Many thanks to Catalyst for your commitment to open public debate about that most critical area of public policy, our children’s education. Parents United for Responsible Education, too, knows what it’s like to receive irate telephone calls from Paul Vallas demanding to know why we questioned or criticized one Chicago Public School (CPS) action or another. We have received five-page diatribes in response to our public testimony or letters to the editor. We continue to be amazed at this attitude that the public, particularly parents, have no right to participate in or challenge the workings of the School Board and central office.
Of course we will continue to exercise our civil rights and engage in robust democratic processes, despite the name-calling. Our children require our vigilance and outspokenness.
PURE would particularly like to thank Catalyst for calling attention to the CPS’ high-stakes use of student scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) as sole determinants for grade promotion, a practice which violates the guidelines for use set out in the ITBS manual as well as the national standards of the testing profession.
In his letter to the editor, Mr. Vallas complains that you “accuse us of making decisions solely on the basis of a test.” He then repeats the deceptive defense CPS adopted once it was challenged about its use of ITBS scores: that these test scores are not the only criterion used.
Their trick is to pretend that using multiple measures independently is no different from using multiple measures in combination. Another logical step in such a universe would be a ruling by the HMO industry that your doctor could diagnose your physical condition based on any one measure, such as your temperature, weight or blood pressure, since those scores would be deemed equal to the results of a full physical exam.
The truth is found in the experience of someone like Everett Fony, a student with perfect attendance and excellent grades who scored very high on ITBS tests in the past but was barred from graduation with his 8th-grade class based on a one-tenth of one point shortfall on one ITBS test. His waiver request was denied. Clearly, nothing but his ITBS score mattered. Only when his case was brought publicly to the Board of Trustees was it decided that he could be retested. This is a policy which needs more debate and discussion, not less.
We know that Catalyst will continue to report on the facts of these and other critical education issues; PURE looks forward to being a part of the continuing dialogue.