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Principal to parents: ‘We don’t need to get used to this. We need to stop it.’

Students at Lynn Elementary School, in Las Cruces, N.M. gather at the school’s football field on Monday, March 4, 2015, during a walkout protesting the PARCC exams that began the same day. (AP Photo/Las Cruces Sun-News, Robin Zielinski)

Troy LaRaviere is the principal of Chicago’s Blaine Elementary School and a leader of the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education. He has been outspoken about school reform policies that he thinks are harmful to children or a waste of Chicago Public Schools money. Here’s an example, from  this interview with him:

CPS just spent $20 million that should be going to the children of Chicago and put it towards principal training to be provided by an organization called SUPES Academy. Now I don’t know a principal who hasn’t said that it’s horrible. It’s poor quality and it’s a waste of our time. I believe in training when it’s effective but this is ineffective.

Here’s another example of how outspoken LaRaviere is, from this post published b y LaRaviere in 2014, about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

The administration’s interaction with principals is often insulting. During the debate over the longer school day, some principals questioned its merits. CPS officials were then dispatched to tell the principals their opinions didn’t matter.

Here’s something new from LaRaviere: a letter he wrote to parents of students at his school about the Common Core test known as PARCC,  created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two new Common Core tests created by two multi-state consortia with some $360 million in federal funds. Illinois is a PARCC state, and the new tests are being given this spring.

[Indiana Superintendent of the Year: Parents should homeschool kids during testing week]

In mid-January, Chicago Public Schools district chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that the system would not give all students the PARCC, as expected, but instead would give it in a fraction of the more than 600 schools in CPS. She said that she had big questions about the value of the test, as well as about whether the district had the technological capability to give the computer-administered test to all students. But this week, shortly before the PARCC was to be given in Illinois, she said that pressure from state officials had persuaded her to reverse position and give the test to all students. The Chicago Tribune quoted her as saying:

“There are huge, huge financial sanctions that have been very clearly delineated to us. It would be irresponsible for me to even put us in that position of danger, of losing the funds, given our financial conditions now. … I continue to personally and professionally believe that to administer PARCC this year is absolutely not in the best interests of our students. However, given the threat from [the Illinois State Board of Education], there is absolutely no choice that I can present to this board and to our community.”

[What the new Common Core tests are — and aren’t]

This is from LaRaviere, as posted to his blog (and which I am publishing with his permission):

On March 2nd, members of my school’s PTA sent letters home to parents encouraging them to opt their children out of the PARCC Test. Their effort was covered in an article by Lauren FitzPatrick in the Chicago Sun-Times. Many parents asked my position on the matter. As a result, I released the following letter to our parent community.

I am writing to make it clear that the Blaine administration fully supports the PTA’s effort to maximize Blaine students’ instructional time. As a result we will respect and honor all parent requests to opt-out their students from the PARCC. Students whose parents opt them out will receive a full day of instruction. Teachers are developing plans that will provide enriched learning experiences for non-testing students during the testing window. I want to clearly state that whether you opt-out or not, Blaine’s administration and teachers will respect and support your wishes for your child.
PARCC assessments will begin next week.
The two PARCC testing periods are from March 9th to April 2nd, and April 27th to May 22nd. The mandatory MAP testing period will overlap with the PARCC assessment. MAP testing runs from May 11th to June 12th.
This year, Blaine students will take several major tests. These include MAP and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In addition, 8th grade students have taken the selective enrollment exam, and they will be taking the algebra exit exam. On top of these assessments, the PARCC adds several weeks of additional testing to an already packed testing regimen. It is not a stretch to say that American students are over-tested and under-taught. None of the world’s highest performing school systems spend as much time (and money) testing its students as we do.
Opting out will not affect your child’s promotion and selective enrollment status for Fall 2015. There is also a belief that opting out will affect Blaine’s funding. There is no evidence for this belief. In fact, the test itself is decreasing resources that could have otherwise been targeted for school improvement. Each year, states and school districts spend billions of dollars on testing, while at the same time cutting budgets for instruction and learning. Our PTA believes it is time for parents to say “enough.” For more on the issue of funding, please see the statement released by the parent education advocacy organization, More Than a Score, at the following link:
For more on the PTA’s opt-out initiative, please see
In closing, our PTA’s focus on teaching your children rather than over-testing them is commendable, and we applaud their efforts on behalf of Blaine students.
Very Respectfully,
Troy LaRaviere, Principal
Since releasing the above letter, I’ve been asked questions like, “Since the PARCC might count for something next year, do you think the kids should just take it this year so they can get used to it?” My response is as follows: If the schools announced that next year they were going expose your children to exhaust fumes for five minutes per day, would to be resigned to that inevitability and submit to your child starting his or her exposure this year so he or she can “get used to it”? That analogy may seem harsh and over-the-top, but it is my lived experienced that this massive over-testing has been as toxic to education in Chicago as breathing exhaust fumes would be to a living organism. Over-testing — and the punitive measures that have come with it — has narrowed our curriculum; it has led to massive cheating scandals across the country; it has lead to the shutting down of good schools in low-income neighborhoods; and it has led to a reduction in practices that would actually improve schools, like collaboration and increased professional development time.
Over-testing has also given politicians a way to blame public schools for things that are clearly a result of the actions and inactions of the failed politicians themselves. When students in a low-income neighborhood show up on Day One of kindergarten three years behind their counterparts in a high-income community, that is not the result of the failure of public schools; it is the result of failed public policies; it is a result of a political system that has failed to deliver critical human services to the people who need them most. From Rahm Emanuel to most local alderman, our city’s politicians have failed low-income children from conception to kindergarten, and they use attainment based test scores to chastise public schools for picking up the pieces of their monumental failures.
So no. We don’t need to get used to this. We need to stop this.
My son is in second grade. Next year he will be among thousands of 3rd graders who are scheduled to take the PARCC for the first time. He will not take it. He will not take it in 3rd grade to get used to it by 4th grade; and he will not take it in 4th grade to get used to it by 5th grade.
We do not want our children–or our schools in general–to continue to have to get used to unproven backward education policy ideas like the theory that testing our children is going to somehow magically improve our education system. It’s time to end the PARCC; not just opt out of it. It’s time to implement real evidence-based strategies for enhancing our education system. We’ve been blindly following the testing theory for 14 years now. The No Child Left Behind law launched this era of testing and accountability in 2001. Remember? The massive testing and accountability the law called for was supposed to lead to 100 percent of children meeting standards by 2014. Those years have come and gone with no appreciable difference in outcomes for our children. Testing and accountability did not work in the last 14 years and it won’t work in the next 14. It’s time to call a failure, a failure.
Let’s all say it together:
“The theory of testing and accountability has failed our children.”
Opt Out Chicago.
Opt Out Illinois.
Opt Out America.

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What the new Common Core tests are — and aren’t