Troy LaRaviere is a champion of children and a champion of public education. He is the principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago and president of the Chicago principals’ association. He has spoken out strongly against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s anti-public school agenda. He created a four-and-a-half minute video for the Chuy Garcia campaign where he says, “Of the 50 highest-performing schools in Chicago, all 50 are public schools that were here before he [Rahm Emanuel] arrived….Of the 20 lowest-performing schools in Chicago, 13 of them – over half – are turnaround and charter schools, which are cornerstones of the Rahm Emanuel education reform agenda.”
And now, in a letter to the parents of his school, he has advised them that they have his permission to opt out of PARCC testing. He even said that he planned to opt his own son out of PARCC next year when he is in third grade. He calls for all parents in Chicago, in Illinois, and in America to opt out. He definitely belongs on this blog’s honor roll!
The PTA of Blaine sent letters to parents encouraging them to opt out of the tests. Remember that teachers and parents were told by the city superintendent that the schools were not ready for the PARCC test, and that it would be given to only 10% of students. A few days ago, the city caved in to the state and federal government’s demand that it give the test to all students or the state would lose $1.3 billion in funding. It was undoubtedly an empty threat; Mayor Emanuel could have called either his friend Governor Rauner or his friend Arne Duncan and persuaded them to back off but he did not. So with only a few days notice, the children are expected to take a test for which neither they nor their teachers are prepared.
Principal LaRaviere wrote to his parents as follows:
I am writing to make it clear that the Blaine administration fully supports the PTA’s effort to maximize Blaine students’ instructional time. As a result we will respect and honor all parent requests to opt-out their students from the PARCC. Students whose parents opt them out will receive a full day of instruction. Teachers are developing plans that will provide enriched learning experiences for non-testing students during the testing window. I want to clearly state that whether you opt-out or not, Blaine’s administration and teachers will respect and support your wishes for your child…..
Opting out will not affect your child’s promotion and selective enrollment status for Fall 2015. There is also a belief that opting out will affect Blaine’s funding. There is no evidence for this belief. In fact, the test itself is decreasing resources that could have otherwise been targeted for school improvement. Each year, states and school districts spend billions of dollars on testing, while at the same time cutting budgets for instruction and learning. Our PTA believes it is time for parents to say “enough.” For more on the issue of funding, please see the statement released by the parent education advocacy organization, More Than a Score, at the following link:
For more on the PTA’s opt-out initiative, please see http://blainepta.weebly.com/.
In closing, our PTA’s focus on teaching your children rather than over-testing them is commendable, and we applaud their efforts on behalf of Blaine students.
Troy LaRaviere, Principal
But then, READ THIS!
Since releasing the above letter, I’ve been asked questions like, “Since the PARCC might count for something next year, do you think the kids should just take it this year so they can get used to it?” My response is as follows: If the schools announced that next year they were going expose your children to exhaust fumes for five minutes per day, would you be resigned to that inevitability and submit your child, starting his or her exposure this year so he or she can “get used to it”? That analogy may seem harsh and over-the-top, but it is my lived experience that this massive over-testing has been as toxic to education in Chicago as breathing exhaust fumes would be to a living organism. Over-testing–and the punitive measures that have come with it–has narrowed our curriculum; it has led to massive cheating scandals across the country; it has led to the shutting down of good schools in low-income neighborhoods; and it has led to a reduction in practices that would actually improve schools, like collaboration and increased professional development time.
Over-testing has also given politicians a way to blame public schools for things that are clearly a result of the actions and inactions of the failed politicians themselves. When students in a low-income neighborhood show up on day-one of kindergarten three years behind their counterparts in a high-income community, that is not the result of the failure of public schools; it is the result of failed public policies; it is a result of a political system that has failed to deliver critical human services to the people who need them most. From Rahm Emanuel to most local aldermen, our city’s politicians have failed low-income children from conception to kindergarten, and they use attainment based test scores to chastise public schools for picking up the pieces of their monumental failures.
So no. We don’t need to get used to this. We need to stop this.
My son is in second grade. Next year he will be among thousands of 3rd graders who are scheduled to take the PARCC for the first time. He will not take it. He will not take it in 3rd grade to get used to it by 4th grade; and he will not take it in 4th grade to get used to it by 5th grade.
We do not want our children–or our schools in general–to continue to have to get used to unproven backward education policy ideas like the theory that testing our children is going to somehow magically improve our education system. It’s time to end the PARCC; not just opt-out of it. It’s time to implement real evidence-based strategies for enhancing our education system. We’ve been blindly following the testing theory for 14 years now. The No Child Left Behind law launched this era of testing and accountability in 2001. Remember? The massive testing and accountability the law called for was supposed to lead to 100% of children meeting standards by 2014. Those years have come and gone with no appreciable difference in outcomes for our children. Testing and accountability did not work in the last 14 years and it won’t work in the next 14. It’s time to call a failure, a failure.
Let’s all say it together:
“The theory of testing and accountability has failed our children.”
Opt Out Chicago.
Opt Out Illinois.
Opt Out America.