'...I feel strongly that full-scale administration of PARCC in both March and May is unwarranted at this time...' CEO tells Board. 'Park the PARCC' campaign a success as Board reduces 2014 - 2015 PARCC testing in Chicago to a 'sample'

With a citywide "Park the PARCC" campaign and an on line petition gaining momentum across Chicago, the Chicago Board of Education met on October 22, 2014 to hear the surprising announcement from "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett that the PARCC would indeed be parked for this school year -- partly at least. Byrd Bennett told the Board during her report that she is asking both the Illinois State Board of Education and the U.S.Department of Education for an exemption for another year on the PARCC. That means that Chicago children will not have to be taking the controversial PARCC tests this year -- unless the state and federal officials deny the exemption and CPS decides to follow that denial.

John Barker (above left), the "Chief Accountability Officer" of Chicago's public schools, was called on to discuss the changes proposed in the administration of the PARCC and the failure of the Board to provide all teachers with the results of their evaluations from last year, after remarks by Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey (above right). Privatization and outsourcing of jobs that once were done within the CPS "Office of Research and Evaluation" (before the nation was ordered to go mad about so-called "accountability" based on test scores) are now compiled sort of by a private corporation, paid top dollar by CPS. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The PARCC announcement came in the middle of a clear defense by the CEO of the Common Core state standards.

"CPS is deeply committed to the common core state standards," Byrd Bennett began, according to a copy of the prepared remarks that she delivered to the Board and Substance reporters' notes. "We have been implementing common core state standards with success now for three full years and point to recent achievement gains on the NWEA, especially in literacy, as evidence that our professional development efforts are working. "I have been disappointed by arguments advanced by declared opponents of common core state standards, who conflate concerns about standardized testing based on standards with the standards themselves.

"While CPS continues our implementation of the common core state standards, concerns remain about the new assessment that is scheduled to be rolled out in the spring to measure our progress against those standards the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers - or PARCC.

"I want the Board and our community to know that I have been in communication with the Illinois State Board of Education and I plan to engage the U.S. Department of Education over the next several weeks to discuss the possibility and logistics of expanding our PARCC pilot period by one year as well as the number of schools in the pilot so that we have an opportunity to learn more about this important new assessment prior to full scale implementation across our district in future years.

"Given that CPS plans to administer the Common Core-aligned NWEA MAP to all students in grades 2-8 and the college and career-readiness aligned tests offered by ACT as our district-mandated assessments, I feel strongly that full-scale administration of PARCC in both March and May is unwarranted at this time. Today, I seek the Boards concurrence with this approach. The purpose of standardized assessments is to inform instruction.

"At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents, and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment strategies. A one year expansion of the PARCC pilot is an interim strategy as we transition to full PARCC implementation in future years."

The PARCC had become the subject of growing resistance even before the 2014 - 2015 testing season began in Chicago. Dozens of parents, students, and others took the "sample" PARCC test on line and declared it ridiculous. The online petition garnered more than a thousand signatures in a very short time.

Apparently, CPS officials actually checked out the test itself and agreed.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett announced at the October 22, 2014 meeting of the Board of Education that the Chicago schools will not be doing a full implementation of the PARCC testing program this school year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.During her report to the Board at the monthly meeting, Byrd Bennett told the Board members that the PARCC testing program would only be administered to a portion of CPS students That will be about ten percent, according to "accountability chief" John Barker, rather than everybody.

The reduction in the scope and impact of the testing in Chicago still has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois Board of Education.

The details of how the sample was to be constructed were not announced during the Board meeting. Substance subsequently obtained a copy of the remarks prepared by Byrd Bennett from the CPS Office of Communications, which had been denying this information to Substance since Rahm Emanuel appointed the current Board of Education in May 2011 and Becky Carroll, a Rahm aide, took over the Communications Department.

The Board of Education's action was prompted by a campaign led by "More Than A Score" and the "Raise Your Hand Coalition," two Chicago area organizations that have been formed during the past several years to end the abuses associated with so-called "standardized testing" and to promote better schools for all Chicago children. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union's Testing Committee have also been preparing a detailed critique of the PARCC.

An on line petition had been circulating.

According to the Raise Your Hand Website (October 22, 2014):

Sign and Share the More than a Score Petition - Our Kids are Taking too many Standardized Tests! Yesterday, CPS approved a policy that will change the way our Principals are evaluated so that 50% of their evaluation is based on student test scores. This news causes concern among many parents who wonder:

How will this impact the amount of test prep being done at our schools?

Are these tests detracting from the amount of time schools can devote to high-quality instruction, project-based learning, and critical thinking?

What is the stress level caused by the numerous tests administered to younger children in Pre-k to 2nd grade?

These questions and others have led RYH to join with other parent groups in Chicago to form More Than A Score to better express the concerns of parents on this topic. We are launching a petition today to tell CPS to scale back on the amount of testing and eliminate testing for PreK-2. Please sign this petition and pass on to all your school contacts!

Print out a petition in English or Spanish and collect signatures... Collect signatures at drop-off or pick-up or other school events and help us get thousands of petitions signed to hand in to the Board of Ed. Email us and we will pick up the petitions from you.

- See more at:

Parents and others have been speaking out at every meeting of the Chicago Board of Education against the abuses associated with standardized testing, but the October 22 announcement came as a surprise to many. No press release was provided to reporters on this explosive topic during the Board meeting (which this reporter covered).


October 23, 2014 at 6:01 PM

By: Susan Ohanian


From what I've examined, the common core lessons (promoted by the AFT) are much worse than the PARCC tests. . . but then bureaucrats in charge don't care about classroom reality--only about the test numbers that will be revealed to the public. Byrd Bennett is just anticipating PR.

As someone in a state loyal to Smarter Balanced, I salute Chicago activists fighting PARCC. Total silence in VT about Smarter Balanced--except an occasional squeak from me.

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