Chicago Public Schools Hindering Some Students From Opting Out

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Illinois law states that 3rd-8th and 11th grade students have be offered the opportunity to take the PARCC assessment, but students can refuse to take it. Chicago Public Schools have hindered students from opting out.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Parents cannot opt out students ahead of time, according to Chicago Public Schools and the state.

But in the absence of any state or districtwide policy on how to handle children who refuse the PARCC test, some schools in CPS can’t decide whether it’s up to the child or the parents.

Walsh Elementary School required letters from parents of students who said they’d skip the state-required test after many refused PARCC, said the counselor at the Near South Side school.

Roosevelt High School’s leaders required students who refused the test to call their parents first, students and staff told the Sun-Times.

And Kenwood Academy High School had at least one teacher who also told refusing students their parents would be called, CPS confirmed.

“It’s chaos and confusion we could fix if we had a sane policy instead of the state of things,” said Cassie Creswell, who heads the testing watchdog group More Than A Score. “In some cases, schools are hoping to intimidate kids into taking the test, but in some cases, it’s a mindset that this is actually something that parents are supposed to be having a say in.”

Her group has backed a bill in Springfield that passed the House last year but is awaiting action by the Senate. It would clarify how parents could prevent their children from being tested.

Two Roosevelt High School juniors told the Sun-Times they felt intimidated. Both were sent to the main office after refusing PARCC. There, the principal wanted to call their parents. One succeeded in refusing, the other thwarted because his parents don’t speak English.

“The reason why I didn’t want to take it was that I have a test tomorrow in a class,” the second student said. “I wanted to attend the class. They said, ‘You cannot attend the class, you have to take the PARCC test.’”

Illinois has made this mess. Parents should be able to opt their child out ahead of time, and not leave this to the student on assessment day. I do empathize with schools who wanted parents to weigh in on their student’s request. The state needs to set a clear policy, and parents need to communicate with their schools their desire for their student to opt-out. As of right now, the law is pretty clear, a student can refuse the test.