Ms. Greene, Ms. Koch, and Mr. Brown,
The ODE's recently-released standardized test opt-out form, mandated by HB 2655, is a travesty.
The ODE has turned HB 2655 on its head and has transformed what should have been an objective and clear notification of parent and student rights into a vehicle for exaggerated fear and a marketing job for these expensive and educationally-wasteful high-stakes tests.
The ODE's insertion of the following statement above the parent signature is unacceptable: “"I understand that by signing this form I may lose valuable information about how well child is progressing in English Language Arts and Math. In addition, opting out may impact my school and district’s efforts to equitably distribute resources and support student learning."
This is a low point in the history of the Oregon Department of Education. Your actions are inexcusable and unethical.
And a second letter from another CAPE member, Jerry Rosiek, who is a parent of a 4th grader as well as an education professor at U of O.
Dr. Salem Noor,
I live in Eugene OR. I have some concerns about the poor implementation of HB2655, a law you are responsible for implementing. I am writing to ask that you follow up on it.
Some background: I am a parent of a 4th grader in an Oregon public school. Your public statements and those of other ODE employees lead me to believe that you think there is a consensus among experts that the use of these standardized tests are supported by research and it is only irrational uninformed suburban parents who are opposed to them. This is not the case. In addition to being a parent I am also a professor of Education at the University of Oregon, so I am more knowledgeable than most about education policy and practice, and it is my informed opinion that the SBAC tests have more pernicious than beneficial effects on our schooling system. Furthermore, my concerns about the effects of these standardized tests are shared by thousands of educational researchers around the country, some with appointments at our nation’s most prestigious Universities (attached please find a letter signed by over 2000 scholars and sent to president Obama and federal legislators regarding the reauthorizatioin of the ESEA—or No Child Left Behind Act—in March of 2015.) The President himself, once a supporter of these testing policies, has recently recanted his support for the current system of testing in our schools—confessing that we are using too much time on testing and that the tests are having the negative effect of narrowing our curriculum offerings.
First, I will offer a positive comment about your implementation of HB2655. I am gratified to see the ODE form for opting out of standardized tests required by HB-2655 has been posted in a timely manner. I have been centrally involved in organizing information sessions for other parents about their opt-out rights in Eugene. This form will be much easier to use. And it has been provided with sufficient time for us to make sure parents know about it. Thank you for that.
I am concerned, however, about misleading statements on the form that seem intended solely to undermine the spirit of the law by intimidating parents out of exercising their opt out rights. I am speaking primarily about the following passage that appears directly above where parents sign to exercise their opt-out rights:
“I understand that by signing this form I may lose valuable information about how well my child is progressing in English Language Arts and Math. In addition, opting out may impact my school and district’s efforts to equitably distribute resources and support student learning."
This text is misleading to the point of being ethically objectionable. It contradicts the following facts:
• The SBAC tests are not primarily designed to track individual student achievement. The information they provide is not intended to be used to inform instruction (it comes much too late for that). They are designed to assess classes and schools collectively.
• There are many other sources of information on how students are performing academically. Teachers have many other assessments at their disposal and skipping the test does not prevent a teacher from assessing students in these other ways.
• There has never been a case anywhere in the country where a school received less resources because of test opt-outs. Never.
• The promise that these standardized tests enable schools to provide more resources to low performing schools under-performing schools has not proven true. No funds are consistently or sufficiently provided by the state for such assistance. The only incentives for better performance that have been consistently offered are punitive.
In addition to being misleading, the inclusion of these statements on the opt-out form constitutes a breach of the public’s trust in the ODE. Professionals at ODE are entitled to their beliefs about whether these tests serve a constructive purpose. However House Bill 2655 did not authorize ODE to hijack the mandated opt-out form and use it as a platform to advertise their unsubstantiated views on this matter. By doing so, your office is attempting to undermine the spirit of this legislation. This is an over-reach of your authority. The ODE’s responsibility is to *implement* legislative mandates, not modify them. In trying to use the opt out form as an opportunity to intimidate parents and persuade them against exercising their opt out rights, you are exceeding your authority. It is a transparent attempt to sabotage the legislation of democratically elected officials enacted on behalf of the citizens that voted for them.
In my opinion this breach of your responsibility to carry out the law as written is unprofessional and renders you unfit for your current appointment. If this is not corrected immediately, I will be asking my representatives and the Governor to request your resignation.
I ask that you instruct the ODE to amend the form, to remove any and all language designed to persuade parents against exercising their opt out rights. In keeping with the spirit of the law, the form should be simple, easy to use, and make no effort to persuade parents one way or the other.
In the meantime, those of us concerned about the deleterious effects of these tests on school curriculum and student experience plan to use the form as it has been posted. It is easier and clearer than what existed before, so opt-out numbers will rise. And the offending passage on the form will serve no purpose but to undermine the public’s trust in the ODE, the Governor’s office, and the politicians who acquiesce to this perversion of legislative intent.
More later from an Oregon legislator.