Statement to the Illinois State Board of Education on 11/21/14

Statement to the Illinois Board of Education: 11/21/2014 at their budget hearing

We appreciate that this board has recommended that 100% of the foundation level for General State Aid be funded, even though year after year the General Assembly has not done so.  We are opposed to SB16 in it’s current form because it doesn’t address adequacy of funding, and ends up harming many districts in the middle who have not had adequate funding for years. These districts will be in a same place that some of our poorest districts are in just a few years.

In addition, we do not support the board’s increases in assessment spending, which the board sought to double last year, by over $27 million. These test are supposed to align with the Common Core standards, but only $10 million was proposed for Teacher Instructional Support even though the drafters of the Common Core standards have said that teaching the new standards will require extensive professional development. The General Assembly funded none. The board recommended only $5.6 million for technology support and the GA appropriated less than half that, even though the new assessments will be heavily reliant on computers and Internet access. 

With inadequate technology and insufficiently prepared teachers and students with the Common Core, why are we proceeding with the PARCC, a test which is still missing key components and whose quality, based on practice tests and sample questions, is dubious at best? Illinois is not ready for the PARCC, and the PARCC is not ready for Illinois. We have a petition signed by over 3,800 people urging the board to request a waiver from the US Dept. of Education to delay the operational testing for one year. School boards and superintendents around IL have been asking for your help on this for months and have been ignored.

What we have seen of the PARCC is deeply disturbing: poorly worded questions, confusing instructions, gimmicky computer tasks, like clicking 48 times to show the area of a rectangle, and clumsy interfaces. PARCC needs more time to prepare a serious test and be able to score it properly. We have no confidence in this test's ability to assess our schools and students fairly. Just one example: PARCC's has released no information about its “automated” essay scoring. No independent experts have assessed its reliability or accuracy, and the test starts in March!  Park the PARCC for a year. Seek a waiver from the Arne Duncan, and end this expensive experiment on our children.

Lastly, we are deeply concerned by the Superintendent’s letter to all school districts dated 10/28/14 with misleading information implying that if a child opts out of the PARCC they are violating federal law. This is blatantly false. Schools must offer a test, but there is no law saying a child must take the test. Students have a right to refuse the test as you know. Furthermore, there is no record of any state losing federal funds due to opt outs. This letter should be corrected immediately. Thank you.