Preliminary estimates indicate that the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is in danger of losing up to $7 million in state funds due to the refusal of a small number of students to take state-mandated tests.

Administrators estimated Thursday that, to date, 650 of the so-called PARCC tests have been refused. The number of students refusing to take the tests is considerably lower, however, as some are offered up to five different tests.

PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and has been adopted by the State of Illinois to be administered to all public school students in grades 3 through 8.

While the refusal numbers are preliminary estimates that the district says are “conservative,” district administrators noted that “it’s safe to say that the refusal rate has been higher than 5 percent at some District 65 schools and that the refusal rate for the district is likely less than 10 percent.”

Superintendent Paul Goren warned parents in a letter before the testing began that “if more than 5 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 do not take the assessment, District 65 will fail to meet its state accountability obligations and is at risk of losing $7 million in state funds.”

He said, however, that “we will continue to be respectful of a family’s decision for their child to refuse taking the exam.”

Some parents have complained that the schools spend an inordinate amount of time testing, rather than teaching, and have balked at their kids taking the test, even though they and their neighbors may end up paying higher taxes, or suffer cuts in services, or both, as a result of their actions.

The district’s communications coordinator, Melissa Burda Messinger, cautioned that the refusal numbers are only preliminary and that more accurate numbers will not be forthcoming before June.

In  his letter to parents, Goren said that “thus far, there have been no widespread issues related to technology, and the majority of students have been able to complete the testing units successfully.”

More information about the PARCC assessment is available on the district’s website.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

Join the Conversation


  1. PARCC Testing and Political Posturing

    I respect those parents who refused the PARCC testing on behalf of their children.However, I am unsettled by those who refused the test as political posturing. I thank them on behalf of all Evanston tax payers who will face increased costs or dimished school services due to loss of funding.

    Next time, please express your views during D65 Board elections, Illinois state elections anf Federal ones. Stop using your children to prove a point. The Superintendent did a good job warning and explaining the potential consequences for D65 if we failed to meet the test threshold.

    Now, who has $7M under their mattress to fill the hole?

    1. Name the parent(s)

      If District 65 loses $7 million in state funding because 650 parent(s) did not want to find out how smart their children are, then only they should have to make up the loss of funding.  Why should the entire body of Evanston/Skokie taxpayers have to have their taxes raised?  If my math is correct $7 million divided by 650 amounts to $10,769 per family for non-compliance.

  2. The risk is unsubstantiated

    It is irresponsible of you to repeat unsubstantiated claims that District 65 is at risk of losing $7 million in state funds. Dr. Goren has offered no evidence that this is true.  No where has anyone from the state, or the school district linked higher taxes or cuts in services due to families refusing to take the PARCC test – I challenge you to provide the information that proves this is true.

    Families across the country are refusing to submit their children to the PARCC test for a variety of reasons, from the lack of proven validity of the test itself, to objections over the hours of educational time lost to the test and test preparation, to the millions of taxpayer dollars given to a private educational corporation unaccountable to anyone, to the amount of stress placed on small children – and many more reasons. 

    Community members who would like to  seperate the facts from the myths about the PARCC test are welcome to attend a free meeting March 31 at 7pm at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave.  

  3. No school district has ever lost funds for opt out rates

    No school district in the country has lost funds for high rates of opting out, and there were many districts that had such high rates last year.

    To cite IL Raise Your Hand, which summarizes the legislative background very clearly: "Your district will not lose federal funds because of opt out There is no federal or state law that requires penalties for schools or districts if parents opt out or refuse the test. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law did include a mandate that required schools to have a 95% participation rate on state tests or face sanctions. However, since 2014, Illinois has had a waiver to NCLB that replaces those sanctions with a new accountability system. The IL NCLB waiver says that to receive points on factors in the Multiple Measures Index (MMI) used to grade schools that depend on test results, schools must have participation sufficient for results to meet a 95% confidence level. If large enough numbers opt out, a school or district could fail to meet that confidence level. Schools that do not meet their MMI targets are “priority schools” and are targeted for interventions. Priority schools are primarily designated as such by being in the lowest 5% of schools based on various performance ratings. Note that interventions for priority schools do n ot include withholding of funds. Additionally, we know of no cases in other states where schools have been identified as “priority schools” solely on the basis of low participation rates. There have been schools that did not meet participation rates last spring in New York State, and even some in Chicago as well. One year on from massive opt outs, there have been no consequences. ISBE is making overblown threats to scare districts and families from opting out of the test."

    Evanston is by no means an outlier this year in terms of opt-out rates. Winnetka's school district opted out at a rate of 32%. Lake Forest High School and New Trier had similar percentages opt-out. Rolling Meadows High School – hundreds of opt outs. The same in Arlington Heights, and schools in central and southern Illinois. Imagine the political fallout were the state to cut funding to all of these schools over conscientious political ENGAGEMENT (not "posturing") in response to ever-increasing time spent on testing and the impact it is having on children and on teachers' ability to teach.

    Those who criticize parents for opting their children out would do well to inform themselves on the substantial educational research now showing that the test-based accountability system has not worked and is hurting our schools and our kids.

    1. MAP Testing
      So why was there celebration around the new D65 strategic plan that mandates MAP and ISEL for accountability? Those tests are ones the District is electing to give, therefore increasing the amount of time spend on testing above and beyond the assessments required by the state and federal governments.

  4. Testing like vaccination?
    Refusing a child’s participation in this testing reminds me of the parents refusing to vaccinate their children.

    1. Except that it is nothing like vaccination
      You have an odd way of associating things, John. The issue with people not being vaccinated is that it can contribute to public health risk. People can die as a result.

      Refusal to sit for the test is a matter of civil disobedience. Nobody is going to die.

      If people who are really concerned about the financial implications they should start with understanding what the PARCC is actually designed to do (in a flawed manner, I might add): evaluate employees of the school district.

      There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that PARCC adequately measures student learning and helps children develop intellectually.

      The fact that millions of dollars ride on a proprietary test creates perverse incentives whereby class time and teacher orientation is focused on performance on the test rather than intellectual development.

      The more power given to these proprietary instruments, in fact, less resources are spent towards individual development and it has a negative impact on society.

      1. The association is between the parents’ mindsets
        The objections set forth by the parents regarding the tests strike me as valid as the ones put forth by the parents refusing vaccination. The objections seem political, with reference to some sort of “scientific evidence”, and with no indication that what’s being asked of the child is harmful to the child.

        One can certainly argue that the test is poorly designed, or doesn’t serve its purpose very well, but refusing your child to take it when everyone else around him/her is, strikes me as the parents wanting to make a statement, not doing what’s best for the student. Personally, I always was looking for different sources of feedback on how my children were performing.

  5. Related Trip article
    There was an interesting related article posted on the Chicago Tribune website. In Deerfield, rather than not taking the test, a large number of students simply turned in their test almost immediately after the test time started on at least one of the subtests. Presumably, they simply skipped answering any questions. They were then allowed to read on focus on material that mattered to them. This seems like an effective way to protest the exam. In addition to making a statement, the act of not answering questions on the test truly makes it a useless instrument. At the same time it keeps the bean counters at bay.

  6. Challenged

    I think that most objecting parents are fearful of challenging their kids. Maybe they are not learning as much as the teachers are telling us. Testing from the outside of the intercircle offten reveals that. When your kid says that he/she doesn't like the brussel sprout on the plate you put before them, do you tell it is ok or do you tell them to try it before complaining about it. The parents know little about this test and are reacting to the rumor mill.

    I believe that making a good faith effort to have their kids try this test should come before saying, "I don't like it and I heard it was a bad test, and I will not have my kids take this test". The test will not kill anybody but it will allow your children to judge for themselves and let you know.

    Opting out, is about the worst thing you can do for your child.

    1. No fear of challenges, and there are many brands of refuseniks

      I'd bet many of the parents who have opted their children out of PARCC are parents of high academic achievers. Those parents want more classroom time spent on differentiated instruction and fewer resources to go into test-prep and testing.

      Parents of children who struggle in school are well aware of their children's weaknesses. They, too, would rather have resources go to toward teaching instead of toward testing what's NOT known.

      Do the commenters on this article have any idea how much time has been spent preparing for and taking tests in grade school for the past 10 years or so? It's the dominant factor in a child's public education in grades three through eight. It needs to get scaled way back.

      Educational "refuseniks" come in many varieties. Will we also categorize home schoolers and private schoolers with the anti-vaxxers? Of course not. So let's not condemn those who have stayed within the system and are trying (in their view) to improve it.

  7. Prepare to sue the state

    How can the State Board mandate a test without clear rules regarding participation (or opt-out procedures) and then deny funding based on failed to meet the vague participation guidelines?

    If the State denies any funding, D65 must be prepared to sue.

    And re: opt-outs.  you can have your voice heard on April 7th, not on the PARC testing days.  Do not conflate the two.  Take the tests and move on.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.