A test question on a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) assessment asking seventh graders to compare differing views on immigration, including one written by a fictitious Bush administration official whose name sounds almost exactly like that of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has been scrubbed from the curriculum and dismissed as a misunderstanding by CPS officials.
Joshua Rhett Miller at FoxNews.com reports the test question contained the following statement, attributed to “Arie Payo:” “I think it’s best to keep America for Americans and those who know how to speak English properly. Save America for those of us who know how to behave in law-abiding ways.”
“Payo,” who is identified in the test question as a former aide to “President Bush’s Immigration Taskforce” and a contributor to the fictitious “Conservative Journal,” also states in the test question that undocumented immigrants should “go back to where they came from.”
CPS spokesman Joel Hood told FoxNews.com that the question has been scrubbed from the test database and insisted the “Arie Payo” character was unrelated to Arpaio.
“The ‘author’ of this blog post is completely fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental,” Hood said in an email statement.
Neither Arpaio nor an immigration advocate, however, is buying that explanation.
“Sounds like my name,” Arpaio told FoxNews.com. “Why didn’t they have the guts to use my real name? If it is supposed to be me, why didn’t they just use my name?”
Arpaio, who was once a federal narcotics agent in Chicago, offered to visit students there to discuss the “very complex issue” of immigration. The sheriff, who has denied allegations, and appealed a judge’s ruling, that his office has regularly racially profiled Latinos in its immigration and traffic patrols, also questioned how much students will really learn about immigration when it is introduced in a way that is political.
Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, agreed with Arpaio.
“They either had him in mind, or it’s the world’s greatest coincidence,” Dane said. “It’s an incendiary and politically charged way to frame a question about a subject that students should consider in a balanced way with a historical perspective.”
Dane also questioned the educational value of using a public official for the sake of parody, regardless of whether similarities exist between the character “Arie Payo” and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The fact that “Payo” was characterized as a former Bush aide and described as a staunch anti-immigration advocate seemed less than appropriate to Dane.
“This is the antithesis of what kids ought to be taught,” he told FoxNews.com. “Its biggest sin is interjecting a deliberately partisan perspective on immigration. We need a bipartisan approach, and we’ll never get there like this.”
Even Edwin Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois, said the question was clearly a “fairly misguided” approach to test persuasive argument in the current immigration debate.
The test item was part of the REACH (Recognizing Educators Advancing CHicago) Performance tests, a component of CPS’ new comprehensive teacher evaluation system. CPS was mandated in 2010 to establish a new teacher evaluation system in the 2012-2013 school year. REACH is based on multiple measures and has three major components: teacher practice, student growth, and student feedback.
The teacher practice aspect of REACH has been revised by a joint effort of CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to emphasize its connections to the Common Core standards.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top competitive grants incentivized states to adopt the Common Core standards and to identify strong and weak teachers through various measures of teacher performance in state evaluation requirements.
In response to the federal grant incentives, the Illinois state legislature passed the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) in 2010, which requires every school district in the state to adopt new teacher evaluation systems.
“REACH Performance tests are prepared by a team of CPS librarians and teachers in partnership with CTU to help measure teacher effectiveness inside the classroom,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, “and this specific exercise was intended for students to evaluate the authority and point of view of sources.”
“Teaching children the importance of diversity, acceptance and independent thinking are important values at CPS,” Byrd-Bennett added. “We apologize for any misunderstanding and have provided librarians an alternative test to administer to students.”