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

Sooo…

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.

TestKillJoy

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.

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