Anxiety and skepticism over whether all CPS schools will administer the new state-mandated PARCC test reached new heights this week as principals and teachers reported the delivery of boxes of tests to their buildings.
“I’m trying to diffuse that [anxiety],” said Heather Yutzy, principal at Belding Elementary in Irving Park. “We had an LSC meeting, and the Pearson boxes had arrived an hour before the meeting. I had to tell them I still don’t know whether we’re going to give the test.”
The boxes of paper assessments were sent directly from Pearson, which may explain why CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the district had not sent out any tests. On Friday afternoon, McCaffrey explained that the state sent tests to all elementary schools, though the district still plans to administer the assessment at just 66 yet-to-be-chosen schools.
Yutzy said the boxes – which are now under lock and key in her office – included packets of shrink-wrapped assessments for third- to fifth-graders. District officials had told her and other principals that students in grades six through eight will take the assessment online – that is, if they wind up giving the assessment at all.
The first round of testing on the PARCC, the new test that is aligned with the more rigorous Common Core standards, is supposed to begin on March 9, but so far, district officials have not said which schools will have to administer it. Last week the district emailed principals a testing update that includes this note: “The status of testing in CPS is still being discussed. In the interim, all schools should prepare logistically, in the event they will administer. “
In January CPS officials said they would defy a state mandate and only assess 10 percent of schools. In response, Illinois Board of Education (ISBE) officials sent a letter to all district chiefs threatening to pull funding from any district that doesn’t administer the test to all students. Without compliance from CPS, it’d be impossible for ISBE to meet its own federal mandate of assessing at least 95 percent of all students in the state’s public schools.
Since then, CPS officials haven’t said whether they’ll go ahead and defy the state mandate anyway. Nor have they named the schools that would fall in the 10 percent.
“We continue to plan for the pilot of the PARCC […] and continue evaluating the potential sanctions outlined in that letter,” says McCaffrey.
Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals & Administrators Association, says some principals have told her they’ve been asked by CPS to be part of the so-called “pilot” group of 10 percent of schools. McCaffrey says CPS has not told schools any such thing, although some principals have volunteered their schools to be part of the group.