This blog post is from a fellow Teacher of Professional Conscience, Jan Hayden Well, who felt she could not keep silent and administer the SBAC test without objection. She is from the Oregon Trail School District. Jan continues the Oregon Trail tradition of strong women caring for children by standing up for her students, all the students in Oregon, and the students the rest of the country. Though her journey may not be as arduous as that faced those earlier women, it has not been made without personal risk and difficulty.
Thank you, Jan, for allowing me to share your words and story. I am sad that Oregon will be losing a dedicated teacher who clearly leads by example and does what she tells her students to do: Stand up for what is right. I know you will keep fighting for our students even though, after this year, you will no longer be in the classroom with them every day. Thanks to you and the other teachers and parents in your district who are helping to make things right. I'm proud to walk this trail with you.
By Jan Hayden Well
In February, I announced in a PD (Professional Development) that I couldn't administer the SBAC. We were told that we were going to have to administer to EVERY child and no one would be allowed to opt out. After a few weeks, I was called into District Office for a conversation. No action was taken. Parents are now allowed to opt out. Our grade begins test administration next week. I have spoken against high stakes testing at a legislative town hall, with a progressive political group, at a school board meeting, and to just about everyone I know. I am in the fortunate situation of having the option to retire after 31 years of teaching. I can no longer tolerate the disrespect for our profession or duck my head and follow directives that I believe are harmful. This is my presentation to the Oregon Trail School Board on April 13th, 2015.
My name is Jan Hayden Well. I am here as a concerned citizen and taxpayer of the Oregon Trail School District. I am also a long term employee. I have worked for the Welches School District and the Oregon Trail District at Welches Elementary School for almost 31 years.
I have taught or coached students K-8. Most of my experience is with 7-8-9 year olds in the second and third grades. At this point, I have had the privilege of teaching nearly 1,000 students. I have second generation students in my classroom. I love my school families and I hope most of my impact upon them has been positive.
Originally, I had planned to use these three minutes to appeal to the board to honor parent requests for opt-out and refusal of the Smarter Balanced Test for their children. Now, that District Office has agreed to accept parent opt-out requests, I want to thank them for respecting parents’ fundamental rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
That being said, I have concerns to report about the Smarter Balanced Assessment from many established and reputable researchers, authors, and educators. I have spent two years of my own time following common core implementation and the concomitant high stakes standardized testing. These concerns have led to opposition and refusal movements, nationwide.
These tests are developmentally inappropriate. Reading researchers have run test samples through readability calculators and found that in many cases, the test items were 2 or more grade levels above the indicated test level. I ran samples of directions and text from the third grade OAKSportal.com through on-line readability formulas. All of them tested fifth grade and above.
The tests are published and copyrighted by huge publishing conglomerates. No one is allowed to view or review the test items. Minor children are even “forbidden” to discuss them with friends, teachers, AND parents by a confidentiality clause on the test. Despite these “gag orders”, many errors in test items and methodology have been reported.
The social media of students has been monitored for perceived testing protocol breaches and they are reported to school districts for discipline.
Teachers, under pain of losing their jobs and their teaching licenses, are being intimidated into not expressing their concerns about the inappropriateness of the testing to the parents of the children in their classrooms and we are not allowed to broach the subject of opt out with parents during IEP meetings. Even if, in our professional judgment, the test is inappropriate for a student based on the student’s current academic levels and function. In the last month, I sat through two IEP meetings for students where I felt the test would be totally inappropriate. Much to my frustration, I could not express my professional opinion that the children should not be subjected to the SBAC.
These tests are not scientifically based on student learning or educational practices that produce academic gains. For a test that is all about the data…there is precious little data to support it.
What it does support is corporate interests rather than democracy. Publishers are making a fortune. They are expensive. The State of Oregon’s costs to administer the SBAC this year is a 70% increase over last year’s costs for the OAKS. Last fall’s estimate was an increased cost of $4.5 million dollars. This money would be better spent to reduce class size and increase classroom supports.
Tests do not address the social problems that poor children bring to school or teach them academic skills and they waste class time. The third grade assessment is estimated to take approximately seven hours for each student to complete.
These tests are being used to create a narrative of failure about public schools which is untrue and to cause the redirection of tax dollars from public education to private corporations and private charters. Thereby, creating a two tiered system--one for haves and one for have-nots.
We do not receive useful data in a timely manner. We will all be told sometime after July, who succeeded, who failed, and nothing about particular student strengths or challenges. The results are not delivered in a time frame that is instructionally valuable.
Parents and teachers want the best for their children, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status. They want children to achieve to their fullest potential, to love school and to be engaged in meaningful and relevant learning. We want useful information as to whether or not a student is progressing academically and to be able to use the information for informed decisions on individual students.
In a Smarter Balanced Memorandum dated September 11, 2014, the consortium confirms that this year’s test is being used to establish the reliability and validity of the test. Adoption of common core standards and high stakes testing was a requirement to qualify for Race to the Top funding and provided a waiver for not meeting the NCLB requirements. The tests were adopted sight unseen.
They are built to maintain inequality, not to serve as an antidote to educational disparities. From another report issued by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC):
The projected results for this year’s 6th graders in English/Language Arts are: All 6th Graders 60% fail rate, African American 6th Graders 75% fail rate, Latino 6th Graders 75% fail rate, 6th Graders (Special Education) 90% fail rate, and 6th Graders (English Language Learners) 95% fail rate.
In other words, this test is specifically designed to fail the majority of our students and punish particularly minorities and those with special needs. How does this help students?
Teachers are capable of assessing their students. These same legislators who seem to think we know nothing about a child’s progress without high-stakes testing somehow miraculously made it through the educational system and have met with some measure of professional success.
I find this set up for failure and misuse of education dollars to be ethically and morally repugnant as do many of my colleagues and parents with whom we work. I have contacted my legislators and would urge the school board to do the same if you have not. There is an Oregon budget hearing to take public input on budget priorities at Mt. Hood Community College at 7:00 pm on April 16th. And further, I urge the school board as a body of elected representatives to fashion a resolution:
- to send to our legislature.
- opposing the use of this test to evaluate students, teachers and schools.
- to support the professionalism of your staff and the critical thinking and rights of the parents of your district to do what is best for their children.
- to advise the reallocation of test dollars into classroom positions and supports.
Jan Hayden Well
April 13, 2015