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PRESS RELEASE: PARCC Testing and Opt-Out Rights

CHICAGO (March 9, 2015) — As Chicago Public Schools begins administration of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test Monday, parents and lawmakers are coming together to demand a clear statewide policy allowing parents to opt their students out of state standardized testing.

“Today, we’re going to see frustration and confusion at schools across this city,” said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), who filed HB 306 allowing parental opt-out. “Teachers and principals are making up policy as they go, and students and families are going to be the worse for it.”

Under the current policy of the Illinois State Board of Education, students who refuse to engage with the test are not to be tested, and their refusal to test is not counted against their school’s overall score. But parents are not currently allowed to send a letter expressing this refusal on their child’s behalf.

That means that on Monday, children — some as young as eight years old, some with developmental disabilities — will be forced to refuse the test themselves if their parents don’t want them to take it.

“Many of us around the state believe our students are over-tested and under-taught,” said Karen Lee, a parent at Audubon Elementary. “We don’t want to participate in this new and expanded regime of standardized tests, and we believe it’s a decision we should be able to make on behalf of our young children.”

Wendy Katten, executive director of the parent organization Raise Your Hand, said she’s heard from parents across the state who are frustrated by the new test and grateful to their lawmakers for supporting HB 306.

“We applaud these legislators who are taking a stand for clarity and consistency on this issue, and advocating for parents’ rights on behalf of their students,” said Katten.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors is Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), who questions the sheer volume of tests CPS students are faced with. “In Chicago, the average student will take more than 40 standardized tests before completing second grade,” Andrade said. “Assessments are important tools for measuring academic progress, but parents should have the first say in their child's education, before we overwhelm students with hours of high-stakes testing.”

Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), another co-sponsor, said that concern about the PARCC test is being felt far and wide, and many feel pressured by its rushed implementation here in Illinois.

“I’ve heard from principals, teachers, administrators, and parents all expressing concerns about whether the PARCC test is ready to go,” said Williams. “Until we are able to comprehensively evaluate the readiness of our students to take the test and the experts are comfortable with the test itself, we must provide families with the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding their children’s education.”

If HB306 passed, Illinois would join six other states with some parental opt-out provision on the books. Legislatures in New Jersey, Maine, Hawaii, Arizona and Oregon are considering similar measures this year.