OPT OUT NEWS: Principal of LaSalle Language Academy will leave CPS, blames 'overtesting'...

One of Chicago's best known and most successful elementary school principals has told her school and the press that this is her last year as an administrator in Chicago Public Schools. The principal, Elizabeth Heurtefeu, of LaSalle Language Academy, has been widely recognized for decades and offers an interesting narrative for the people of Chicago during this year's testing season. The reason she is leaving -- "overtesting." The story was broken on March 25, 2015 by the DNA Chicago news services:

Elizabeth Heurtefeu, principal of LaSalle Language Academy in Chicago, is leaving her job in June 2015. The reason, she told DNA Info Chicago, is she can no longer deal with Chicago's "overtesting." DNA Info photo.Top Principal To Leave CPS, Blames 'Over-Testing' (By Paul Biasco on March 25, 2015 5:38am @Paul_Biasco)

OLD TOWN The principal of one of the city's top public elementary schools has announced her plans to leave at the end of the school year, a decision that was influenced by new federal testing mandates.

LaSalle Language Academy's principal, Elisabeth Heurtefeu, has a unique perspective on the school system, as she has worked in both Paris and Chicago as an educator. Seeing both systems, and the frequent testing of students under the U.S. approach, played a role in her "extremely difficult" decision, she said.

"I am a person who has always done things that are aligned to what I believe in, and thats why I can no longer do something thats not aligned to what I believe in, even though its a special school," she said of LaSalle.

Paul Biasco says Heurtefeu took awhile to make this decision:

Heurtefeu took about six months to make the decision to leave after eight years at LaSalle.

"Rigorous standards were needed," she said. "What was not needed was over-testing."

One example of what she considers over-testing is the controversial PARCC exam, which has sparked a nationwide debate and prompted some students to opt out.

CPS students this month took the PARCC exam, which replaces the shorter Illinois Standard Achievement Test.

Heurtefeu has informed the Local School Council of her decision not to seek renewal of her contract at the end of the year. The LSC is working to hire a new principal.

In the French public school system, tests were administered every three years, she said.

During an interview with DNAinfo Chicago, Heurtefeu argued that the growth of children is often not linear, as frequent testing assumes.

"I'm not against accountability. I think it's needed, but the way to measure it is nuanced," she said. "Each time the children take a test, they don't receive instruction."

During Heurtefeu's tenure at LaSalle, a magnet school in Old Town, the school has excelled academically and pursued the "whole child" approach to education. The school doubled the number of after-school academic and sports programs and tripled the number of students involved. Now, about half of the school's students are in extracurricular activities, she said.

Heurtefeu also oversaw the growth of the school's exchange program, which sends dozens of students to China, Spain and France each year.

"It's a perfect school," Heurtefeu said. "I've had a great eight years."

The principal, who is bilingual in French and English and proficient in German and Spanish, has pushed the school's motto of "creating a renaissance spirit for the 21st century."

During her time at the school, an average of 68 percent of graduates have been accepted into selective- enrollment high schools each year.

"The demands of our parents expect LaSalle to deliver a graduate who is going to qualify for selective- enrollment high schools," Heurtefeu said.

The school received a level 1+ rating by CPS in the new CPS School Quality Rating Policy system and scored a 4.8 out of a possible 5.0 rating. Only two elementary schools scored higher, with a 4.9. Five CPS elementary schools scored a 4.8, along with LaSalle.


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