This Week in Ed 2.22.19: VOTE! And then get ready to opt out of the #ZombiePARCC 🧟!

Be an informed voter! Chicago’s Municipal Election is Tuesday, February 26.

We are super grateful to our sister org, Raise Your Hand Action (RYHA), for publishing this RYHA Municipal Election Questionnaire 2019. They asked all the mayoral candidates 16 key questions about public education policy. Read the responses from Gery Chico, Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, Lori Lightfoot, Susana Mendoza and Toni Preckwinkle.

We also recommend the #VoteEquity Project! The Vote Equity Project collected over 250 ideas to make Chicago more inclusive, racially just and better for all of us. Then Chicago residents from every ward cast over 50,000 votes for their top priorities. Public education equity ideas ranked highest among the 2126 people who voted. Now see what the candidates thought at

Block Club Chicago: Education A Top Priority For Chicago Voters Focused On Ending Racial Inequity: Survey

WBEZ: Chicago Mayoral Candidates Respond To Racial Equity Ideas

Kudos & many thanks to the organizations who made this #VoteEquity voter guide happen: Brighton Park Neighborhood Council Chicago United for Equity Generation All Grassroots Collaborative Metropolitan Planning Council and UIC Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement!

AND keep your eye out for BPNC’s #ReimagineChicago bus! They’ll be travelling around the city speaking to Chicago voters and distributing the #VoteEquity guide.


2019 Testing & Opt Out Toolkit

Our 2019 Testing & Opt Out Toolkit is live and you can find it here. No matter what the vendor or the name of the test, in a state that is $7 Billion below funding all schools adequately, every penny spent on experimental, expensive testing, potentially used for high-stakes decisions is a penny that’s not going to actual high-quality education. We encourage parents to have their child refuse state testing. If you need assistance above and beyond the resources in our toolkit, contact us: or 413-3OPTOUT.

Please see our 2019 Testing & Opt Out Toolkit for more details, links to read more, and links to resources you can share with others or with your school. We also include test refusal/opt out information and resources.

As we told you in our last email newsletter, the “new” IL state standardized test for 3rd - 8th graders is officially named Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR). IAR testing starts in CPS and around the state on March 11th. The original four-year contract IL had with Pearson for PARCC tests ended last year. In January, the IL State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a one-year contract with Pearson to administer what is essentially PARCC. ISBE had tried to hire another testing vendor, DRC, to produce a multi-year hybrid assessment of new content & PARCC content, but Pearson successfully protested the way ISBE calculated its pricing versus DRC's.

To have the IAR test ready for this spring, ISBE has basically adopted PARCC for one more year. ISBE isn't calling it PARCC, but ISBE will be using the same test. What is “changing” is that Pearson will do it again this year, not DRC. In other words, PARCC is back for this year and for 2020. #ZombiePARCC

Again, you can learn more from our 2019 Testing & Opt Out Toolkit.


Special Education News

GoCPS and Students with Disabilities

At the January CPS Board of Ed meeting, we submitted a parent research report: High School Application and Placement for Students with Disabilities. RYH and parents involved in the research were invited to meet with CPS to discuss the report and how the current GoCPS High School Application process is discriminatory toward students with disabilities (SWD). Main ideas covered: (1) parents want information on programs and schools as they related to SWD; (2) SWD need access to application and acceptance to High School programs regardless of their NWEA Score/GPA and attendance record. We suggested that they take away barriers to application and move away from point systems for program acceptance and go to a lottery system for programs so it will even the playing field for SWD; and (3) when SWD actually get into the school and program that is appropriate for them, the schools need to provide the special education and supports so SWD can succeed.

Some takeaways:

  • CPS is going to consider ways to make HS open houses more special-ed friendly and include special education staff who can provide meaningful information to parents of SWD regarding special education supports and inclusion at a given school.
  • CPS is going to look into how schools include SWD in orientation days for incoming freshman.
  • CPS is going to explore creating some Quality Indicators related to delivery of special education on an individual school basis, so that parents can research a given school’s culture of inclusion, student to teacher ratio, disciplinary practices, etc.
  • It is unlikely that CPS will eliminate the barriers to application and acceptance for SWD for the 2019/2020 school year, as they have a contract for a 3-year review of the process in 2020.  

Related press coverage:

WBEZ: Advocates: Chicago Public Schools Offering Special Ed Families A Hollow Choice

Worth noting that CPS has added some transparency for parents of SWD, BUT it comes with a barrier to access: families might be “required” to waive their rights to transportation if the school is over 6 miles away.

AAC Needs

RYH is starting a parent group to address unmet needs surrounding students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) technology in CPS. Please e-mail Mary Fahey Hughes at with your contact information if you are interested in joining the RYH AAC Group.


Please contact Mary Fahey Hughes at if you have any special education questions. She will answer questions to the best of her knowledge or refer you to someone who can.  


RYH Board Update

RYH is pleased to announce our new board officers: Brenda Delgado, president; Andrea Tolzmann, secretary; and Misuzu Schexnider, treasurer. Eric Reyes will continue as vice-president. Chris Ball is now assistant treasurer. Tara Baldridge, Deb Hass and Roberta Salas continue as directors. Mary Hughes has taken a leave from the board.

RYH has a working board and we are so grateful for their service! We especially want to thank outgoing officers Deb Hass, president, Roberta Salas, secretary, and Chris Ball, treasurer.


RYH is hiring!

Please spread the word and help us find a great Administration and Finance Assistant. Thanks!



Data Privacy

Our sister org, Raise Your Hand Action, explains why student data privacy is front and center on their legislative agenda in this blog post. In addition, you can find RYH’s Tech and Data Privacy Toolkit here, published in Fall 2018.

Springfield and City Hall Action Alerts- How to stay in touch with RYHA

RYHA is gearing up for a busy legislative session! RYHA was in Springfield talking to legislators on Wednesday about their new student data privacy bill (fact sheet here) and some special education bills. They’ll be sharing lots of info in the next few weeks on bills they’re supporting and how to fill out witness slips, etc. Please make sure you sign up to receive updates from RYHA. RYHA sends action alerts via email and social media. They have a new advocacy tool to take quick action! You can call, email and tweet your elected officials on public education issues that matter to you- all from one webpage. You should also like & follow RYHA on Facebook and Twitter.


RYH and RYHA along with 33 other organizations signed onto this open letter addressed to the Chicago City Council and Mayor Emanuel to stop the creation of the Mega TIFs. On Tuesday, both RYH and RYHA joined many allies and participated in a press conference before the appointed Community Development Commission voted on the Lincoln Yards TIF district. You can watch the entire press conference here. As expected, it passed unanimously. Here’s some press coverage from One Illinois: Chicago commission signs off on $900M Lincoln Yards TIF.


In other news- all of the below are very important reads

Chalkbeat Chicago: In budget address, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker proposes modest education increases

WBEZ: Chicago’s Race For Mayor And The Future Of Chicago Public Schools

Sun-Times: Rahm’s agency heads could outlast him thanks to golden parachute contracts

Daily Southtown: So much more than Band-Aids: Youth health issues increasing as the average Illinois school nurse serves 2,900 students

WBEZ: On Parkland Anniversary, Chicago Teens Call For More Mental Health Supports

Sun-Times: ‘New’ state testing still based on PARCC- but changes underway, state says

WBEZ: Chicago Public Schools Quietly Monitors Social Media For Gang Activity

Sun-Times: ‘They failed my son,’ Chicago schools to pay $4M in special ed. teen’s drowning

Chalkbeat Chicago: Why Rahm Emanuel’s rollout of universal pre-K has Chicago preschool providers worried


Worth a read (or listen)

No Cop Academy has a very informative webpage with many links and action steps: How City Council Makes A Cop Academy

WBEZ: The Middle Class Is Shrinking Everywhere- In Chicago It’s Almost Gone

Longreads: The Battle Over Teaching Chicago’s Schools About Police Torture and Reparations

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: What if schools focused on improving relationships rather than test scores?


Upcoming events

Unelected CPS Board Of Education Meeting

Wed Feb 27, 10:30am

CPS, 42 W Madison

You must register online to speak. That registration begins on Mon Feb 25 at 10:30am.

Online registration to speak or attend is here. If you plan to attend, it is best to also register online in advance and starting Mon Feb 25 at 10:30am at the same link. We will be there so please contact us if you need assistance:

Note: The agenda for the meeting is available at at 10am on Mon Feb 25.