Chicago Sixth-Grader Testifies for Opting-Out of PARCC

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The Chicago Sun-Times reports that even though students can legally opt-out of PARCC, being administered this year, Chicago Public Schools and the state of Illinois has provided no guidance. In their article they highlight the testimony of a sixth-grader who says he is opting out.

This week, when state standardized testing begins at many CPS schools, at least one sixth-grader at Sumner Elementary School will be sitting out PARCC.

“I’m going to refuse PARCC next week because we haven’t had typing classes,” Diontae Chatman told the Board of Education last week, missing school for the first time all year so he could testify.

“We didn’t have a qualified math teacher from September to January,” he added. Plus last year, students taking the test online were logged on and off repeatedly, among other problems.

But skipping the test, even though state law allows it, could bring about consequences that feel unfair to children.

“My school is threatening to take away our field day to students who refuse PARCC,” Diontae explained. “I think we all should get treated the same way, if we take it or if we don’t take it.”

Once again, neither Chicago Publics Schools nor the Illinois State Board of Education have any specific directive for how schools should treat children who refuse to take the exam between now and May 15.

Meanwhile, the district is urging all parents to participate in the test, saying PARCC provides useful detailed data.

Oh yes, useful data, that’s a great reason to punish students for opting-out. This useful data showed that less than 10% of students at Proviso West High School in Chicago passed the PARCC exam.

Did they really need to switch up assessments to see their students are struggling? Classroom teachers were unable to tell from their own interactions with students in the classroom, seeing their work and from their own quizzes and tests?

Diontae makes some great points. Will they fall on deaf ears? These kids should be able to opt-out and the school district and state need to have a clear policy on how students who opt-out will be treated.

Illinois has no formal way for parents to opt their children out of the test beforehand, and state law requires schools to offer every eligible child a test. The onus falls on children to refuse it.

So once again, schools are handling PARCC refusals in different ways, depending on who’s in charge. That approach led to a wide disparity of treatment in past years, said Cassie Creswell of More Than A Score, a group that champions less testing.

“CPS continues to perpetuate chaos during state testing by once again setting no district-wide policy requiring that students and families who refuse to participate in PARCC be treated with kindness and respect,” Creswell told board members. “Students need policies that clearly say no student refusing PARCC will be treated harshly or punished.”

Last year, reactions varied from putting students who refused in a separate room, to letting them read silently in the classroom, to letting them do nothing while classmates tested — the much-maligned “sit and stare.”

We’ll have to see if Illinois will see the same number of opt-outs as last year even with a shortened test.