|Arne Duncan gives his more-testing announcement at Seaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C.|
Then, just as Duncan is trying to work something out with Republican Lamar Alexander, the new head of the Senate Education Committee, Chicago school chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett announces a one-year moratorium on administering the PARCC test because of a "lack of computers" (hold your laughter, please). BBB says the test will only be given this year to about 10% of CPS' 600 schools. The decision to postpone the test is made of course, not by BBB, but by Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked board and comes in the face of growing parent and teacher protest against Common Core over-testing and a burgeoning opt-out movement. It also comes weeks before the mayoral election.
POLITICO's Stephanie Simon sez:
Chicago’s stance could well inspire copycat insurrections in other districts, analysts said — and that could undermine not just the Common Core, but more than a decade of public policy that relies on standardized tests to hold schools and teachers accountable for helping kids learn.BBB might have pulled it off if she hadn't joined a growing chorus of IL district superintendents openly attacking PARCC testing. She calls the test “unproven” and complains that adding such a long exam to a year already crammed with standardized tests would be overwhelming to students, teachers and principals. The PARCC test takes nine to 11 hours, depending on a student’s grade level.
Here comes the topper. Just as Pres. Obama is recording his endorsement ads supporting Rahm's re-election campaign, Duncan goes off on Rahm/Byrd Bennett and threatens to cut off potentially $1.2 billion in state aid unless CPS backs off and gives the test. The threat comes in a previously unpublicized letter to Illinois Schools Superintendent Christopher Koch from Duncan's deputy, Deborah Delisle.
Her [BBB's] defiance was striking in a district that has long been viewed as a national leader in test-based accountability. It was also rich in symbolism because Chicago public schools were once run by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a huge cheerleader for both the Common Core and the new exams, developed with $370 million in federal funds.
Politically, the problem is that, given national wrangling over school standards, Duncan cannot be seen as being easy on Chicago, said one source close to the center of the flap. That doesn't mean Illinois would lose all of the money, but a sizable hit is likely.So, the question is: Is all this just a show? Or is Obama's Dept. of Education really going to war with Rahm Emanuel over testing on the eve of Chicago's mayoral election?