By Mark Wachtler
January 19, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) In a shocker, the passionately anti-Common Core conservative right just got a mighty ally from the progressive left. In a weekend announcement, Chicago Public Schools announced that it would purposely violate state and federal mandates and not administer the Common Core tests to the full school system. Instead, the test will only be given to roughly ten percent of Chicago public school children. Officials cited two reasons for their decision. Chicagoans are too poor and CPS is doing just fine without Common Core.
The internet is full of humorous digs at Common Core like this. Image courtesy of Someecards.com.
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Common Core testing, like the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, is required by the federal government. In Illinois, it’s also mandated by the state. But in Chicago, school officials say they will only administer the test to 66 of more than 600 Chicago public schools.
Too poor to participate
Chicago School Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett tried to assure state and federal officials that the city was not rejecting Common Core. Instead, it was only introducing it to a sample test size rather than all at once. “We continue our successful implementation of the Common Core and we are moving forward with the plan to pilot PARCC to a ten percent sample of schools across the district during both the March and May PARCC testing windows,” she confirmed.
But she and other school officials expressed concern that Chicago’s public schools didn’t have the technology, such as computers, required to administer and take the test. Byrd-Bennett explained, “This expanded pilot will provide essential information from an expanded testing environment along with real-time test of the technology requirements to administer PARCC assessments across the entire district in the future.”
Outside of Chicago however, news outlets are questioning the sincerity of CPS’s explanation. The Washington Post points to the city’s request for a delay in implementing the test last summer citing Common Core’s perceived lack of value. The Post says that while Chicago school officials insist they don’t have the technology to administer the test, the test is actually offered in paper and pencil form and many school districts across the country utilize the old fashioned PARCC test.
“Too many of our children, over 400,000 of them, don’t have regular access to the technology that is needed,” CPS Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett attempted to explain, “And we find that is particularly so in the younger grades.” So why is Chicago’s top school official being seemingly so dishonest? Perhaps it’s more of a territorial dispute. The Chicago public school system only has room for three power players - the teachers union, City Hall, and the millionaires getting rich turning Chicago public schools into corporate charter schools. None of them want some Washington DC bureaucrats telling them how to educate the city’s children.
Saying no to Common Core
Chicago officials admit they are jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal education funding by not complying with the mandate. Bankrupt state officials denied Chicago’s request for an exemption from Common Core for that very reason. So, what’s really going on? Both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune say it’s another anti-Common Core move having major repercussions on the national level.
The Tribune reported, ‘School district chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett's decision to snub PARCC, which she said was made in conjunction with the school board, could have national implications and play a role in a congressional debate over laws that created rigorous Common Core standards and a divisive system of high-stakes testing.’
Siding with Republicans
They also cite last year’s opposition by Byrd-Bennett and CPS to Common Core, not because of technology concerns, but because she called the testing system, “unwarranted.” In a rare moment of agreement between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union, the Union’s President Karen Lewis said, “We have teachers without desks and students without books, and we're still trying to mandate a computer-driven test without any of the infrastructure we need to do that with. This is another unfunded mandate that comes down to punishing people for being poor.”`
This author can’t remember the last time Democrats complained about ‘unfunded mandates’. That’s been a battle cry of the Republican Party for decades. And the GOP is sure to capitalize on Chicago’s announcement. Now that the Republicans control the US Senate, the new Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), has already said he will introduce legislation by February that would drastically scale back or rewrite the No Child Left Behind law. The decision in Chicago will be another example Congressional Republicans will use as an example of Common Core’s deficiencies.
According to a report from the Daily Caller today, Common Core participation peaked at 46 states, but has recently seen a great deal of push-back from parents, teachers and school administrators alike. ‘Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina all repealed the standards and moved to replace them with new ones,’ the outlet writes, ‘Missouri and North Carolina created panels that could end in the replacement of the standards.’
The account also confirms that four Republican Senators introduced a Bill as recently as Friday that would prevent the federal government from, as they describe, ‘strong-arming states into adopting education standards such as Common Core.’ The Senators cited as co-sponsoring the legislation include Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). Showing just what the GOP Senators, and ironically Democratic school systems like Chicago, think of the federal government’s Common Core mandates, the name of the just-introduced Senate Bill is, ‘Learning Opportunities Created At The Local Level Act’.
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