CHICAGO — After a contentious battle over the rollout of the PARCC standardized exam last year pitted some parents against administrators, advocates against high-stakes testing are gearing up to fight again.
With seven different meetings in March, the advocacy group More Than A Score will take its message to parents all over the city and suburbs, encouraging them to opt out of the Common Core-aligned test.
All the meetings are scheduled to be held before March 28, the first day of testing. PARCC will continue to be administered all the way through May 15.
"There's both an information and an advocacy component here," More Than A Score organizer Cassie Creswell said about the planned meetings. "We want to tell parents what their options are in terms of opting out, what the effects are and what the scores mean. But we definitely do advocate [opting out], and we want people to understand the long-term implications of high-stakes testing."
The PARCC exam, administered every spring to third-through-eighth graders, is aligned with the Common Core standards adopted across most of the country in 2009. In 2015, Illinois joined 10 other states and the District of Columbia in its rollout of the test.
The test met controversy from its first appearance, sparking fierce debate over whether it was too difficult or disorderly for students already contending with other standardized tests. Last year, More Than A Score joined other advocates to launch the "Park the PARCC" campaign, circulating a petition to improve the test before giving it to students.
"PARCC is an untested test," Creswell said. "It's being rolled out so fast, we really have no data on how valid it is, and it looks like it's on track to become a high-stakes test that has real consequences for the district."
Chicago Public Schools leaders, meanwhile, contend that PARCC is still at the stage of being tweaked and improved, a process only hindered when parents and students refuse to participate.
"CPS is committed to offering standardized tests that provide principals, teachers and parents with measurable and actionable feedback to help improve students' academic success," wrote Michael Passman, a CPS spokesman, in a Friday statement.
Administrators also fear a repeat of last year, when state officials threatened to withhold nearly $1 billion in school funding if the district didn't put the test in front of enough students.
"Opting out of PARCC testing jeopardizes Chicago's already insufficient state funding and would mean even deeper cuts than CPS already faces in the coming year, with a $1.1 billion deficit," Passman added.
Still, Creswell said, the test makes "guinea pigs" out of students who would otherwise be taking part in normal classroom learning.
The More Than A Score Community Meetings, titled "Chicago and Beyond: Let's Talk Testing 2" after a similar series of meetings last year, are slated for the following times and places:
• Logan Square: Tuesday March 1 6:30 p.m. at Kimball Arts Center, 1757 N Kimball Ave.
• Skokie: Wednesday March 2 at 1p.m. at 8883 Gross Point Rd. in Skokie
• Lakeview: Wednesday March 9 at 9 a.m. at Blaine Elementary, 1420 W Grace St.
• East Side: Thursday March 10 at 3:30 p.m. at 9912 S Avenue H
• Humboldt Park: Monday March 14 at 9 a.m. at 3711 W Chicago Ave.
• Hyde Park: Monday March 14 at 5 p.m. at Blackstone Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave.
• Oak Park: Monday March 21 at 7 p.m. (no location listed)
• Bridgeport: Tuesday March 22 at 6p.m. at Daley Library, 3400 S Halsted St.
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