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Online test for CPS kids can wait a year

A rebellion is underway at the Chicago Public Schools, led by Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett and strongly backed by many parents.

All but 10 percent of CPS’ nearly 660 schools will skip the first administration this spring of a highly anticipated new state test tied to the Common Core learning standards, despite a federal requirement to test all students.

EDITORIAL

It’s a bold move by Byrd-Bennett, one that could have serious consequences for the state, including the loss of state money, revocation of a key federal waiver and extra expenses for Illinois.

But it’s a move we stand behind for one reason:

Testing all Chicago kids would be unfair and counterproductive.

Far too many of CPS’ predominately low-income students don’t yet have the tech skills to navigate this online test, which requires a sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate a computer, such as screen switching and dragging and dropping.

For many kids, then, the test likely will evaluate tech skills, not multiplication or word study, as it should.

“We’ve been implementing Common Core for three years and we want our kids to have every opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve been learning,” Byrd-Bennett told us.

Plus, many schools lack sufficient computers to pull off testing without significantly disrupting the entire school during the multi-week testing window. CPS also students already are taking a different, Common Core-aligned test this spring that was chosen by CPS. That’s more than enough testing for this year. Some dismiss this as an election-time sop to parents. Even if true, it’s still the right decision.

The state offers a paper and pencil version of the PARCC exam but the majority of Illinois children will be taking it online, putting CPS students at a disadvantage.

Crucially, Byrd-Bennett is committed to a full rollout of  PARCC  in 2016. And most importantly, she’s hasn’t wavered in her commitment to the new, more rigorous Common Core standards that the PARCC reading and math exams are designed to test. This page remains strongly supportive of the higher order, critical thinking skills embedded in the Common Core. The onus, though, is on CPS to make this next year count — to get its kids and equipment ready for next year’s PARCC exam.

Illinois State Board of Education members and leaders, who have has been diligently preparing for Common Core and the PARCC exam over the last several years, are outraged that CPS is defying the law, laying out at a public meeting Wednesday why CPS should change course. Byrd-Bennett last summer asked the state for a one-year delay but was turned down. The feds also weighed in this fall, saying the law does not allow CPS to delay.

ISBE intends to turn up the pressure on CPS but we urge state officials to let this go, and to pass that on to their friends in Washington.

Don’t punish CPS and Illinois for trying to do what’s right for kids.