October news you can use: Veto session; testing & privacy; #RedforEd in IL

In this issue: 

  1. Veto session — Call your legislators about HB256 & SB453
  2. Standardized tests and student data privacy — College Board’s data sales and Pearson’s massive breach
  3. #RedforEd — Teachers’ fight for resources around the state

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1. Veto session

The Illinois General Assembly has two sessions a year (usually—details here!) This year’s fall aka “veto” session is scheduled for the last week in October. So, now is the time to talk to your legislators about bills that didn’t pass in the spring, but may be come up for votes this fall. Find your state rep and state senator’s contact info here.

Here are two bills we supported this spring that we hope to see move later this month:

  • Ask your state senator to sponsor HB256: This is a student data privacy bill that would prohibit requiring student teachers to videotape themselves to get certified to teach. Currently, student teachers need to pass the edTPA, a Pearson assessment which requires student teachers to upload video of their students for Pearson to have an off-site temp worker to grade. There are huge privacy implications of this. You can read more about the problems with the edTPA including the video component here and read a fact sheet on the bill here.
  • Ask your state rep to sponsor SB453: This bill will reduce barriers for parents and community members to serve on Chicago Public Schools’ Local School Councils by bringing background check requirements into line with those of elected school board members around the state and other volunteers in CPS. Read a fact sheet about this bill here.

2. Standardized test vendors and your child’s data privacy

College Board: On Thursday nine state legislators sent a letter to the IL Attorney General Kwame Raoul requesting that AG Raoul investigate the business practices of the College Board. The College Board has been selling student data collected as part of their Student Search Service survey administered with College Board exams for decades, but since 2017, it has been illegal in Illinois for vendors to sell or rent data they collect from students in schools. In addition, it’s illegal to sell the data of a child under 16 in IL without consent of their parents. 

Read about the letter here:

WTTW: Lawmakers Urge AG Raoul to Investigate College Board for Selling Student Data (10.10.19)

Capitol News IL: Lawmakers call for probe of College Board data sales (10.10.19)

Read about the College Board’s data sales here:

New York Times For Sale: Survey Data on Millions of High School Students (7.29.18)

IL Families for Public Schools helped coordinate this letter; big thanks to Senators Cristina Castro, Robert Martwick, Laura Murphy and Robert Peters and Representatives Robyn Gabel, Will Guzzardi, Lindsey LaPointe, Aarón Ortíz and Ann Williams for signing on!

We’ve also been helping parents submit consumer complaints to the IL AG’s office (at the suggestion of that office.) If your child has taken the SAT, PSAT or an AP test since summer 2017 and has filled out the College Board’s survey, please consider submitting an online complaint; it takes about ten minutes. Email us for more details and assistance.

Finally, if your child is taking a PSAT test next week, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy has a one-pager with instructions on how to keep their data from being collected and sold here.

Pearson: Pearson is another major test vendor with contracts with both the IL State Board of Education (ISBE) and with local districts. At the end of July  Pearson began notifying 13,000 schools and universities around the US of a massive data breach involving their AIMSweb 1.0 assessment software. Dozens of Illinois districts are now known to have been part of this breach, including Chicago Public Schools. Here’s our (likely incomplete) list.

If your child’s data was part of this breach, Pearson will provide one to two years of credit monitoring. In addition, a Chicago civil rights law firm has filed a class action suit against Pearson for this breach. If your child was affected, and you'd like to get in touch with the attorneys, you can email [email protected] If you don’t know if your child’s data was part of this breach, contact your school.

Pearson, the world's largest education company, is the vendor, not just for the edTPA test mentioned above, but also the IL Assessment of Readiness, the state test for 3-8th graders in reading and math. ISBE just approved another $22 million contract for IAR in August with minimal discussion of the recently announced breach. 

3. #RedforEd: What Illinois teachers want (and students need)

Across the state, teachers unions are negotiating contracts, and in several districts, including Chicago, the state’s largest, they’re ready to strike if negotiations break down. Murphysboro teachers were on strike for the first time since 1979 last week until a tentative agreement was reached. Most of the disagreement between unions and administration comes down to resources—and not just the resources to compensate teachers fairly, but resources for small class sizes and also for clinicians and staff, like counselors, social workers, nurses, and paraprofessionals, who provide crucial services to students. 

The Southern Opinion: Blame teachers? Board? Nope, it's the state's funding system. (10.11.19)

NPR Illinois Springfield Teachers Still Don't Have Contract (10.3.19)

WBEZ: How Class Size Demands Could Trigger A Chicago Teachers Strike (10.9.19)

Better Government Association: Fact-Check: Are Chicago Public School Teachers Among the Nation’s Highest Paid? Spoiler alert: no. (10.11.19)

Teacher compensation and working conditions play a key role in teacher recruitment and retention; both are a big problem in Illinois.

WILL: ‘Nearly Every District Is Looking For Teachers’: Teacher Shortage Still A Struggle In Illinois (9.3.19)

Illinois Times: Attracting teachers 101 (9.19.19)

While the revamped state education formula passed in 2017 is designed so that districts will receive state dollars in proportion to the needs of their student population, it is far from fully funded. Lots of districts are still far below what is needed to fund the formula adequately. You can look up what percent adequacy your district is at on the Illinois Report Card page for your district under “District Finances.”

Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago Sun-Times: Money matters: How school funding inequities affect students, taxpayers (10.1.19)

Starting with one tomorrow in East St. Louis, ISBE will hold four budget hearings for the public (details here); you can also submit written testimony to them online. In the current fiscal year, the state would have needed to contribute more than $7 billion to bring schools to adequacy.



[Graphic used via Creative Commons]