Arne Duncan not taking sides on CPS’ seeking delay on PARCC test

SHARE Arne Duncan not taking sides on CPS’ seeking delay on PARCC test
SHARE Arne Duncan not taking sides on CPS’ seeking delay on PARCC test

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan saidThursday he’s staying out of a tussle between the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schoolsoverwhether CPS students will take a new Common Core-aligned standardized test this spring — at least for now.

Illinois is set to begin the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test this spring, replacing the elementary level Illinois Standards Achievement Test and high school level Prairie State Achievement Examination with brand-new tests aligned to Common Core state standards that are supposed to be tougher and require more critical thinking skills.

But CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said she wants to delay the implementation for at least another year, telling the CPS Board last month that too many question remain about the new test.

She has also said not all schools have the necessary computers and bandwidth to support the online version of the test.

“I don’t know all the details. That’s actually something CPS has to work out with the state,” Duncan said while visiting Farragut Career Academy. “. . . Well, I think the state and CPS need to work that out together.”

In a letter sent to CPS in July, the Illinois Board of Education wrote that the state cannot jeopardize its federal funding for poor children by granting CPS an exception to the law requiring the test.

Some CPS parents are alsobehinda campaign, called “Park the PARCC,” aimed at postponing the testing.

Duncan visited the Little Village high school and its After School Matters studentsThursdayafternoon,gettinga glimpse ofthe school’slifeguard training, computer skills and art programs. He said Chicago’safter school programsare a model for what the rest of the nation should be doing.

“I don’t know if there’s a city that at scale has taken thesetypes of things, the diversity ofofferings and the number of schools,” Duncan said. “You can always learn from other cities. No one has a market of all the best ideas but I’m just so proud of what’s happening here in Chicago. Yes, weshouldlearn from other places, but I think the rest of thenationhassomethingto learn from what’s right andwhat’sgoing on here.”

Duncanearliervisited Hales Franciscan High School on the South Side and met with university leaders to listen to ways they’re helping students connect with higher education institutions.

Calling Duncan “the staunchest champion of small schools” when he served as the CEO of CPS, Hales Franciscan President Jeffrey Gray led the roundtable discussion at the high school.

“I think you can be strong andfragileor you can be small and strong,” Duncan said of small schools. “What if every junior or senior had the opportunity to take a college-level class? . . . If this could be a school where that was the norm, where every single kid worked hard and had a chance to take a college class someplace, for parents as you try to look for places, I think that’s a pretty powerful story.”

Sonya Malunda, of the University of Chicago, said there’s a “reciprocal benefit” to having high school students on a college campus and being part of college programs.

She also said the U. of C. has 350 university students working as tutors and mentors in 50 schools on the South Side, including Hales.

Angela Henderson, provost at Chicago State University,told Duncana dualenrollment partnership with Hales Franciscan allows students to seethe diversity of its campus and to understand theopportunitiesthat a college degree brings.

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