How to Opt-Out

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Opting-out will be easier in 2016-17 thanks to activists & the 2015 Oregon Legislature!

Happily, in the 2015 Oregon Legislature, HB 2655 passed which expands the ability to opt-out of of the summative statewide assessment high-stakes testing without needing to cite a disability or a religious belief. This development took a lot of work, including by Oregon Save Our Schools, and represents a huge step forward for restoring good practices in Oregon’s public schools.

What do I need to do?

To opt-out of the statewide summative Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for both math & English language requires use of the official form by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). Download that form here. Fill it out and deliver it to your school. No need to cite religious beliefs nor disability, nor to identify an “alternative learning activity”. Much easier than previous years.

ODE’s form is less ominous, but the first page seems goofy, what gives?

SmarterBalancedDiscussODE’s form, beyond the parts you fill out, contains ill-informed and patronizing editorializing by people at the state who clearly don’t understand testing or what’s going on in general. Use the official form anyway. It’s not clear from the law if the form is required, or if it’s sufficient to simply notify the school of your opting-out.

The informational side of the form contains four questions. Our comments:

1.) How much time do the tests take?

ODE’s response is to look at the test administration manual. Sure. Bet parents will get right on that. The truth is that the test-taking requires usually several hours. However, the test prep often takes days or weeks away from regular classroom instruction. The better answer to ODE’s own question is: “Too much time and expense.”

optout2016-17stillwrong2.) What do the results mean and how do I get the results?

Here is where ODE gets shady. The tests give you a number (1-4, with 4 high) in 6 broad categories. How a 3 in reading can tell you a child’s strengths and areas for improvement is absurd, unless “areas of improvement” mean that your child needs to improve in reading. Hardly helpful information to anyone. These results do not help classroom instruction. The main thing standardized test scores indicate is the student’s family income level. We’ve known that for decades. We don’t need to spend millions each year on the testing system and lose countless weeks and months on test prep to learn it.

3.) Why does participation matter?

ODE claims: “having your child take the statewide tests provides educators and administrators with information about what educational approaches are working and where additional resources are needed.”

No. N-O. And one more time: No.

Standardized test results provide a generalized idea of how well a whole school is doing in a category. That’s what they were made for decades ago. The results say nothing about what education approaches are working – you can’t tell that because you can’t look at what questions individual students missed or even what questions your school students missed in general.

4.) When will my child take the test?

ODE provides a neutral answer, that it will be determined by the school and set after the 2/3 point of the school year.

Oregon Save Our Schools encourages parents and students to opt-out of high-stakes testing. For more students and families, the answer has become “Never”. And that’s a good thing.

ODEoptoutform

You may be amused & educated by our recent posts from last year: “ODE sniffs at the law and thinks you’re stupid for opting-out” and another post about how some Oregon parents altered it to make witty & effective points.

Do I need to meet with the school principal or other official?

No. School districts may encourage meeting with the school principal as an attempt to dissuade people. You do not need to meet with anyone to exercise your right to opt-out.

When?

ODE’s form encourages the form to be submitted to the school no later than February 1, 2017. That is not a firm deadline, as some schools start testing as early as February 7 and others much later.

You could even opt-out during the administration of the test itself! Although, to help lessen the burden on logistics for the school, try to get your opt-out notice to the school before testing start.

Students enrolled after the testing window begins on February 7 are encouraged to submit the form within two weeks. The form is only valid for the 2016-17 school year, and an opt-out form must be submitted on subsequent school years.

Is there an extra consideration for high school students?

If the student is in high school and opting-out of the standardized test for 11th grade, she/he will need an alternative assessment to graduate, but this can be another standardized assessment like the ACT or SAT, or a locally-scored work sample. Be ready to identify which option your high school student will use. We encourage speaking with your high school counselor to determine if your student has already met the essential skills requirement in other ways. More on essential skills.

What about opting-out of non-SBAC tests?

Check in with your district to ensure it does not have a different process for opting-out of state standardized testing beyond the SBAC. There will be a District Test Coordinator or assessment department that can answer any questions.

Explain the topic to your student and why this is being done. If your child is old enough, make sure she/he understands and wants to do this without pressure.

What can I do to help spread the word?

Glad you asked! Some ideas: