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As Schools Begin Issuing New PARCC Test, Some Parents Want Kids To Opt Out

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hundreds of thousands of students in Chicago and the suburbs began taking a controversial new standardized test on Monday, but some parents want their kids to opt out.

Schools are required to administer the test to all students in 3rd through 8th grades, but there were obvious signs of rebellion at several schools, including Blaine Elementary School in the Lakeview neighborhood.

The Blaine PTA has provided a form for students to print out, so they can sign it and opt out of the PARCC test.

The computer-based test takes place over a period of more than 10 hours.

The Chicago Teachers Union has called the exam "a hot mess."

"This has the potential to blow up and be a tremendous failure, because CPS itself has said the district may not be able to handle a proper rollout at this time due to technical issues and frustration among students, teachers and administration over administering the test properly," CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement last week. "But instead of understanding those issues, the state and the feds decided to threaten to withhold resources from a district that's one of the most poorly resourced in the nation."

Critics have argued it's poorly designed, not field-tested, and will monopolize school computers – essentially taking up time that could be used for more practical education.

The PARCC test is designed to be administered on computers, but not all Chicago Public Schools have the proper equipment, so some schools will be taking a paper and pencil version of the exam.

Children can refuse the test, but because there is no opt-out policy, they must refuse in person, in class.

"It's diverting too many resources away from really giving the children the education they need," said Karen Yarbough.

Her 11-year-old son refused to take the test in Oak Park Monday. So too did many students across Chicago and Illinois.

But instead of reading a book or drawing during the test, Yarbough's son was forced to sit and stare until kids taking the exam were finished.

"There are no words to describe how frustrating that is for me… it's absurd," she said.

Parent Libbey Paul says finishing the exam is the only option for her 7th grader.

"Our kids should be taking the test so we can know how well we're doing with common core," said Paul.

Paul says the 10-20 hours put into taking the test is a bit much, but still she supports the new standards.

"A test does not measure a kid in its entirety but if you're going to have standards, you need to know how you're doing against them," she said.

CPS had asked the Illinois State Board of Education to allow the district to administer the test to only 10 percent of students this year, as a pilot test, but that request was denied, and the state said if CPS did not issue the tests to all 3rd through 8th grade students, the district would lose approximately $1.5 billion in state and federal funding.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said, although she believes giving the PARCC this year is not in the students' best interest, CPS just can't afford to lose so much funding.

"I don't want to risk the funding that we were threatened with for our children. And at $1.4 billion, we simply cannot afford to have our children punished in that way," she said.


WBBM's John Cody reports State Representative Will Guzzardi, (D-Chicago) has introduced House Bill 306 to give parents the ability to opt out on behalf of students.

"It will give parents the right to write a letter on their student's behalf opting their student out of state standardized tests," Guzzardi said.

Guzzardi says some parents feel making the kids do the opting out is just a way to coerce more kids into taking the nationwide standardized test. He says sampling may provide the answer to evaluating how schools are doing.

"Sampling is a really effective way to get a measurement of how districts and how schools are performing without testing every single child," Guzzardi said.

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