State employee who sold Oregon on SBAC got a job at SBAC!


Oregon was persuaded to purchase the high-stakes corporate SBAC testing system by an employee of Oregon Department of Education (ODE), Tony Alpert.

sbac-alpertWould it surprise you to see that Tony Alpert got a high-level job at SBAC afterward? He’s now the Executive Director!

In 2010, Alpert, then the ODE’s Director of Assessment & Information Services, evangelized for buying into this new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (ick) as part of this new Common Core set of standards (double-ick). And the State Board of Education ended up buying it.

Our thoughts on what is wrong with the Common Core sales package.

At least someone benefited from the millions of dollars Oregon wastes on this Common Core sales package each year and the weeks the whole state wastes on high-stakes testing prep and administration that do not help schools or students. SPOILER: Students who are rich do better on tests. Students in poverty struggle with these tests. And the results don’t help with classroom instruction. As with so much bad policy & practices bought & sold by non-educators, none of this gets us to honest discussions about our high student poverty and how to make student lives better.

Read the State Board of Education’s minutes for the rundown (pages 10 & 11).

Do you think this SBAC job started with a sales commission for Alpert?


Opt-out in Oregon success and odd political bedfellows

How goofy is education policy nowadays? It unites both left and right-wings in opposition. The Washington Post brought the happy news that Oregon is in the Top 5 states opting-out of high-stakes testing, and touts how the Oregon SOS-supported HB 2655 has expanded student & parent opt-out rights even further. The building opt-out movement does not come out of one political party. It is broader than that.

Conservative & libertarian types often see Common Core and excessive testing as more than a waste of public funds and resources, they see it as an illegal action by the Federal government to set a national curriculum. And they are correct in these concerns.


Progressive types often see that high-stakes testing, and the corporate interests pushing them and Common Core, are not addressing the true core of what affects student education: high student poverty. Yet we do nothing other than insist on taking more expensive redundant measurements instead of acting to improve student and family lives and restore cut wraparound programs and broader curriculum.

And people’s concerns about high-stakes testing don’t necessarily fall into tidy political categories, either. Parent-driven discussion groups about opting-out are often driven by people who vote very differently for U.S. President. It can create fascinating tension when topics veer from opting-out, but these different perspectives do work in harmony when it comes to challenging Common Core and harmful, ignorant education policy.

To this day, one can still hear policymakers, education group insiders, and corporate front groups like Stand for Children think the opposition to high-stakes testing and shoddy, unproven, expensive dreck like Common Core is exclusively the realm of “wingnuts”.

Hopefully, critics of opting-out will notice their numbers are dwindling and that they are on the wrong side of research and history. Then maybe, just maybe, they’ll realize they don’t know what they’re talking about and listen to those who do.

Our letter to legislators & policymakers on Obama & over-testing

OvertestingStatements by President Obama criticizing a culture of over-testing in our schools, a culture Obama has in large part fostered, motivated us to send the following statement to Oregon education policymakers and legislators. If you agree, share this out!

Oregon Save Our Schools welcomes President Obama’s statement and the release of his testing action plan on Saturday, October 24. We are pleased that the President has publicly recognized what we and others have been saying for quite some time: too much time is being spent on testing in our public schools.

We also welcome the statement’s promise to encourage states to develop innovative assessments and to invest in those assessment models. This is also something which we have been advocating for: a move towards more authentic assessment and away from the limited ability of a computer based assessment like OAKS or SBAC to measure student achievement. Specifically, we have supported the sort of performance based assessment used by the New York Assessment Consortium. We feel the best hope for achieving a truly high quality assessment system like this is to continue to move forward with the work begun by OEA, OEIB, ODE and the Governor’s Office last year.

We, like many opponents of annual standardized testing of all students, are skeptical of parts of President Obama’s statement. We agree with the Network for Public Education’s statement that a 2% cap on testing (equivalent to over 20 hours) would still allow for far too much time to be devoted to a single test and that it is long past time for the federal government to stop attempting to fix this badly broken policy and scrap it. We believe that this will eventually happen, as the American public is tired of the failed policies of NCLB and the subsequent waivers offered by the Obama administration. Because of this, we continue to urge that you stop focusing on compliance with these failed policies and move forward with policies that are decided on by Oregonians and better serve our students, parents, and teachers.

We continue to support developmentally appropriate, authentic assessments that inform instruction and are free of cultural and linguistic bias and high stakes consequences. We continue to support opting-out of assessments that do not meet these standards.

Signed, Oregon Save Our Schools, including:
Steve Buel
Emily Crum
Rex Hagans
Kathleen Hagans Jeskey
Betsy Salter
Bruce Scherer
Tricia Snyder

Tell us what we don’t know, and haven’t already paid millions for…

Morpheus Knows High-Stakes TestingWhy is our nation spending hundreds of millions or perhaps billions of dollars on high-stakes testing that will only confirm what we’ve known from decades of this testing: students in poverty, students in special education, and students learning English don’t score as well.

Does knowing that get us any closer to actually addressing the national shame of student poverty, far higher than other nations? No. The salespeople don’t care. They want to generate fear and to make their money.

Teacher and Oregon Save Our Schools member Kathleen Hagans-Jeskey reports/mocks/slaps down the wasteful absurdity of the Oregon Department of Education and corporate front group Stand for Children: “Smarter Balanced Forum Reveals Weak Arguments of Test Supporters“.

Portland School Board member & Oregon Save Our Schools member Steve Buel: “O.K. Let’s Get Serious Here (possible subtitle: “My child is not college & career ready … because he is a child!”)”

Opt-Out opponent crazy talk on wrong side of civil rights & equity

TestingBusMsgsToya Fick, the Executive Director of Stand for Children in Oregon, added her two cents to the frenzied talk among opponents of the right to opt-out of high stakes testing. In a recent Op-Ed in The Oregonian, Fick wrote: “Standardized tests are an accountability measure put in place to protect disadvantaged children.” If the Governor signs the opt out bill (HB 2655) into law (which Gov. Brown eventually did), Fick worried “our state takes a giant step backward to a time when we did not measure how students of color, poor students or special education students perform in comparison to other peer groups. Ironically, the majority of those currently refusing these tests come from wealthy, predominantly white neighborhoods, and not from the communities that stand to lose the most.”

For the troubling ethical problems with Stand for Children, read our blog post: “Stand for Children is a corporate front group and should stop telling the public how to run public schools“.

Fick’s reference to middle-class whites as the drivers for the opt-out bill brings to mind U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s comments when he sneered that the opposition to Common Core comes from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Here is the thing. Opting-out of high stakes testing is a protest movement. The Oregon Department of Education refuses to look critically and carefully at the negative impacts of high-stakes testing. Hence, people are protesting in about the only avenue left open to them. Many protests have a large number of white middle-class types. Look at the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the environmental movement, the abortion issue, gay rights, and on and on. To deride the protests based on the background of people protesting misses the point that it is much harder for some groups of people to spend the time, energy, and money to protest than for others.

Many people of color are adamant about opposing high-stakes testing and their negative effects. Go on YouTube and listen to two of the finest African American educators in the country talk about this issue – Brian Jones and Jesse Hagopian.

Jesse Hagopian on Book TV: More Than a Test Score

Brian Jones on the cost of testing and who benefits

And by the way, Stand for Children’s claim that “Standardized tests are an accountability measure put in place to protect disadvantaged children” is false. High-stakes tests don’t protect anyone. They don’t make schools better. More instruction time gets lost to preparing for tests. High-stakes tests label schools, kids, and teachers in a negative way, while making it much tougher for “disadvantaged” children to get a good education. And we spend millions to get results that aren’t used to help one school, one kid, or one teacher.

We need to know how our schools and kids are doing, but in a way which helps our schools do better, not in a way which makes it more difficult for kids to learn. High-stakes testing, including the poorly constructed SBAC test, doesn’t do that. The faster corporate front group Stand for Children and Arne Duncan figure this out, the better off we will all be.

From our July 2015 monthly newsletter, out soon. Subscribe at this link!

Gov. Brown signs Parent & Student opt-out bill, some concerns we have…

GovBrownReleaseToday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent out a media release announcing she has signed House Bill 2655 into law. This is welcome news, and expands the rights of students & parents to opt-out of high-stakes testing. Some elements here have us concerned, though.

The statement wrings its hand over the possible loss of federal funding if the opt-out rate gets too high. Additionally, there are elements that point to an ongoing effort to intimidate parents & students from opting out. For example:

As educators and policy makers, it is important to demonstrate for parents the connection between high levels of student participation in assessment and system accountability – ensuring the success of every student.

The success of the national opt-out movement is based almost entirely on parents, students, and many teachers knowing education and what’s best for students far better than policy makers.

As we have posted before, high-stakes testing is not a realm of reason. It is a hostage situation. The stakes and expenses will simply increase, to the detriment of students, the more the high-stakes testing culture is appeased. It is well-past time for this practice to stop.

Gov. Brown’s action represents an important step forward in expanding parent & student rights. However, much education of policymakers remains to ensure we stop tossing our funds and students’ futures down the high-stakes testing sinkhole.

Great Discussion with Education Heavy-Hitters

Diane Ravitch, teacher-activist Jesse Hagopian from Seattle, teacher-activist Brian Jones, and parent-activist Dao X. Tran had a lively discussion about high-stakes testing and opting-out featured on Book TV. Three people of color debunking the “failed schools” narrative and why it’s important to opt-out. High-stakes testing rooted in the racist eugenics movement. Great, spirited insights. Humor. A little bemoaning about the Seattle Seahawks losing the Super Bowl. You won’t regret watching this.


Opt-out in Pacific NW with parents, students, teachers pushing the envelope

On Sunday at Powell’s Books in Portland, a “More Than a Score” panel discussion took place about the pressure placed on students & schools when class time is traded for high-stakes testing. Video at the end of the post. It was a standing room only event. Some of the highlights from the #MoreThanAScore hashtag on Twitter:

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One of the panelists, student activist Alexia Garcia, described the time she asked Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in 2013 to take one of the high-stakes standardized tests. In the moment, Kitzhaber accepted [watch the video]. Two years later, he has not followed through, despite being contacted many times. Garcia is now in college and during the panel discussion also talked about the rising opt-out movement among students.

Students are so often way ahead of adults in being aware of problems, bad education policies, and showing courage about taking action. The Portland-area student activist movement has been inspiring and critical to the fight for doing what’s right for schools and defending them against wealthy education amateurs and corporations.

Race, equity, and social justice were recurring topics in the group discussion. High-stakes standardized testing has its pedigree in the eugenics movement. Many people in between may think these tests are mild, but the intent of the tests is to punish, and is steeped in the history of needing to prove one race is less intelligent than another race. We need to do something about poverty. That is the true detriment to student success. Testing & punishing does not work to help students.

Jesse Hagopian is a co-author and editor of the featured book, More Than A Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, with chapters written by education heavyweights like Diane Ravitch, Karen Lewis, Alfie Kohn, Alexia Garcia, and many others. Hagopian, his students, and his colleagues were the flashpoint for a successful shutdown of high-stakes testing in Seattle public schools.

The energy is rising. Parents, teachers, students, communities are becoming better informed and building power to reclaim our schools. This is an exciting time. Check out the discussion:

Oregon’s high-stakes testing at the expense of school funds and student stress

Oregon is facing an expensive absurdity where the state itself expects between 60-65% of students to not pass the new Smarter Balanced Assessment test taken statewide this school year.

These tests don’t help teachers improve instruction in the classroom. The results are too vague. Do you think the Smarter Balanced Assessment has been proven to work anywhere? No, it has not. It’s a new program, yet several states have felt pressured to pay for the test and new computers and to waste even more time prepping students for these tests instead of regular teaching instruction. Students are overwhelmed and frustrated.

We have a new blog post at Oregon Save Our Schools that covers a great deal about why opting-out of high-stakes testing is so important.

Why is Oregon doing this? One big component: testing companies need more student data. Students are guinea pigs. Testing companies get to use our students to put their product on trial — at the expense of taxpayers, money not going into the classroom, and children feeling stressed and demoralized.

We need legislators and elected leaders to see these efforts as the boondoggle they are. Please contact them. At the very least, opt-out your student to show this system is not acceptable, and you will not allow your child to become a guinea pig.

We need school libraries reopened and school librarians restored. We don’t need more testing-only computer labs and classroom instructional days lost to high-stakes testing and test prep.UnfundedLibrary

Testing isn’t bad, but high-stakes testing is corrosive

The standardized testing you remember as a kid worked as intended: a quick read on how things were going on a particular day. The principal and district looked at the scores and maybe compared them to previous years. But now the stakes have risen, and our schools are worse because of it.

High-stakes testing, basing the existence of a school or principal’s job or teacher’s evaluation on a test score, does not work. It is not supported by research. Even worse, when jobs are on the line, human nature is to game the system to preserve jobs and schools. As the stakes escalate, cheating starts.

This has happened in Atlanta, and also in Washington D.C. in recent years. It may even have happened in Portland.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), started in 2001 and supported by both major parties, was a national fiasco that pushed high-stakes testing and set the stage for the test-and-punish approach we see today. NCLB did not help schools, it degraded schools, especially schools with high student poverty, and it was based on a lie.

NCLB was copied from the so-called “Texas Miracle” led by then-Superintendent of Houston Schools Rod Paige, who later became George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education. Job evaluations were based on test scores, and scores went up. The same for graduation rates. One huge problem: the “test scores or perish” approach led to cheating citywide. Students expected to score low were encouraged to leave the public school system, or were held back from a testing grade that year, only to be promoted past that testing grade the next year.

Another problem with “The Texas Miracle”: at-risk students were ejected from the school system to game the graduation rates. And the students affected most were those in poverty and in ethnic minorities. “60 Minutes II” covered this scandal back in 2004, and despite the harm done to students and “The Texas Miracle” being a sham, it became the national model for applying extreme pressure on producing high standardized test scores.

NCLB has been largely discredited, but its failed approach has actually intensified under the Obama Administration despite leaving only a wide trail of misery behind. With high-stakes testing, with pretending that we can actually teach students out of poverty, we miss as a society the root causes of student poverty: economic disparity and stagnant earnings for almost everyone in a time of record national wealth and productivity. Opting-out is a way of showing the system and policy makers that high-stakes testing is wrong.