Porter begins by stating that, “Lackluster leadership and little information have hijacked the roll-out of the Smarter Balanced test”. Nothing has “hijacked the roll-out” of the Smarter Balanced test more than the test itself. The test takes many hours over many days. The average third grader at my school spent 12 hours taking SBAC this year. Our entire high school’s schedule was disrupted for 6 weeks. Even some kids who weren’t taking the tests couldn’t move on in their instruction, as juniors in their mixed grade classes were out taking SBAC.
Additionally, the test had many un-reportable errors due to faulty reporting methods, breakdown of communication between state and school level, and the virtual gag order placed on teachers who must sign a test security assurance form (p. 133) which states that the teacher agrees to "Preventing any review, discussion, or analysis of test items before, during, or after testing with either students or adults” and “not reviewing test items, even if a student believes they are flawed”. Disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, can result from violating this agreement. School and district test coordinators sign the same agreement. Teachers who refuse to give the test and/or refuse to sign the agreement are also subject to those actions. I was informed of that, albeit very politely, when I requested to be excused from administering the test.
Porter goes on to construct a straw man by insinuating that those promoting opt out are against all testing and that we should just be focusing on better tests. He asserts that this test is better, since it’s more “open ended”. This test has some parts that allow open ended answers, but the majority of the test is still a pick the right answer test. Having a kid drop and drag the right answer or click on the right sentence in the paragraph instead of lining them up below the paragraph with the letters A, B, and C next to them is still multiple choice. And then there’s the whole question of who’s scoring those open ended answers.
Parents know this test is bad That’s why they don’t want their kids to take it. That’s why parents and teachers together have pushed our legislators to pass HB 2655A, which cleared the Oregon House of Representatives easily in a bipartisan vote of 47 to 10.
School districts should not be trimming local assessments that local educators have decided work well with their students, as Mr. Porter suggests, in favor of Smarter Balanced, which is not a “better” test just because people keep saying it is. Let’s decide on tests at the local level, where it’s transparent and easy for parents to see and understand their child’s results. Smarter Balanced, like its predecessor OAKS, gives parents and teachers very little information beyond a number.
Standardized tests can be used appropriately to give a big picture of schools, districts and states. That big picture could be obtained just as easily by using sampling, as local parent and businessman Doug Garnett explains here. Diane Ravitch, Assistant Secretary of Education under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, agrees with Garnett that annual testing is not needed. So does Professor Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair of the College of Education in the Department of Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership at University of Oregon. According to his bio on U of O’s website, Zhao “has extensive international experience consulting with government and educational agencies and speaking on educational issues in many countries on six continents. His current work focuses on designing 21st century schools in the context of globalization and the digital revolution.”
This is not opt out “hysteria”. I wonder if Porter sees any irony in the use of that word, which once referred to a mental condition believed to be exclusively female? It was used throughout history to dismiss not only women’s very real physical aliments, but also their legitimate complaints. When parents began complaining about Common Core standards, Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education said, “It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from...white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.” Instead of allowing democratic debate over legitimate concerns regarding standards and testing, people like Duncan and Porter engage in “mindless misogyny”.
Parents and teachers are sick of the failed test and punish policy that has been in place since NCLB. But money talks and we can’t compete with Bill Gates and Pearson. So we have turned to civil disobedience to get our legislators’ attention. And it’s working. And for the people who stand to gain financially, I guess that’s “that’s pretty scary”.
Who do we want to run our schools, parents, teachers and students, or corporations, politicians and billionaire “philanthropists”? Bill Porter works for the latter. I am a teacher, close to retirement. I have nothing to gain but saving our public schools. My daughter has opted my grandchildren out, and I would suggest that any parent who cares about what really matters in our schools and our nation do the same.