November - News You Can Use: College Board, Cullerton retiring; & more

In this issue: 

  1. College Board’s data sales — Ask your legislators for a subject matter hearing
  2. FTC looking at changing privacy rules for schools — Submit comments;
  3. President Cullerton retiring — One of the biggest obstacles in the ongoing fight for an elected board for Chicago is stepping down in January
  4. Quick links — What’s in the new contract for Chicago teachers; ISBE budget hearing & board meeting; delay on effective date for new law on IEP paperwork.

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1. College Board’s data sales

We were in Springfield during veto session last week talking to lawmakers about the need to hold both of IL’s major state standardized test vendors, the College Board and Pearson, accountable for how they treat student data. (Read our 1-pager here.) 

For an in-depth explanation of the College Board’s practice of selling student data, take a look at the  Wall Street Journal’s expose from earlier this month. (Behind a paywall, but you can also read a summary or listen to a podcast.) 

Basically, when students participate in the College Board’s search survey before they take a SAT, PSAT or AP test, they are told the service will be used to help find them colleges and scholarship opportunities. They aren’t told that the College Board is selling the data. They also aren’t told that colleges that buy the data may not be using it to assist students with admission. Instead, colleges have increasingly used it to inflate their applicant pool with students unlikely to be admitted in order to have lower acceptance rates and look more selective. And some schools are using the data to fill their seats with wealthy out-of-state students who can pay full tuition. 

Last month nine state legislators asked the IL Attorney General to investigate the College Board’s business practices in Illinois. The AG’s office confirmed that they are looking into this. 

Also in October, ISBE posted a new consent form for schools to provide to parents of students taking College Board tests (PSAT, SAT, AP). The form says nothing about the fact that the data collected will be sold. We’ve sent ISBE a letter with our concerns about the form. 

What can you do? Ask your legislator to call for a subject matter hearing to get more answers on the College Board: Why is ISBE permitting a state vendor to flout IL laws prohibiting student data sales and to profit off access to student info? Why are IL’s public colleges and universities using tax dollars to purchase data the College Board is selling illegally? What assurances do students have that colleges are evaluating their applications fairly and only considering information that they have knowingly, voluntarily provided?  If you are a parent with a high school student and are interested in legally challenging these data sales as well, please get in touch: [email protected] 


2. The Federal Trade Commission is considering changing rules for schools; submit your comment! 

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comments before “updating” their regulations on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law that was originally passed in 1998. A national advocacy group we work with, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, is concerned that the FTC may be considering weakening this important federal privacy law, by allowing for the collection of personal data from kids under 13 by school vendors without parent consent. You can read the detailed comments submitted by the Parent Coalition written by several of their members (including Cassie Creswell of IL Families for Public Schools).

What can you do? Please consider submitting your own comment online to advocate for retaining COPPA’s current protections. The Parent Coalition has a sample brief comment that you can use on their website along with instructions. The deadline for submitting comments is December 9th


3. Pres. Cullerton’s retiring; will this finally mean an elected Board of Ed for Chicago?

Senate President John Cullerton announced unexpectedly on Thursday that he’ll be retiring in January after 40 years in the IL General Assembly. He has long been one of the major obstacles to the passage of a bill to create an elected school board for Chicago. 

The day before the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS came to an agreement to end the teachers strike, President Cullerton, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Governor JB Pritzker all confirmed that they would be supporting the consideration of an elected school board in the spring session.  Mayor Lori Lightfoot, however, said that was not her understanding—leaving Chicagoans wondering what prospects really are for an elected representative school board for the state’s largest district, the only one controlled by mayoral appointees. 

Whoever the next Senate President is, they’ll be the primary gatekeeper for which legislative initiatives get heard in the Senate, and they’ll inevitably have a major influence on not just whether Chicago finally gets an elected board, but the overall direction of public education policy in Illinois: funding, test-based accountability, charter schools and tax credit scholarships. 

Keeping public school supporters in Senate districts around the state informed and mobilized is more important than ever at this time of transition in the Senate. 

What can you do? Make sure we have your current mailing address, so you get the most relevant action alerts for your legislative district. Want to help with mobilizing your neighbors and friends too? Let us know here. And last but not least, consider becoming a monthly donor to IL-FPS; it takes organized money to organize people! You can sign up here. Your $5, $10 or $20 a month makes this work possible. 


4. Quick links

  • CTU strike recap: WBEZ has a good summary of what was won in the contract agreement after CTU’s 11 day strike and also has historical perspective on the school reforms passed by the ILGA in 1995 that not only gave CPS a mayoral-appointed school board, but also took away the teachers union’s right to bargain on the majority of issues, including class size—and explains how CTU wrenched it back via this fall’s strike.
  • ISBE meetings: ISBE’s final budget hearing for FY2021 is this Thursday, Nov. 21st, 1pm, in downtown Chicago; you can register to speak or submit testimony online here. ISBE’s November board meeting is also in Chicago, 9am on Friday the 22nd; the agenda is here, and you can sign up for public participation the morning of the meeting. 
  • Veto session special ed legislation: Despite the urging of special ed administrators around the state, the IL General Assembly did not remove the new requirement for districts to provide parents with IEP materials three days in advance of an IEP meeting. A bill did pass that will delay the implementation of the requirement until the end of the current school year, but the requirement wasn’t removed altogether. State Rep. Fred Crespo made clear at a House subject matter hearing on CPS’s special education programs and services that the three day notice was intended to apply to the entire state, not just CPS, and that parents need access to these documents before IEP meetings. Chalkbeat has a recap of the hearing here.



[Graphic used via Creative Commons]