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Why some Chicago parents might opt against remote learning for this fall

The hybrid, with a mix of in-person and remote learning, gives them the option to change their minds later, when we have more information about what these models will mean for our kids and the trajectory of the pandemic.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot are asking parents to choose now between their in-school hybrid option or a fully remote option in September. If parents choose the first option, they can change their minds at any time. The second option locks them in until Nov. 9.

Most of the people in my circle are choosing the hybrid model, simply because it gives them the option to change their minds later, when we have more information about what these models will mean for our kids and the trajectory of the pandemic. The data CPS is collecting this week will not be a reflection of parents’ true learning preferences, but rather their logical desire to keep options open in such a high-stakes decision.

Let’s get real: Our collective decisions this week could mean the difference between life or death for teachers, staff and the kids themselves. My own kids really struggled with online learning, but if we can protect the lives of Chicagoans by going back to that model, we’re going to make the best of it.

There’s a bigger lesson to offer to our kids here — about what really matters when the chips are down. Chicago, we can do this.

Sara Wohlleb, Uptown

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Defending the SAT/ACT

As education leaders, we are committed to making sure students are college and career ready. Providing the SAT college entrance exam at no charge to Illinois students through the Illinois State Board of Education is an important way to accomplish that goal. Some colleges/universities have made the assessment optional, and we have several concerns about this trend.

Equity: Having the SAT and ACT be optional might sound like it will make access to college more equitable, but it creates more barriers:

Some colleges/universities have shifted to using primarily grade-point average for admission. While we have narrowed the achievement gap, research indicates low-income and minority students overall are still performing lower academically.

If colleges/universities no longer require the SAT, but leave other standards that require resources inaccessible to all students, it could be a disadvantage for underrepresented students. It is incumbent on us to monitor the Pell Grant (a federally funded award to help low-income students pay for college) to ensure enrollment of low-income students does not decrease.

Many colleges/universities still require a college-reportable test score for admission, and the SAT is required to earn an Illinois high school diploma. If the assessment is optional and is not free, it creates a barrier for low-income and minority students.

Student growth/financial benefits: Students in grades 8 to 11 take exams through the College Board’s SAT Suite of Assessments, which are aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards and provide a metric to measure student growth. If the SAT is optional, we could lose this valuable tool. The SAT Suite also connects students with college application fee waivers and provides an opportunity to earn scholarships.

We must provide equal opportunities for students, and a college entrance exam is one way to meet that goal. We value the SAT and ACT as part of the whole picture of a student’s readiness for college and careers.

Superintendents Scott J. Helton, DuPage High School District 88; David F. Larson, Glenbard Township High School District 87; Kevin Carey, Community Unit School District 201; Moses Cheng, Community High School District 94