Parent: “Who are the students projected to fail? How will this help?”

What one parent sent to our Send Your Story:

It’s enough for me to see the projection that 60% or more of the students will fail this test! Who are the students projected to pass? Who are the students projected to fail? How will this help? Also it is very computer dependent, making it even more inequitable for the kids who don’t have technology at home!


Eugene school district doubts parent religious beliefs are legit

OptOutAgainstRacismWhen a system is pressured irrationally, it will start going haywire. The Eugene 4J School District decided to pressure parents to think about whether their personal/religious beliefs are legitimate. Oregon law provides that parents/guardians or students may opt-out due to physical disability or “religious beliefs” (read our How to Opt-Out page). Here’s the essential phrase from Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 581-022-1910:

(1) The school district may excuse students from a state required program or learning activity, where necessary, to accommodate students’ disabilities or religious beliefs

Districts and administrators being told to produce-test-scores-or-perish are tempted to lose sight of the rights of students, families, teachers, and principals. They will lose sight of the humanity of the people in their schools in favor of widget production quotas and other assembly line & factory metaphors. We’ve heard of building principals here and there challenging parents & students on their personal/religious beliefs, but Eugene is the first major Oregon school district that has stepped into this dehumanizing territory in a big way.

As reported in Eugene Weekly in a terrific piece about the growing opt-out movement in Eugene, the local school district has decided Oregon law isn’t enough. Read this galling maneuver (emphasis ours):

The 4J district’s form elaborates on this by adding the words “sincerely held” and requiring parents to initial a statement that reads, “The term ‘religious beliefs’ means religious, moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious convictions. Merely wishing to avoid testing, or having political or social objections to testing not based on sincerely held religious belief, do not meet the requirements for the exemption.”

Districts are not completely obliged to accept opting-out requests due to religious reasons, but the smart ones do. Smart school districts do not want to get into the muck of telling parents and students whether held personal/religious beliefs are legitimate or not. By adding its own bureaucratic-ese to Oregon law, and acting like a religious legitimacy detector, the Eugene School District is being shortsighted and stupid. Take that dumb scare tactic off your form, Eugene 4J School District. You’re better than that.


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