Oregon should audit SBAC, says legislation & Multnomah Dems

sbacThis is great, but needs help to pass!

Oregon spends far too much time, expense, and stress on high-stakes standardized testing. This especially holds for the money Oregon wastes on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a testing program that does not inform teacher instruction. The results are useless for classroom teachers, who end up using their own tests to measure student knowledge anyway.

Oregon is considering whether to renew its agreement for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. We think it should be scrapped, however we also support measuring its costs and effectiveness.

There are forces against even measuring whether the tests from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a strategic, good investment of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Thankfully, legislation put forth by Sen. Lew Frederick asks for a much-needed audit of SBAC, and the Multnomah County Democrats recently passed the resolution below which included calling for the suspension of the SBAC testing process until the audit is completed. Contact your legislators to let them know you support Senate Bill 351!

Multnomah County Democratic Central Committee
Resolution: 2017-4 Cost Benefit Audit of High Stakes Standardized Testing

WHEREAS, Oregon’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for citizenship, careers, and lifelong learning, as well as strengthens the state’s social and economic prosperity; and,

WHEREAS, Oregon is spending burgeoning amounts of money, time, and energy on standardized tests to measure student performance and using those test results to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators, and schools; and,

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that high-stakes standardized testing is an inadequate, and in the case of Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests, an unreliable and invalid measure of student learning, educator effectiveness, and school success; and,

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing does not inform instructional practice, nor does it convey meaningful information to students or parents about student progress, but does exert undue mental and emotional stress on them, and,

WHEREAS, the state collects, stores, and analyzes data gleaned from the tests to make decisions that can have major impacts on students’ lives, the hiring and firing of school personnel, and school closings; and,

WHEREAS, the cost of maintaining the Statewide Longitudinal Data System that accompanies the tests is not only costly, but grows steadily as more and more testing data is collected, stored, and analyzed; and,

WHEREAS, Oregon state-mandated standardized testing costs from 2010 through 2014 are estimated to have been at least $414 million dollars; and,

WHEREAS, the State of Oregon is facing a substantial budget deficit of $1.7 billion dollars which most likely will force school districts to take drastic actions (e.g. laying off staff, increasing class sizes, cutting back on school days); and,

WHEREAS, it appears that the Federal Government is going to turn over more control to the states, so more time is needed for Oregon to review and/or develop an effective testing system, and

WHEREAS,  the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Education Association are already working in partnership to create alternative assessment models and, thus, Oregon is seen as a leader in the creation of such assessments.

THEREFORE, be it that the Multnomah County Democratic Party resolves to support cost effective assessments in Oregon’s public schools that benefit students, educators and schools, by:

AMENDING, SB 351 to suspend the use of the statewide assessments developed by a multi-state consortium and postponing the renewal of any contracts or Memoranda of Understanding related to the use of statewide assessments.

SUPPORTING, Senate Bill SB 351, directing the Secretary of State to conduct a thorough cost benefit audit related to the use of the statewide summative assessments in Oregon public schools.

THEREFORE, the Multnomah Democratic Party will use its available communication system to do the following:

  1. Communicate this resolution be shared with Governor Kate Brown, members of the Oregon Legislature, and members of the Multnomah County Democratic Party.
  2. Request that members of the Multnomah County Democratic Party contact their Legislator, Senator Lew Frederick to express support for SB 351

Resolution submitted by the Education Study Group of the Multnomah County Platform Committee.


SUBMITTED BY:  Education Study Group of the Platform Committee

RESOLUTION SUBJECT:   Suspension and audit of the use of high stakes summative tests in Oregon public schools developed by a multi-state consortium.



BILL SPONSOR:  Senator Lew Frederick




Each year the state spends millions of dollars on high stakes summative tests that are neither valid nor reliable.  They offer little information of value to individual teachers or students and their families.  The state collects, stores and analyzes data gleaned from the tests to make decisions that can have major impacts on students’ lives, the hiring and firing of school personnel, and school closings.  The tests along with the Statewide Longitudinal Data System that accompanies them are very costly.  Since Oregon is facing a $1.7 billion deficit, suspending these tests and performing a thorough cost/benefit analysis audit is mandatory.  In support of SB 351 this resolution directs the Secretary of State to conduct an audit of the use of statewide summative assessment in public schools in Oregon and to submit a report to the Governor and interim legislative committees no later than September 15, 2017.

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?


How much of this anti-teacher stuff is anti-women?

HysteriaFor the zillionth time, an editorial presumes to put teachers, a predominantly female profession, and parent activists (mostly moms?) in their place. Whether this editorial writer wrote the “hysteria” headline himself, or someone at The Oregonian did, doesn’t much matter. The word “hysteria” has misogynist roots:

A psychological disorder (not now regarded as a single definite condition) whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms (somatization), selective amnesia, shallow volatile emotions, and overdramatic or attention-seeking behavior. The term has a controversial history as it was formerly regarded as a disease specific to women. — OxfordDictionaries.com

Would it surprise you that the author of the editorial is a salesperson of education products who benefits from the expensive Common Core & high-stakes testing boondoggles?

Thankfully, parents and students and educators are reclaiming this territory. Teacher & parent Kathleen Jeskey has a tremendous response to this supposed “hysteria”. Yes, The Oregonian did use the same photo as in the original salesman’s opinion piece, too.

From Our Newsletter: ODE’s Reality Distortion Field

SmarterBalancedDiscussFrom today’s Oregon Save Our Schools Newsletter (subscribe here!).

You have to admire a bureaucracy that creates a reality distortion field as powerful as the one the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has built around Common Core and SBAC.

And now, there’s a rush toward a CCSS/SBAC masterstroke without ever taking time to evaluate if these standards and tests are good, productive, or helpful. And how would ODE do this? By putting in place a circular, self-fulfilling mandate.

We came across the following in a draft of a new ODE document with content designed to discourage parents from opting kids out of SBAC testing:

“Some colleges and universities now use students’ performance on the Smarter Balanced assessment to determine whether a student is ready to take credit-bearing college courses or must take remedial classes that cost the same as college courses but do not count toward a college degree.”

Really? This untested system of standards and tests is being mandated as THE new standard required for college?

What gullible and naïve college admissions team signed up for this? Apparently the one used for admissions by our Washington university system neighbors.

If ODE has its way, Oregon won’t be far behind as seen in the above quote. We also see it in the  organization called “Oregon Core to College” which is a multi-year effort with four goals (sorry – “outcomes” to use official state jargon) including “Postsecondary use of the Smarter Balanced assessment as a means to demonstrate readiness for transferrable, entry-level, credit-bearing college courses”.

It’s breathtaking really. Common Core remains an untested theory. ODE wants to rush to bet everything on it – and they probably hope to put a stop to opposition with this move since few parents will risk a child’s future by Opting Out of college entrance exams.

Our guess is that ODE doesn’t want to wait for the data because data might show that CCSS/SBAC hurts, rather than helps, our schools. It might show that CCSS/SBAC might be a worse judge of college readiness than, say, grades. Or even prove that ODE is draining $300M per year from classrooms.

At this writing SBAC tests are being used for the first time ever. We have no data about what they mean, no data about whether they help students, and certainly no data to prove that specific SBAC test scores predict a student’s success in college.

ODE’s rush probably reveals a desperation. ODE has clearly failed to convince parents, teachers, and administration that CCSS/SBAC are the godsends they promised. And there’s much higher legislative concern in the session right now than ODE has ever seen.

This is desperation — to dash ahead without waiting for data to learn whether their theories are right. ODE needs to be patient — it will take years (YEARS!) before there’s enough data to even know if CCSS does no harm. To learn if it does good? That’s even further off.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The history of corporate reform and high stakes tests shows the same pattern every time:  Proponents declare immediate success. But once it’s available, the data shows little or no improvement, and sometimes serious harm.

This is true of the NYC reforms of the late 1990s, the San Diego reforms of the early 2000s, the “New Orleans Miracle” that wasn’t, and the bust/sham called the “Texas Miracle” that started NCLB (before the data was in).

We need parents, educators, legislators, and our new Governor to stand tough:  There’s no evidence today that CCSS makes kids college ready or that CCSS helps kids be more career ready. ODE should NOT be rushing into college admissions.

That said, we shouldn’t be surprised ODE is rushing things. They threw out 10 years of OAKS high stakes testing without even holding public hearings to determine whether OAKS had done any good.

Now they’re rushing to judgment on CCSS and SBAC. For an organization that prides itself on using data well, ODE clearly doesn’t want the data – they just want to claim victory.

Teaching-to-the-test hurts a student in special ed “She is crying for our help”

HSTdoesnothelpThis story from an educator about how narrowing a curriculum to focus on testing subjects does not improve test scores and makes students feel worse about school, not better.

I am an ESL teacher at the elementary level. I worked with a student from 1st grade through 5th grade who was also a special education student. We worked hard together to get her as high as we could before middle school. Now she is in 6th grade at the middle school.

I got a call from the counselor saying that she was not doing well in school, getting in trouble, not eating, and suicidal. I asked to look at her schedule and saw it consisted of nothing but core and remedial classes with double doses of math and reading.

These are no electives in her schedule and after school she has homework club. This is common practice for those who haven’t passed the state test. This discriminates as it denies our most vulnerable populations to the activities that would maintain their interest in school. According to the ODE, she has about a 1% chance of passing the Language Arts Smarter Balanced test in 8th grade. This is nothing less than child abuse. She is crying for our help.

The Oregonian’s Misguided Push to Restrict Parents’ Rights

Parents Can! Opt out!Canby teacher & parent Kathleen Jeskey takes on a recent editorial in The Oregonian. We encourage those who support a parent’s right to opt his or her child out of high-stakes standardized testing to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board and let them know that testing is not providing the information and support needed, either in the classroom or in the home.  Also, contact your legislators and encourage them to support Lew Frederick’s HB 2714 which supports a parent’s right to opt-out for any reason.

by Kathleen Jeskey

The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board published this yesterday. What is truly “misguided” is The Oregonian’s defense of an attempted government takeover of our local schools from the top down. Our public schools should be democratic institutions, with elected school boards and community oversight. They should not be controlled by people from far away who do not know our children.

Lew Frederick’s bill, allowing parents to opt their child out for any reason, is the right thing to do. Parents have not just a right, but a responsibility, to protect their children from harm.

If significant numbers of parents around the country, both “conservative” and “liberal”, believe these new Common Core tests are not in their children’s best interest, they should be listened to.

When both parents and teachers are telling you something is not in the children’s best interests, it’s time for our lawmakers to listen.

When respected administrators, professors and historians of education in Oregon, like Professor Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon, and across the country Joseph Rella of New York, Stephen Krashen of California, and Diane Ravitch, former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton (to name just a few) say it, having the Oregonian mock those parents is insulting.

Also insulting is the Oregonian’s insistence that these tests hold any value for evaluating teachers and schools. Principal Carol Burris disagrees. So did the Washington state legislature, which refused the federal waiver from No Child Left Behind because it required the state’s teachers to be evaluated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The resulting threat from the US Department of Education to withhold federal dollars from the state again points up the overly intrusive nature of the federal government in local matters of education.

This should not even be a question. Parents should have the right to opt their child out of standardized, high stakes testing. Email your legislator (use the “Find My Legislators” feature), and support HB 2714, Lew Frederick’s Opt Out bill!

Growing press coverage about opting-out

WWeekScantronWillamette Week has a story about the growing opt-out movement driven by parents and students tired of the increasing stakes of the test-and-punish policies pushed by our state and national education policies and the businesses and wealthy who wrote them. The headline and subheadline are odd and not in line with the rest of the story, but it’s well worth reading:

“Vernon isn’t the only school with significant numbers of students opting out. Beach K-8 School in North Portland, Chapman Elementary School and Metropolitan Learning Center in Northwest Portland, and Sunnyside Environmental School and Glencoe Elementary School in Southeast Portland all saw higher opt-out numbers last year.”

The online comments by parents and community members engaging each other is also worth reading. Really.

Politico takes a look at opting-out as it spreads across the country, including a mention of Oregon.