Saturday, February 25, 2017

Letter to Joint Subcommittee on Education re. Chief Education Office and Cost Saving Efficiencies SB 5522

Oregon Save Our Schools member Pat Muller, who is also a long time educator, penned this letter last week to the Joint Subcommittee after a presentation to them on SB 5522, which would appropriate over $7 million to operations of the Chief Education Office. This presentation in support of the bill to fund the Chief Education Office was given by the Chief Education Officer. The bill also allots another nearly $4 million from the General Fund to the Statewide Longitudinal Data System which tracks all kinds of data about students  (more on that at a later date).

Here is the letter which Ms. Muller sent to the Joint Subcommittee on Education after watching the presentation.

Dear Chairs Monroe and Smith Warner and Members of the Committee:

I had a flashback while watching the presentation of the Chief Education Office.  You could have wound the tape back a couple of years and heard the exact same presentation from Nancy Golden saying the exact same things.  I am asking:  What is the bang for my buck?  How are the activities of this office trickling down to the students in my classroom?  What is the hidden agenda of this mess?

I resent the veiled message that I am hearing constantly.  

1.     Mr. Capps is eager to point out that we have the worst absenteeism in the nation. I have gone in my car to pick up students before school, bought bicycles for those too far to walk, talked with law enforcement, worked with the homeless liaison, namely moved heaven and Earth for my kids and then I hear Mr. Capps saying I might not be captivating enough to make kids want to come to school!  I would invite Mr. Capps and whoever else would like to come to visit my after school program to see engaged ELL students. In a way, I can understand why a student would want to stay home with all the high stakes assessments and focus on tested subjects taking away time for other content areas that make kids want to stay in school. 

2.     Mr. Capps is always pointing out our graduation rate is poor.  Looking at recent history there is an easy explanation.  We increased the requirements for graduation.  We implemented more difficult and developmentally inappropriate standards.  We cut programs while at the same time dumping unfunded mandates on schools.  We implemented a high stakes testing system that doesn’t inform instruction.

3.     Mr. Capps stated we have a seamless system of education.  Rubrics provided last session by his office showed little or no growth in most indicators. Where is the evidence that shows we indeed have this system in place?

4.     Mr. Capps refers to his office as a think tank.  We already have a plan for what is the best thing to do for kids and that is the Quality Education Model.  Now we are thinking of making another committee to amend the model.  That makes no sense, as we never funded the previous model so how can we know that it needs updating?  Even if we had a lot of money, I would not fund to fund a think tank.

There is no need for me to elaborate further as the presentations given by Mr. Capps clearly document the poor achievement of his office.  

We are looking for how to save money and the answer is obvious.  Let’s move up the sunset of the Chief Education Office from 2019 to 2017 and while we are at it, get rid of the Smarter Balanced test that is a waste of money and instructional time.

Looking at SB 5522, it shows the appropriation of the Chief Education Office and Statewide Longitudinal Data System to be over $10 million.  Moving the sunset could go a long way to closing that opportunity gap.  We already have a detailed autopsy report on how we are leaving students behind and don’t need more data.

Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

End SBAC! Send a postcard! Comment to Oregon Department of Education!

This spring the Oregon Department of Education will be going to the State Board of Ed. asking them to renew their contact with the Smarter Balanced Consortium. Meanwhile many states are dropping out of the consortia. The SBAC and multi-state longitudinal data system associated with it are very expensive, particularly at a time when funding is scarce. If you would like to help end this money wasting, abusive system and put those funds into programs and classrooms, you can do the following:

1. Take this survey put out by ODE and tell them NO MORE SBAC!

2. Let your legislators and the Oregon State Board of Ed. know how you feel! Contact the Oregon Senate Education Committee members, House Education Committee members, Oregon State Board of Education, and your own legislators.

3. Send a postcard to Governor Brown, who is the designated Superintendent of Public Instruction since 2015 and tell her to END SBAC! Send your own or download the postcard on the link to Governor Brown.

4. Opt your child out of SBAC! Easy to do! Find the form here.

Please take action to stop this incredible waste of time and resources in our schools!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Letter to Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Salam Noor: Write Yours Today!

The following letter has been sent by Oregon Save Our Schools member Kathleen Jeskey to Oregon's Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction (salam.noor@state.or.us) with a cc to Chief Education Officer and Education Policy Advisor to the Governor (lindsey.d.capps@oregon.gov). A copy has been sent to Governor Brown's office directly as well (https://www.oregon.gov/gov/Pages/share-your-opinion.aspx).

Write your own letter today. Or link to this one and support. This is our opportunity. Take it.

Dear Dr. Noor,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with my colleague, Joyce Brown, and myself after the ESSA Feedback Session in Woodburn. I wanted to write to follow up on our conversation because our time to converse was somewhat limited.
First, I am happy to hear that ODE has heard that Smarter Balanced causes an imbalance in our schools regarding the weight of a single assessment to measure school quality. Joyce and I have been working on ESSA surveys from our Canby community and what we heard is that while parents want academic success for their children, they also want things like a welcoming school climate, a well rounded program, and most of all, for their children to feel safe at school. Many families mentioned that they would like their children to have smaller class sizes and more individualization. Not one family mentioned that they wanted more standardization.
I understand the need to “take the temperature” at schools to ensure equity. Believe me, I am painfully aware of the racism that exists against my students and their families that impedes their opportunity. It is now trumpeting out from the highest office in the land. But we don’t need to test our students for 8 hours at a time to take a temperature. We really don’t, and I believe you know that. In fact, student and family surveys regarding school climate and comparing academic opportunity between schools would be more effective than a statewide testing system to eliminate explicit and implicit biases. 
The testing system that is being built is extremely expensive and is unnecessary in order for our children to be successful. And all the talk of registries lately has me greatly concerned for where student data goes once it is entered into the new multi-state longitudinal data system and how that data will be protected.
There were also a couple of things about the session that I found somewhat disappointing. First, it was advertised as a feedback session so I assumed feedback on the ESSA plan would be taken. However, the questions at tables were instead focused on how to help implement the draft plan and what would be needed to help implement it, not questions that might elicit feedback on the content of the plan.
I was also disappointed during our conversation following the session when my colleague, after detailing the many, many tests that our students take asked you, “At what point does the Oregon Department of Education advocate for our students to the feds?” You answered that ODE’s role is not one of advocacy but rather to ensure compliance with federal laws. I believe that the number one job of every educator in Oregon is to advocate for our students. My understanding of ESSA is that it gives us the opportunity to do so and puts that power in the hands of the states rather than the federal government. 
We could take the emphasis off testing by not only reporting measures of comprehensive education programs as well as test scores as part of the state report card but also by having our state Department of Education work to enforce a requirement of comprehensive, well rounded programs at least equally, if not more intensely, than enforcement of testing requirements. 
I hope you will strongly consider this when finalizing Oregon’s ESSA plan. Students and families deserve equity in inputs, that is to say programs and resources in their schools. Without that, equity of output (test scores) is unattainable no matter how long or how often we test children. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oregon Save Our Schools Founder: Listen to Students

Yesterday Oregon Save Our Schools member and co-founder Joanne Yatvin had this article published in Literacy and NCTE, the official blog of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is NCTE's P12 policy analyst for our state. 

A few days ago, I read an article about education that really irritated me.  Although I’d read similar articles before without any reaction, this one was about a plan for schools in our state of Oregon that sounded wrong-headed to me, and was going to cost 3.5 million dollars a year.

According to the article, the Oregon Department of Education and the Chief Education Office have devised a plan that would deploy a team of “on-the-ground experts” to help schools that have a record of severe student absenteeism. That team would be composed of 20 coaches who would receive training, then be placed in selected schools to work on alleviating the problem.
What I saw was another top-down pipe dream, welcomed by school principals who had been unsuccessful in curbing absenteeism themselves, and meant to be implemented by newly hatched experts called “coaches.” Teachers and parents of chronically absent students would be informed about the new plan and asked to cooperate. The only people left out would be the ones who know the most about the causes of student absenteeism and how to reduce them: students.
My argument this time is the same as it has been in regard to other school problems: students should be active players in the planning and execution of any change in school operations—not only because they have firsthand knowledge of the problems and clear views of the causes, effects, and possible solutions, but also because their cooperation is essential if anything positive is to be achieved.
Joanne also spoke to the lack of student input into policy directly affecting students on her own blog, The Treasure Hunter, last month. 
Many thanks to Joanne for her long history of speaking up for students and encouraging policy makers to listen and allow students to speak up for themselves! OSOS is proud to have Joanne as a member and we are incredibly grateful for her leadership. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

MEETING POSTPONED THIS SUNDAY!

MEETING POSTPONED

Due to the dire weather forecast, we're postponing our monthly meeting to next Sunday, the 15th. Be safe out there. You're needed in good condition for a hectic 2017!

In the meantime, don't forget to fill out your Opt Out form! Download the form and get more info here: https://optoutoregon.org 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Oregon Department of Education Puts Out ESSA Plan for Public Comment

Oregon’s ESSA plan is out. Read the entire plan here.  Comment on the plan here. Comment period closes January 16. Urge your Oregon Department of Education to take back LOCAL CONTROL and END SBAC and all high stakes standardized testing! 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Portland School Board Members Endorse YES on 97

Following is a statement from Portland Public's School Board members who urge a YES vote on Measure 97! Oregon Save Our Schools thanks these board members for speaking up for the schools our children deserve. 

As Portland School Board members we are voting for Measure 97 and implore you to do the same.

And we’re not alone. Across Oregon, public school board members are acutely aware of the precarious nature of state school funding. For 25 years, Oregon school boards have cobbled together budgets knowing we were denying our children opportunities and the chance for a prosperous future we ourselves enjoyed.  Communities have worked hard to fill some gaps, but funding remains unstable and inadequate. Portland Public Schools has had only two years of increased funding in decades, and we are looking at more budget cuts next year unless we take action now. 

Without tax revenues, the state can’t fund education and other essential services, such as healthcare, that have a direct impact on our students and their ability to learn. Since 1990, more than two generations of Oregon students have experienced almost endless cuts; we’re not talking about luxuries, we’re talking about cuts in basic education. 

In spite of having a growing economy in Oregon and adding jobs to the economy at more than twice the rate of the nation as a whole, our corporate income tax structure is so skewed that the state is facing a potential $1.4 Billion deficit in the next biennium.  For Portland Public Schools, our current projections translate that into a potential $60 million shortfall in our 2017-2018 school year - the cost of up to 600 teaching positions, or ten weeks of school.

School Board members, parents, and community members have lobbied legislators in Salem for 25 years for meaningful tax reform to invest in education. We’ve gotten almost nothing.

Parents, teachers, and community groups have come together to support Measure 97— the first serious attempt to restore funding for education to where it used to be. Measure 97 is simple.  It changes four sentences in the existing tax code and lifts the cap on tax payments for the very largest corporations.  It will affect only a small sliver of the business sector in Oregon: C-corporations (those with shareholders) that make over $25 million in sales.  These are the very corporations that have enjoyed unprecedented profits for the last two decades. 
Measure 97 asks big corporations to pay their fair share to support the things that benefit them: an educated workforce and a community that is healthy and able to consume their products.

Measure 97 will bring in $3 Billion a year for essential services and replace the revenue we lost after Measure 5, reversing the decades of catastrophic disinvestment in education and other services that threaten the future of Oregon.  These new revenues should fill the $2 Billion deficit in school funding and finally allow all of this state’s children to get the quality education they need to thrive as adults.  Portland Public schools estimates this will bring an additional $80 million a year.  That translates into realizing our goals for Portland Public Schools students:  raising graduation rates, increasing literacy, decreasing class sizes, addressing deferred maintenance, and adding back the arts, career and technical, and hands-on learning programs. 
We’ve heard the arguments against M97, but the fact is without its passage tax reform will not happen anytime soon, and the desperately needed revenue for our state will be left in the pockets of corporations instead of going to needed services like education for our citizens.
Please vote YES on M97.  Our children can’t wait any longer.

Portland School Board Members:  Paul Anthony, Steve Buel, Julie Esparza-Brown, Tom Koehler (Board Chair), and Mike Rosen