been reasonable.

This is unlike Taylor Elementary School (where this reporter teaches), where administration efforts have been similar (as I've reported earlier at Substance. Go to the URL if you want to read that story and the link does not work). Substance will continue to try and cover as many of the city's Opt Out actions during the 2015 PARCC despite the almost total corporate media blackout on the massive Opt Out going on in Chicago and across the nation this year.

The meeting also heard from many people about the lurid and false claims by administrators that a school would "lose money" if too many students opted out. At one school, the principal told the teachers to "look around" and try to figure out which teachers would have to be fired if the school "loses its funding" because of the attempts by some to promote Opt Out.

Drummond Montessori Elementary teacher (and parent) Anne Carlson (right) holds the sheet explaining the Drummond Opt Out organizing during the CORE panel. With Anne Carlson is her daughter, Sophia Carlson, who opted out of the 4th grade PARCC at Drummond. Substance photo by Tammie Vinson.Despite the fact that the claims about losing funding at the local school level have been proven false (and even denied by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan), it was clear during the CORE meeting that there are a lot of lies being told around Chicago as administrators and Network officers try desperately to contain the explosion of Opt Out prompted by this year's PARCC testing program.

Discussion took place after the panelists finished their presentations. Several people reported on the lies being told by administrators at their schools, and about threats to teachers who have been informing parents and students of their rights to Opt Out.

The CORE website currently contains a dozen PDFs of materials that people can use to understand the PARCC (and other so-called "standardized" tests), the history linking these types of tests to the eugenics movement that was fashionable among the wealthy and powerful during the early part of the 20th Century (until Nazi Germany took the logic of American eugenics to its logical conclusion and discredited the "movement" -- at least for a time). Materials on the CORE website include leaflets explaining Opt Out rights and a Power Point presentation that people can use.


March 24, 2015 at 10:13 AM

By: Jean Schwab

sit and stare

We have been told that because of lack of space,staff and protecting the validity of the PARCC, students that opt out will sit and stare during the hour(s)long testing.

I feel that is child abuse used to punish children who opt out. A student informed that this procedure will be used is, of course, anxious about this test whether they take it or not. I have also been told that students are telling each other that if they do poorly on this test it will be added to other tests grades.

March 24, 2015 at 12:46 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

What Chicago school is doing 'sit and stare'?

We need to be specific about which schools are doing what to which children. Which Chicago elementary school is forcing children to "sit and stare"? It's certainly not O.A. Thorp, where my sons Sam (8th grade) and Josh (4th grade) just opted out of the PARCC (along with many of their classmates (not all). Sam is reading "Catch-22", while Josh was reading "The Last Book in the Universe" on opt out days. Both I think were appropriate choices. But as you can read from the report above at, only a handful of Chicago school administrators are really going psycho against children who opt out (or adults who support opt out). So we must -- as in MUST -- be specific, not only as to the name of the school we are exposing, but also, as Susan Zupan did a week ago in her expose about the administrators at Taylor Elementary School, even those administrators who are being fascists for PARCC. Precision is very important, because we now in Chicago have school principals who are supporting our rights to opt out, most who are simply being professional, and a small (I think) handful who are being -- sorry, but there is no better word in this context -- true ASSHOLES.

March 24, 2015 at 9:23 PM

By: Jean Schwab

sit and stare

I had heard a description similar to "sit and stare" at a Moos School LSC last week. The whole thing seemed so unbelievable. I decided to wait and see what happens on test day to my grandson,who was a little nervous about the whole thing. Also, he was telling what other students mentioned about the testing which caused me to e-mail his teacher. Then the Chicago Tribune reported about sit and stare. I was relieved when he said he read a book instead of taking the test.

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