Chicago Sun-Times: Editorial - Let parents call the shots on PARCC test

http://chicago.suntimes.com/editorials-opinion/7/71/625676/editorial-parental-control-desired-state-tests

By Sun-Times Editorial Board

May 21, 2015

If things go right, parents soon will be able to inform schools if they don’t want their kids to take the standardized PARCC test.

That sure would beat the status quo, in which the kids themselves must inform their teachers, no matter how awkward.

It is absurd that parents can’t do this already. Requiring kids to deliver the news is nothing more than an inexcusable form of intimidation by school officials who really don’t want anybody opting out of the test.

As it happens, we would rather that every kid took the test, too. There is value in it all around. But let’s not play games. Let Mom or Dad fill out some opt-out form, if that’s their choice. Leave the poor kid out of it.

We support a bill in Springfield that would allow parents or guardians to opt their children out of PARCC in writing without a threat of penalties. It also prohibits teachers and administrators from pressuring parents and students to take or not take the test. The bill passed in the House this week and is pending in the Senate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to veto the bill, and the State Board of Education is warning that Illinois could lose more than $1 billion in federals funds if less than 95 percent of students take the test. Last month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that if states fail to get districts to get enough students to take mandated tests, his department is obligated to step in.

But the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, points out that no state has had money withheld, and Illinois has a waiver from the 95 percent rule and the No Child Left Behind Act.

The larger issue for parents is that kids are fried from taking too many standardized tests. Opting out is becoming a national movement. This year in New York State, one of every six eligible students opted out of at least one of two standardized tests, according to the New York Times.

That’s a trend that cuts both ways. Standardized tests serve many purposes, including helping schools determine which students — including subgroups of minorities, special education and low-income kids — need more resources.

But, as Guzzardi says, don’t stick kids in the middle of the fight. His bill, he says, is simply to make sure “kids get treated right.”

Treating kids right, by the way, also means that those who don’t take the test will get supervised classroom time instead of being told to sit and stare during testing, which has happened to some.