NORMAL — Normal Community High School students showed what they think of standardized testing in dramatic fashion Friday morning.
More than 100 students "walked out" by refusing to go to first-hour classes; marching from the NCHS entrance to the opposite front of the building and back; and holding an impromptu rally in front of the school doors.
Students assembled to protest the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam that started this week at Bloomington's District 87 and is set to start Monday at schools in Normal-based McLean County Unit 5.
PARCC has become a rallying point for students, parents and educators dissatisfied with standardized tests and the Common Core standards. It has replaced the elementary-level Illinois Standard Achievement Test and will replace the high-school level Prairie State Achievement Examination in an attempt to reflect students' mastery of Common Core.
Students chanted as they marched, including "1, 2, 3, 4, we are not a test score" and "the students united will never be defeated." They held up signs with slogans including "we have a say in our education," "No PARCCing - School zone" and "#testing is not normal."
Tanvi Singh, a NCHS junior and representative of the Bloomington-Normal Student Union, encouraged students to refuse to take PARCC although the Illinois State Board of Education and local educators, including District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly, have said that is not an option. She cited ISBE by-laws that state students can refuse to take standardized tests.
"Now they know that next week, when schools across Bloomington-Normal boycott the PARCC test, if any student is treated unfairly for refusing, we will be there fighting for them," she said. "To fix this, it's going to take students ... being defiant and disobeying and being disruptive and demanding that they be heard, and that's what we're doing today."
Singh said students must protest because they "have nothing to lose but our chain."
"The policies like PARCC testing and the Common Core that are making the education system the way that it is are coming from the federal level, and our states and our districts and our schools and our teachers are all forced to comply," she said. "It all comes down to the students to not comply."
Students tangled with Unit 5 administration when they attempted to enter the building for second period and were issued tardy slips. Some refused to go in despite single-digit temperatures outdoors.
Unit 5 officials asked media to leave school property, but Director of Human Resources Curt Richardson said Friday afternoon that students came into the building in groups to get out of the cold and received unexcused absences from their first-hour classes.
"We certainly respect their ideas and their ability to express their opinion as a group," Richardson said.