Archives for category: Chicago

Sheri Sobel, a mom in Chicago, writes:



“PARCC testing in Chicago!! My son is in 6th grade and was part of the 10% of CPS population scheduled to take the test; originally. As we are aware NOW, that CPS has to administer the test to 100% or lose IL funding to the tune of $1.6B, He suffers from an Anxiety Disorder and has been distraught, crying, literally freaking out about taking the test for the past 4 weeks.


“He was so distraught 3 weeks ago that I had to take him back to his dr. and therapist ASAP (he has been stable for the past 2 yrs. and seeing his dr. every 3 months and a therapist 1 or 2 times per month as needed). Now he has to go weekly.


“Yesterday was the last straw. No child has to take a standardized test and can opt out; however, this is not what my son was hearing from the teachers. I wrote a notice of refusal; sent it out to his teachers, counselors, and CPS testing director. When i picked him up from school yesterday and gave him a copy of the letter I sent out; it was like a wave of happiness and calm came over him.


“What are we doing to our kids that there is so much pressure on their performance for funding?”

Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago, recently wrote an electrifying letter urging parents in his school, in his state, and in the nation to OPT OUT!


Now he has written an open letter to Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, reprimanding her for pressuring students not to opt out.


He writes:


Ms. Byrd-Bennett,


In response to parent and teacher support for opting children out of the PARCC Test, you sent a message to all CPS principals. It states:


“Please be advised that ISBE does not recognize a parent’s right to opt a child out of required student assessments, as there is no law in Illinois allowing this. While a parent cannot “opt a child out,” there may be students who refuse to participate in required state assessments.”


There are numerous faults and inconsistencies in your letter. I attempt to address a few of them here.


“Choice” Hypocrisy


It is pitifully ironic that you, Mr. Emanuel, and ISBE Chairman James Meeks—self-professed proponents of what you call “parental school choice”—would fight so vigorously to deny parents the choice of opting their children out of testing.


Posturing, Bullying and Wasting Learning Time


Your letter states that even if the parent states, in writing, not to test the child, school officials still must present each child with each one of the five sections of the PARCC tests and force the child to refuse each section separately. In April—when the second half of the PARCC is administered—you have directed us to repeat this process with up to 3 sessions. In total we have been directed to force students to verbally or physically refuse the PARCC on up to eight distinct occasions.


Your letter goes on to state:


“It is unfortunate that ISBE’s limited guidance on this matter has placed the burden of refusing the test on students. I believe this is unfair to our students, families, principals and staff. However, we are obligated to follow ISBE’s limited direction to avoid sanctions that would have a devastating impact on our district.”


If you believe it is “unfortunate,” and “unfair” then why are CPS officials forcing children in some schools to refuse not only to the teacher, but to the principal and the network chief? If you believe it’s “unfair,” why was a network chief sent to Mollison School—my elementary alma mater—where the chief forced each student to refuse directly to her; in one case allegedly forcing a fourth grade autistic child to articulate his desire to opt out despite the fact that he’d already made his desire clear when he himself submitted a signed note from his mother?


Then there’s what is alleged to have happened at Taylor school on the far southeast side, where a teacher reported an administrator, “got within a few inches of the face of one young man in the [opt-out] line, and asked him loudly, “DID SHE PUT A TICKET IN YOUR HAND?!!!”, then ordered the teacher to “PUT A TESTING TICKET IN EVERY STUDENT’S HAND AND PUT THEM IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER!”


Although the facts behind both of the above incidents are in dispute, it is noteworthy that the people making the above claims are all parents of low-income minority children—the children our mayor said would “never amount to anything”; the children whose schools he shut down; and the children who he funnels to charter schools where they experience less academic growth than in the public system they came from. Why has CPS added PARCC bullying to the long list of offenses it has committed against these children and their families?…..


CPS has exhibited intense hypocrisy in regard to parental choice. It has bullied children and their families, been deceptive in its repressive framing of the law in regard to opt out rights, and parroted dubious claims about losing funds in relationship to opting out.


As a result, I will be taking the following course of action and call on you to advise all CPS principals to do the same:


Our school will meet its responsibility to administer the PARCC to all students who want to take it. Nearly 80% of our students have already expressed their decision to refuse the PARCC by submitting letters from their parents opting them out of the test. When students handed that opt-out letter to their teachers, that act was an expression of their refusal to take the test. That is enough for me, and it should be enough for CPS and ISBE. No child under my watch, who has expressed his or her decision to refuse the PARCC, will be sat in front of any computer to take it, nor presented with any materials. We will not waste even more learning time by subjecting our students to ISBE’s deceptive fear-mongering and CPS’s hypocritical test-driven political theater.




Troy LaRaviere


CPS Graduate
Former CPS Teacher
CPS Parent
CPS Principal
Twitter: @TroyLaRaviere

Chicago’s superintendent of schools Barbara Byrd-Bennett wanted to delay PARCC testing. She knew the students and teachers were not ready. She proposed testing only 10% of students. The state of Illinois said it would lose $1.1 billion in federal funding if Chicago failed to participate.

Last week, Secretary Duncan was in Chicago. When asked why he threatened to cut off federal funding, he denied it.

When he arrived at a school, his driver took a wrong turn, and Duncan got out of the car and was swarmed by angry parents protesting the testing.

“Once safely inside the school, Duncan was asked about the protest outside.

“Why is his U.S. Department of Education forcing a controversial standardized test — one many parents don’t want and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has argued is “not ready” for prime time — down the throats Chicago Public Schools?

“I’m not,” Duncan said. “The state works it out without Chicago. . . . That’s the state’s decision.”

“But isn’t the mandate being dictated by the federal government? Isn’t that what’s behind the threat to withhold $1 billion in funding that forced Chicago’s hand?

“No. You’re wrong. . . . You’re making stuff up. You don’t have your facts straight,” Duncan said.

“The secretary was asked about the parental animosity stemming from the PARCC test and the resulting protest that forced him to go through the gantlet of protesters to get into Ariel Community Academy, 1119 E. 46th Street.

““I welcome the conversation. It’s good. . . . It’s a healthy conversation to have,” he said.

“But he said, “It’s important to assess kids annually. . . . Millions of kids around the country are taking the test. We’re fine.”

“With that, a press aide to Duncan stepped in and ended the interview.”

The Network for Public Education enthusiastically endorses Jesus (Chuy) Garcia for Mayor of Chicago.

The election has national significance. NPE believes it will send a message that closing public schools en masse and replacing them with private charters is unacceptable; that the public schools are a public responsibility and should be fully funded to meet the needs of students.

If you live in Chicago, please vote, volunteer, and help turn a new page for the students of Chicago by electing Chuy Garcia.

The International Business Times reports that pension funds from Chicago teachers have been invested with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s friends and campaign donors.


According to city documents obtained by IBTimes, the firm affiliated with Illinois’ Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner — a longtime friend of Chicago’s Democratic mayor — as well as executives at private-equity giant Madison Dearborn have gained substantial investments from the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF) since Emanuel took office. The documents also show the CTPF has an indirect equity stake in Grosvenor Capital Management. Executives at the latter two firms have donated nearly $1.8 million to Emanuel’s campaign and political organizations since 2011.



EduShyster hosts a Chicago citizen who shows what the New York Times got wrong about Rahm.


The newspaper article mostly repeated the Mayor’s talking points instead of digging to find out if they were true.


The author, Maria Moser, writes:


“Here’s what happened: Rahm systematically attacked nearly every city service through a neoliberal privatization plan. As a friend put it, *Rahm’s not so much the mayor as the guy auctioning off what’s left of our public goods.* And public goods have a disproportionate value to middle class and poor people in our city. Your library is open less and has less staff. There are fewer lifeguards on our beaches in the summer. Or you spent hours on the phone trying to activate your new Ventra card only to be disconnected. We’ve taken notice as these things have happened because they affect our lives. What’s it like to live in a city with an auctioneer at the helm?”


And read this correction:


“NYT: And many of the neighborhoods that faced schools closings were in predominantly black or Latino areas.


“Chicago: Uh, that’s a bit of an understatement. As it turns out, of 46,000 students impacted by school closures (not 30,000, as CPS tried to suggest), 88% were black, 10% were Latino, and .7% were white. So yes, predominantly. Like, 98%.”

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


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.


Very Respectfully,


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.









Juan Garcia, crack investigative reporter for The New York Daily News, interviewed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia about his race against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


Emanuel had hoped to win a decisive victory, but Garcia forced him into a runoff.


Garcia’s theme echoes the winning theme of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: Chicago has become “a tale of two cities.” A city where the rich and powerful prosper and become more rich and powerful, and a city where working people see their life prospects diminishing.


“People are feeling the effects of inequality in this city, and they don’t like it,” Garcia told me in an exclusive interview Tuesday.


“Rahm has run this city for the benefit of the select few, the high rollers, hedge fund managers, big developers,” he said, “and the people voted for change.”


The Chicago race has instantly turned into the next big test for the soul of the Democratic Party.


It is a face-off between the party’s progressive wing, led by folks like de Blasio, Ras Baraka in Newark and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and its corporate wing, leaders like Emanuel, Gov. Cuomo and Hillary Clinton.


All the experts predicted Emanuel would coast to victory. After all, he was a former top White House aide to President Obama and enjoyed the president’s backing. He is also an incumbent legendary for his take-no-prisoners style and affection for foul language. He raised $15 million, far more than all his rivals combined. And he enjoyed the endorsement of Chicago’s major newspapers.


Garcia, 58, was a little-known former alderman, state senator and community organizer. He didn’t even enter the race until October and he raised a mere $1.3 million. As recently as January, polls showed him with barely 20% support.


But on Election night, Emanuel captured just 45% of the vote – below the 50% needed to avoid a run-of – while Garcia emerged a close second with 33%. New polls now show the gap between the two tightening.


Garcia had the support of the unions, and Emanuel was the candidate of “wealthy downtown” Chicago.


School issues played a large role in the election.


Emanuel was the guy who shuttered 50 failing public schools, rapidly expanded charter schools, and faced off in a bitter 2012 strike with the teachers union.


“The school closings galvanized opposition to the mayor,” Garcia said. “Everyone knows when you close that many schools, you snuff out whatever life there is in a community.”


Garcia had organized a hunger strike by Latino parents a decade ago that forced the city to build the new Little Village Lawndale High School. He opposes further charter school expansion and has called for bringing back an elected school board in Chicago.


The key to the election is the black vote. Emanuel is targeting his TV advertising to black voters. Garcia is hoping they remember that he was a close ally of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor. Garcia, if elected, would be the city’s first Hispanic mayor.

Forget about all those stories you read that said the U.S. Department of Education had/has nothing to do with promoting the Common Core standards. Forget that it is a “state-led” initiative, that the standards were “written by the governors,” and that this just bubbled up from below while ED watched from the sidelines. Months ago, Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that the district was not ready, the students were not ready, the teachers were not ready. She said she would give the tests to 10% of the students, no more. But then the hammer fell, and the hammer is in Washington, D.C. The orders from ED (the Education Department): give the tests or Illinois will lose $1.4 billion in federal money. 


Is this legal? Three different federal laws prohibit any agent of the federal government from attempting to influence or control instruction or curriculum. It is a well-known fact that tests drive instruction and curriculum. Will anyone sue to stop this apparent, alleged, probable violation of the law?

Earlier, Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the city schools were not ready to give the PARCC test. She planned to give the test to only 10% of students. Federal and state pressure was applied, and the city caved to threats. It’s not about what’s best for children. It is power politics, and Arne Duncan’s demand that no child go untested.

March 2, 2015 312-329-6250

CTU Statement on Chicago Public Schools’ Decision to Cower to Federal Threats and Administer PARCC Assessment

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union is extremely disappointed in the decision of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) throughout the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district in the wake of intimidation by the Illinois State Board of Education and U.S. Department of Education. The district’s choice to back down from state and federal threats to withhold education funding if the PARCC was not administered throughout CPS allows for continued policy measures to disrupt the lives of students, handcuffs classroom educators and holds the sword of disinvestment over children and communities who need resources the most.

“This has the potential to blow up and be a tremendous failure, because CPS itself has said the district may not be able to handle a proper rollout at this time due to technical issues and frustration among students, teachers and administration over administering the test properly,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “But instead of understanding those issues, the state and the feds decided to threaten to withhold resources from a district that’s one of the most poorly resourced in the nation.”

By changing course on a previous decision to limit the PARCC to just 10 percent of CPS schools students, the district will continue to burden elementary school students with the inhumane pressure of over-testing, valuable time away from classroom instruction. A number of CPS teachers who have taken the sample PARCC test have stated that the assessment is inappropriate for the target 3rd through 8th grades, and is coyly designed for students to fail.

The district’s decision to administer the PARCC test comes nearly a year to the day after the boycott of the now-defunct Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) by teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy on March 3, 2014.



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