Thursday, March 13, 2014

We Have Another Red Alert; Get On The Horn!

This post has been updated and the clock is ticking! Click Here!

...and by "horn," I mean computer.

Friends, Romans...

There's another excellent bill pending in the House compliments of Linda Chapa LaVia. It has a hearing next Wednesday, March 20th, and as we've learned, it's really, really helpful to fill out a witness slip before a hearing.

The witness slip is your way of going on record during the hearing, which is sort of the most important time to go on record. When you fill out a witness slip, you can simply declare yourself as a proponent or an opponent, and doing so is infinitely better than doing nothing.

I'm going to show you the bill, show you how I would fill out the witness slip, show you how to take it one step further, and then beg you to move on this bill right now.

Here's the bill, HB5330.

The official synopsis:

Basically, it's a bill that requires "to create a permanent committee to review the nature and content of state-required tests, the effectiveness of the tests in achieving educational goals, the effects of poverty on test scores - a host of excellent questions," --- which is how the great Jim Broadway summarizes it

In this age of rampant over-testing, and test-bullying, and test worship, and horrifically wrong-headed narratives being spun out of test data, and whole bureaucracies built around a constant testing cycle, it's an excellent bill.  You should absolutely fill out a witness slip for it. 

Check out the text of the bill--- look who's on the permanent committee, according to the language.

1    AN ACT concerning education. 
2    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3represented in the General Assembly: 
4    Section 5. The School Code is amended by adding Section
52-3.64c as follows:
6    (105 ILCS 5/2-3.64c new)
7    Sec. 2-3.64c. Test and assessment review committee. The
8State Superintendent of Education shall appoint a committee to
9review the tests administered by the State Board of Education
10and national, statewide, and local assessments administered by
11school districts. The committee shall consist of 3 parents; one
12teacher appointed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers; one
13teacher appointed by the Chicago Teachers Union; one teacher
14appointed by the Illinois Education Association; one charter
15school teacher appointed by the local collective bargaining
16unit representing teachers; one early childhood teacher
17appointed by an early childhood advocacy organization; 2 school
18administrators appointed by the Illinois Association of School
19Administrators; and 2 concerned citizens, one of whom is a
20resident of a city having a population exceeding 500,000 and
21one of whom is a resident of another region of this State. The
22committee shall select one of its members as chairperson. The
23committee shall meet on an ongoing basis to review the content

HB5330- 2 -LRB098 15073 NHT 50862 b

1and design of the tests and assessments (including whether the
2requirements of subsection (a-5) of Section 2-3.64 have been
3met); the time and money expended at the local and State levels
4to prepare for and administer the tests and assessments; the
5collective results of the tests and assessments as measured
6against the stated purpose of testing student performance;
7parent, student, and educator perceptions of the level and
8intensity of testing; and other issues involving the tests and
9assessments identified by the committee (including without
10limitation technology access and the role that school poverty
11levels play in test administration). The committee shall
12annually report and make recommendations to the State
13Superintendent and the General Assembly concerning the tests
14and assessments. The reports must be posted on the State Board
15of Education's Internet website and be available for public

That's a bill that Illinois needs.  Here's me, filling out my actual witness slip for it, which you should also do immediately. It makes no sense to try to fill one out after the hearing. 


So how do you submit written testimony? It's actually pretty easy. It's a two-step process. 1. Write your testimony  2. Fax your clearly labeled testimony to the House Committee Clerk at FAX # 217-557-2165 before the hearing. There is no clear deadline for submission, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Submit early. You can also mail or express mail your testimony to the same office:
                                                 House Clerk Committee
                                                 Illinois State House, Room 426
                                                 401 S. Second Street
                                                 Springfield, Illinois  62076

We have so, so many parents with detailed knowledge of the scourge of over-testing; it would be a shame if the committee didn't hear from you first hand. Because they're going to hear first hand from the lobbyists from Stand For Children, or Pearson, or Michelle Rhee's corrupt outfit, or the Steans family, or from whomever else,  about how fabulous testing is for everyone and about how your kids should just suck it up and fill in the bubbles all day, every day because of data and global something.

Remember, the legislators have a completely skewed understanding of all these issues. They get their information from Illinois Policy Institute and other lobbyists. They think you're thrilled with Race To The Top.

This is not a format for petitions or for pre-prepared texts. Write your own testimony; otherwise, it's a waste of time. Here's an example of what I would consider to be a clear label and an appropriate beginning.

Don't have a fax machine? Yes you do. If you're reading this on a computer, you have a fax.  Don't make me make a video about how to use it, because I will. I will. 

That's it! Please fill out a witness slip! Or even better, write down what you've seen and fax it in. We really can't expect Linda Chapa LaVia to carry this load by herself; let's give her some backup right now. 


  1. How does this differ substantively from the existing review committee, aside from the ?

    Sec. 2-3.64a. State Testing Review Committee. The State Superintendent shall appoint a committee of no more than 20 consisting of parents, teachers, school administrators, and concerned citizens to review the Illinois Goals and Assessment Program tests administered by the State Board of Education. The Committee shall select one of the parent representatives as its chairman. The Committee shall meet on an ongoing basis to review the content and design of the tests (including whether the requirements of subsection a-5 of Section 2-3.64 have been met), the time and money expended at the local and state levels to prepare for and administer the tests, the collective results of the tests as measured against the stated purpose of testing student performance, and other issues involving the tests identified by the Committee. The Committee shall make periodic recommendations to the State Superintendent and the General Assembly concerning the tests.
    (Source: P.A. 89-184, eff. 7-19-95; 90-789, eff. 8-14-98.)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Chris,

      Sorry about the delay! I myself did not know about the pre-existing committee, and I bet the language of HB5330 will be amended. Are you on the current committee?

      I do like the improvements in the HB5330 language, but I can see how some people might prefer certain aspects of the current language, such as the twenty members and the parent-as-chair mandate. I myself don't see twenty over twelve as an advantage, nor do I see the parent-as-chair mandate as being necessarily better than a committee voting for its own chair, but I recognize that others see it differently.

      I'm going to reach out to Linda CL today to see what her stance is on the language of the old versus the language of the new. I do like the express purpose of the new committee, and I like that the teacher members of the new committee are likely to be people with a strong voice, and a public record on the matter.

      While I do pay attention to ed policy, I also miss some things. It's possible that the current committee has issued a report that I missed or impacted policy in a way that I didn't see, but my current observation is that its work hasn't penetrated the public consciousness. I also live out of state for part of the year; possibly I missed their report then. I'm hoping that the committee described in HB5330 will be able to flesh out the underlying problems with the testing craze in a more public way, in a way that impacts policymaker decisions, and in a way that counteracts the drumbeat for more and more data.

      Let me know what you think; if you want to brainstorm some language that makes the most of the pre-existing and the new language, I'd be happy to work on that. Meanwhile, I'm still recommending a witness slip on this bill, even though I see changes coming. Best, Tim