Portland schools pushes staff and families harder for expensive testing and against opt-out rights

Portland administration is still trying to discourage the right of students to opt-out of high stakes standardized testing. Decades of real-world experience and research show these tests are an expensive, time-wasting fiasco that do not give classroom teachers valuable feedback.

Yet, bureaucrats have quotas to meet whether or not it’s good for student education and an effective use of public resources. From a communication to school principals:

I am placing the responsibility for ensuring effective administration of all assessments on principals. It is my expectation that you will provide leadership as we take another significant step forward in becoming a data-driven district. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Cuellar or me directly. I look forward to measuring our improvement in the area of participation in these critical assessments. Thank you for your dedication to our students.

Dr. Yvonne Curtis, Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Trying to discourage opt-out helps administrators cover their asses in meeting quota, but does not improve the quality of a student’s education experience.

Not meeting quota is a toothless threat, by the way. Worrying about quota is about appeasing The System (that corporations have paid for – the private SBAC company has hired many former Oregon policymakers and administrators who pushed for SBAC since the testing program started).

Below is from a communication to all district staff. Teachers are in a tough spot and cannot openly discourage opt-out if it disobeys their employer’s directive, but to read this is still disappointing:

Educators are expected to administer state assessments and to provide the best assessment conditions possible for gathering clean and reliable data. While I understand in the past it was considered acceptable for educators to promote opt-out to families or students, this is no longer the case. The state assessments are part of the required curriculum and more importantly, we need to have data that can be used to evaluate the success of instruction from year to year. I want to be very clear that It is not appropriate for staff to discourage participation, or to actively promote opt-out.

It is important for our families and students to be well-informed about student assessments. The role of PPS staff is to provide information and ensure an environment that is conducive to the successful administration of assessments.

Dr. Yvonne Curtis, Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Despite Portland Public Schools’ relatively short number of instructional days, its central administration thinks time and effort for higher participation and teaching-to-the-test is more valuable than letting teachers teach.

Oddly, a message to district families sent today admits beneath the surface that these tests don’t help classroom instruction. From today’s message:

Classroom teachers will continue to test their student’s mastery of subjects throughout the school year in order to adjust their lessons and provide additional support to students where needed. These types of assessments are most useful for short-term instructional adjustments in the classroom.

Dr. Yvonne Curtis, Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Essentially, tests the teachers make for their students have the most practical value. That’s reasonable. But that value doesn’t require millions of dollars on a statewide basis. That’s teachers teaching. From the same message to district families:

If SBAC results demonstrate that students are not meeting these standards, we will explore why and make the necessary adjustments for improvements at a district-wide level. In addition to providing the district with data, increasing the participation rates impacts school ratings assigned by ODE each year. ODE uses the SBAC scores to rate each school and ratings are used to determine where additional support is most needed.

Dr. Yvonne Curtis, Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Let’s once again save Oregon schools millions of dollars and countless wasted hours: students in poverty don’t test as well as other students. We should address the social problem of student poverty instead of feeding the Standardized Testing Machine hoping it will take students out of poverty. It won’t. There. Money saved.

Encourage Oregon officials to enforce opt-out rights!

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