Last week, Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), a 34-year House veteran and a key leader in the House, sponsored a bill (HB 266), which effectively proposes that a schoolchild‚Äôs parent should have a right to decide if her child will or will not participate in state-mandated standardized tests. (In 2015 similar bill passed the house, but was delayed and was never considered by the Senate.)
Two hundred and seventy-five people filed witness slips in favor of HB 266, which was debated in a PK-12 committee on Wednesday, March 22nd. Only eleven (11) people signed slips in opposition while the remainder all showed support for the bill. But the House Committee sided with the opponents. The opponents included the Illinois State Board of Education, Advance Illinois, The College Board, Stand for Children, and the Large Unit District Association (LUDA) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). No opponent discussed parental rights at all, instead they discussed loss of funding if participation feel below 95%, lack of data for students with IEPs, and an encouragement to not take SAT and then ‚Äúnot be able to get into college‚Äù.
It should be noted that there is nothing in current law to cause a state to lose federal funds by reason of low test participation rates, and that in fact no school or state has ever lost any funding as a result of low mandated test participation.
Many of the proponents of the bill cited the trending evidence that testing results are more of a product of the geography and demographics of a school, and particularly cited the growing disparities and inequities of school funding. Representative Sue Scherer of Decatur (a former teacher) argued, ‚ÄúWhen you can show me a day when every child in Illinois gets the same amount of money spent on them, that‚Äôll be the day that I‚Äôll agree that every child can take the same test.‚Äù
To date, the bill has been called for an additional hearing, but no action has been taken yet. As you may recall, our District was targeted by the ISBE for low participation rates, and were required to provide a participation improvement plan. This spring PARCC testing showed slightly increased participation at the elementary schools, but not much change at the middle school (no PARCC testing at GHS this year).