Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Can Children Be "Too Young To Test"?

For the first decade after the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001  --  putting into high gear the testing-based model of education  --  almost all standardized testing took place in grades 3-8 and 11.  Little children were the only ones spared being subjected to the data-driven “business model” approach to learning, with its fixed testing targets and its multitude of accompanying charts and graphs. 

Developmentally Inappropriate

No more.  Little children have now caught up with their older siblings in the testing derby, on track to join them in taking over 110 standardized tests by the end of high school. Yes, 110. Teachers in pre-kindergarten through grade two have now joined their teaching colleagues in the older grades in the pressure cooker to produce “accountability” data to match predetermined benchmarks.  Little children are now joining their older siblings in experiencing the sidelining of art, music, creative play and other non-tested curriculum.  They too are now spending more and more of their day in “seat time”, focused on tested subjects.  They too are now being repeatedly “tested, sorted and tracked”. 

Their teachers know this is developmentally inappropriate.  They know it is clearly wrong.  But they are not allowed to tell you that.  They are not allowed to tell you that most high-performing countries in the world test once in elementary, once in middle school and once in high school.  They are not allowed to tell you that teachers already know full well how to identify kids who are struggling with reading, writing and math.  Over the ages, teachers did not need multi-billion dollar testing corporations to tell them.  

Two Ways to Say “Enough!”

Oregonians have an opportunity to change things in a good way.  We have the chance to say “No” to the developmentally-inappropriate and harmful practice of testing-sorting-tracking little children.  We can say “No” to the drive to minimize their other important qualities, such as creativity, divergent thinking, and problem-solving. 

One way to change things is for all of us to tell our legislators to support the “Too Young to Test” bill, (HB 2318), that has been introduced by Representative John Lively (D- Springfield).  It would prohibit the state government and local districts from standardized testing little children from pre-kindergarten through grade two.  It is modeled on legislation in New York, New Jersey and Illinois.  It would allow teachers to make their own professional decisions about which assessments to administer.  

The second way is for parents to “Just Say No” to every form of standardized testing that they can.  This is where the ultimate power is:  If parents say, “No more” --  by opting their children out  --  the testing juggernaut will begin to collapse.  We could then join much of the rest of the world in giving a few, well-constructed, classroom-based assessments – and save our kids from harm, save our teachers and principals from dispirited burnout and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year.

What Have We Got to Lose?

After all, what have Oregon parents, students and taxpayers gotten for the hundreds of millions of dollars we have spent on standardized testing for the past 20 years?  Is the dropout rate better?  Has the “achievement gap” among ethnic groups and economic classes improved?  Is teacher burn-out and turnover up or down?  Are students more engaged with their own learning? 

Is this really the best we can do for our children?

There is no ethical or curricular justification for repeatedly standardized testing very young children - or any of our children. Let young children experience the joy of learning and the thrill of making, doing, exploring, and play. They are indeed “Too Young to Test”.  Do two things for our little ones:  Support HB 2318 and encourage your friends to Opt-Out.

Roscoe Caron and Larry Lewin are retired Eugene School District middle school teachers and members of the Community Alliance for Public Educatin (CAPE).  Pat and Jan Eck are retired elementary educators and founders of Angry Grandparents Against High Stakes Testing (AGAHST).  All are members of the Oregon Public Education Network (OPEN), which defends public education. Check out their websites:  oregoncape.org. and orpublicednetwork.org  This article originally appeared in Eugene Weekly and was republished here with permission of the authors. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Beaverton Business Man, Parent Responds to Oregonian Editorial Board: "SBAC tests are neither good data nor useful data."

The Oregonian recently published an editorial suggesting that parents who opposed high stakes standardized tests are fighting against the community good. But I was disappointed by the editorial’s logic and lack of respect for the problem of relying on SBAC test data. 
For background, I’m a trained and experienced applied mathematician and have used data to manage human oriented programs for 25 years (advertising, marketing, etc). In my role, I’ve had to rely on data to deliver $1B in revenue for clients and my clients have included a large number of the Fortune 100 companies. 

The error is that the editorial presumes that SBAC tests are “good data”. There’s little evidence to support this. 

Standardized tests have become a focus because they are the ONLY data available in standardized ways - not because they are the data that’s needed.

Just a few brief points about the data SBAC produces:

Tests of this sort are able to evaluate (at most) only about half of what we need kids to learn in any subject area. Consider writing.
  • We need kids to learn to communicate effectively in writing.
    • While grammar, spelling, and word knowledge are important they are barely a start.
    • To write effectively they have to (a) know what they think, (b) be able to choose effective ways to communicate it and (c) be able to put that into understandable written form. 
    • Grammar, spelling and word knowledge are only part of the (c) - and only part of item (c).
  • While there have been claims that SBAC evaluates this, it doesn’t. 
  • To effectively evaluate how well our schools teach students to write would require:
    • Students be given a subject that interests them.
    • That they be given time to think and explore the topic to arrive at a point of view.
    • That they be given time to ponder that point of view and sort out how to communicate in writing about it.
    • That their writing be evaluated by a real human being who spends 20 to 30 minutes reading what they write in order to establish an effective grade.
    • Unfortunately, SBAC is primarily graded by machine. When it’s graded by a human the standard appears to be 2 minutes grading per answer and graders are given incentives to do that grading faster. 
  • In other words, SBAC doesn’t even come close to effectively grading writing. It’s a superficial test - which means it’s bad data - not good.

ALL subject areas (tested or not) are generally about half of what we need students to learn at school. 
  • It’s far more critical that they “learn to learn”, “learn to study”, “learn to explore issues”.
  • Even more critically, we need them to take issues and areas where there are NO answers known and be able to construct effective ways to explore those.
  • We need phys-ed, music, art, drama, business, etc.
The SBAC tested subjects only reflect about 25% of what we need schools to deliver. Given that only about 1/2 of the subject matter can be tests, this means:

SBAC tests evaluate about 12.5% (1/8th) of what we need schools to deliver.

SBAC tests are neither good data nor useful data. They are simply data and they fill vast computers in ways that allow silly little superficial reports to be sent home. Administrators probably love the data - because administrators don’t demand data be good - only that it be present (this observation is about every industry including, I expect, the newspaper business).

The role that your newspaper and the Oregon Department of Education give them in discussion misleads the public into believing they are highly meaningful.

My bottom line is we are in a position where society (and PPS administrators) WISH there was an objective way to rely on data to evaluate schools. There is not that opportunity. Unfortunately, PPS has chosen an Orwellian claim that bad data is good. 

There are other ways to evaluate schools. And parents, despite complaints you might hear, do know how well their kids are doing. But parenting is difficult because in middle school years, there’s no way to be certain that the hormone driven mess who is their child will turn out to be successful in life. 

What other ways? Grades and teacher evaluation of children. Many colleges, a constantly increasing number, have dropped any use of SAT or ACT in admissions and rely on grades. They have found that grades are a far better predictor of success than standardized tests. This is a REAL WORLD example and they have made this choice based on observing what happens.

Doug Garnett
Beaverton School District Parent and OSOS Member


From Flickr: "When my son takes standardized tests" 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Seven Years Later, a Former OEIB Member Catches Up. Let's hope she's finally catching on.

We at Oregon Save Our Schools were surprised yet pleased to see that former member of the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) Whitney Grubbs has finally taken our advice from 2012 and decided to go take a look at education in Finland. Grubbs was also Deputy Education Policy Advisor to former governor John Kitzhaber, who helped usher in many corporate driven education "reform" policies here in Oregon. One of our OSOS members, Emily Crum, classroom teacher and former President of Reynolds Education Association, who is currently on sabbatical for study as a winner of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, has also been to Finland. We asked Emily to write a response after reading Grubbs' recent opinion piece (written jointly with other authors) which appeared on Oregon Live a few weeks back. We thank Emily for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to do so. Her response has was submitted to The Oregonian. You can also read it below.

Yes, let’s put children at the center of how we make education policy and reform in Oregon. I am happy to welcome Whitney Grubbs, Kali Thorne Ladd, Matt Morton and Vanessa Wilkins to the Finland party on education. And would like to reiterate the final sentence from their recent opinion piece “Looking to Finland to improve Oregon’s Schools”

“Only with courage, shared responsibility and sacrifice can we transform our state into a place where all can meaningfully contribute and thrive, where disparities are eliminated and where children take their rightful place at the center.”

As an educator in the Reynolds School District for over 10 years, working with students in early childhood at our most underserved schools in the state, I feel like I have had my share, if not more than most, of “courage, responsibility, and sacrifice.” I also went to Finland in 2015 for a summer school course titled “Myths and Realities of the Finnish Educational System.” For three weeks in August I sat in a room with educators from around the world discussing not only the Finnish educational system, but education globally. We visited Finnish schools, read about current Finnish educational issues, and saw the benefits of much that is highlighted in the Oregonian’s recent opinion piece. Students are at the center and children overall are respected in Finland. Teachers are given a lot of autonomy and held in a respected light culturally. Health and well-being are definitely tied to academic success, but not just stopping there, they are considered important for success overall. 

One cannot ignore the fact that Finland is a country that provides universal health care, among many other social supports. I will never forget the moment in my class in Finland when I asked, “So how does Finland support students who are acting out in disruptive ways, like hitting or running away?”

The blank look on the professor’s face as he said, “That doesn’t happen here.” 

At that moment, in my mind I begin to ask, “Well what am I doing here?” Because that is what was and is happening where I work.

I think it is dangerous to try and adapt a model or educational system from one country to another. We are not identical in needs or services. I do think we can still learn from each other, but the take-aways must be student centered, focusing on who are our students and what are their specific needs. That was my biggest gain from Finland. Local needs must be identified, acknowledged and addressed in a problem-solving manner. But above all we must direct resources to serve those needs. 

I just recently returned home from three months of traveling. I visited friends, who I made during my course in Finland, in Egypt and Nepal. I went to their prospective schools and observed their classrooms. I believe and practice being a life-long learner. I set off this next week to New Zealand on a Distinguished Award in Teaching Fulbright Grant to study how New Zealand Schools implement whole-school restorative practices with long-term planning and professional development. An initiative that Portland Public Schools just reduced in their own budget. 

Early childhood art class in Egypt

At my friend’s school in Nepal, he shared with me his biggest take-away from Finland was to add more arts into his students’ day. All children at his school have art, music, and dance classes. They have a full time librarian and a library filled with English and Nepali books. The school is full of joy. Teachers are eager to learn and given the time to do so with co-teachers in every classroom. Leadership at his school allowed for growth and shifted resources to support the arts. Key word here: “resources.” Throughout my time in education in Oregon, from being a student in Portland Public Schools to a Restorative Justice Behavior Specialist in Reynolds Public Schools I have seen a decline in resources, and lack of funding where it truly matters.    

Early childhood dance class in Nepal

IF a child-centered classroom was what we REALLY wanted in Oregon, we would shift what we fund and why. We would have fully stocked classroom and school libraries, with actual librarians. We would fund arts: music, dance, theater and visual arts. We would encourage and provide professional development allowing for play-centered learning in early childhood. We would provide universal preschool. We would have funding for physical education and after school sports. We would fund needed counselors and support staff working with students. We would provide more professional development and support for culturally-relevant teaching practices.

On a side note, my paper for my course in Finland focused on the lack of culturally relevant classroom instruction. They may have a growing diversity of immigrants, but the homogeneity of the country and its population still dominate the classrooms and what is taught. Reynolds School District has 61 languages spoken by the students that walk through our doors. You cannot compare that reality with Finland’s. Our language demands and needs differ, our resources stretch too thin. We simply do not have the funds to provide one-on-one language classes to all our students who need it. We spend our resources instead on high stakes testing, which continues to plague our schools and students. We spend our money on curriculum adoptions that take place every few years and never allow for any constancy. We give tax breaks to our corporations so they don’t have to show “courage, shared responsibility, and sacrifice.” 

I remember the student-centered education of our public schools in Oregon in the eighties and nineties before No Child Left Behind. We know what would help our students. I don’t need to go to Finland or New Zealand to find that out. I spent the last 10 years filling a classroom with books I bought in order to have a culturally relevant library of high interest texts. I sought out my own group of early-childhood educators who support and understand the value of play. I wrote my own professional development centering on restorative practices for the Fulbright Grant in order to go and hopefully to see what long-term planning and professional development support does to change a school culture and community. That was my own teacher autonomy fighting to swim upstream everyday. The same autonomy that makes me a teacher who speaks up constantly for the students I know need various supports and are not receiving them.

Our system has to fit into percentages boxes. I have seen the deterioration of educators working together because of the push for whittling down students, educators, schools, and districts to scores and numbers, breaking away the communities that we used to create and thrive in here in Oregon. I fly to New Zealand next week because at the end of the day I know it is our relationships with our students, fellow educators, and each other in our community that will make any difference in ability to transform our schools. Restorative practices in its truest form is about such relationships. Relationships that I have only witnessed be torn apart in my professional lifetime as a teacher. Relationships I cling to keeping me in this profession. For me at the end of the day, it is always about that small child, whose hand I am holding, who says, “Ms. Emily I am….” “Ms. Emily I need….” “Ms. Emily I want…” and who I look in the eye and say back to them, “I hear you.” 

Emily Crum

*Opinions stated in this piece are mine, not in connection with any organization I am affiliated with.

Former Reynolds Education Association President
Current Distinguished Award in Teaching Fulbright Awardee

Classroom Educator 

Photo credits: Emily Crum

Monday, January 7, 2019

PPS to Principals: Continue the Beatings Until Morale (and Participation) Improve

Today we publish the final in a series of three letters that went out to the Portland Public Schools community. The first letter we published was the letter sent out to parents and the second was the letter sent out to staff. Today's letter was sent out to principals.

Deputy Superintendent Yvonne Curtis made it clear to in her letter to teachers that they are not to speak to parents about opting out. Curtis makes it clear in the letter below that it is the principals' responsibility to "ensure effective administration of all assessments" and states, "I look forward to measuring our improvement in the area of participation in these critical assessments."

In summary: Parents are being misinformed about the value and purpose of the assessments. Teachers are being told to keep quiet if they disagree with Curtis's message about the value and purpose of the assessments. Principals are being told it is their responsibility to make sure that participation is increased.

Curtis's insistence that these assessments are "critical" is laughable. They are a time, money, and energy drain on our school system. Fortunately, parents don't work for Portland Public Schools. Yvonne Curtis cannot fire parents or put a blotch on their employment files.

Parents, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO OPT YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF THE SBAC ASSESSMENTS! Opt out to send the message that we want an assessment system that is a more effective, authentic way for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Standardization does not equal excellence and your children should not be subjected to a battery of assessments, beginning in third grade, that rivals the Oregon State Bar Exam in length.

Find the state Opt Out form here. And sign on to our Action Network letter, written in cooperation with Oregon BATs,  to the Oregon Department of Education, the Governor's office, and the Attorney General's office to tell these officials that  top down bullying and coercion tactics in our schools are not acceptable. Principals and teachers are professional educators whose opinions about the value of specific curricular and instructional activities, as well as how students are assessed, should be listened to and respected even when they do not agree with those of administration.

One really has to question the motive behind administration attempting to silence and demand complete conformity from professionals who actually spend their days with students.

Read the letter to principals below.

Dear PPS Principals,

I have prepared a letter to staff regarding their questions and our expectations about the MAP assessments. In this letter, I provide some information about our PPS Quality Assessment Framework. Please see the attached letter to make sure you understand what the questions have been and can assist with clarifying the answers to the questions and the district expectations regarding administration of the winter and fall administration of these assessments.

I will be sending the attached letters to staff and families regarding SBAC assessments. Through
all of these messages, my goal is to make expectations clear while providing accurate
information to staff and families regarding the value of assessments. There has been a great
deal of misinformation on this subject and I am asking for your assistance in making sure we are
delivering a consistent and accurate message.

The most important points we can share with families are around the value of data in decision
making and our intentional shift to be a data-driven organization. One of our best tools for
gathering data on student success is through our state assessments and I am stressing the
importance of participation to give our leaders access to critical information that can be used in
educational decisions and resource allocation.

I also have included information about opt-out and exemptions available to families. By state
law, this is a parent's right and we absolutely respect that right. I want our families to be well-informed before they make a decision about opt-out or exemptions and have provided links to
additional information. I also make it clear that I am encouraging participation because of the
value of receiving this kind of data.

I would like you to take this opportunity to inform your staff, families and students about how
you use the results from assessments. Please familiarize yourself with this information and pay
careful attention to the information that will be forthcoming from our assessment department.

I am placing the responsibility for ensuring effective administration of all assessments on
principals. It is my expectation that you will provide leadership as we take another significant
step forward in becoming a data-driven district.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Cuellar or me directly. I look forward to measuring
our improvement in the area of participation in these critical assessments. Thank you for your
dedication to our students.

Dr. Yvonne Curtis
Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Attachments: Letter to Families Letter to All Staff

Sunday, January 6, 2019

PPS District Administration Letter to Teachers: Keep Quiet About Opt Out

Yesterday we shared Deputy Superintendent Yvonne Curtis's letter to PPS families. As promised, today we share the letter that was sent out to PPS staff. We at Oregon Save Our Schools find its tone extremely troubling as it appears to be an attempt at intimidation of teachers who hold differing opinions from administrators. We really thought we had moved past that in Portland when it comes to the Big Test but apparently we have not. 

Although PPS Administration does not appear to hold the belief that teachers are valued professionals who have the right to express their professional opinions regarding curriculum, instruction, and assessment, we would like to remind them that teachers continue to be United States Citizens with First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, particularly political speech, which this whole testing system debate most certainly falls under. We hope that the new administration at PPS does not attempt to violate those rights nor to test the solidarity that Portland parents and Portland teachers have shown in the past around issues that affect students. 

And please sign on to our Action Network letter to Oregon officials asking them to make it clear that tactics of bullying and intimidation are not ethical ways to increase participation in statewide assessments. Maybe Oregon officials should try creating an assessment system that people don't hate if they want more people to participate. 

Read Curtis's letter to staff below. Tomorrow, the letter sent to PPS principals. 

Dear PPS Staff,

As we approach our time frame for administering the Oregon State Smarter Balanced
Assessments or SBAC, I wanted to take a moment to share the district's position on the value of
state assessments and provide you with additional information that can be used to answer
questions from parents and families.

The most important points we can share with families is around the value of using data in
decision making and our intentional shift to be a data-driven organization. One of our best tools
for gathering data on student success is through our state assessments and I am stressing the
importance of participation to give our leaders access to critical information that can be used in
educational decisions and resource allocation.

Information about opt-out and exemptions available to families is included in our message to
families. By state law, this is a parent's right and we absolutely respect that right. I want our
families to be well-informed before they make a decision about opt-out or exemptions and have
provided links to additional information. I am encouraging participation because of the value of
receiving this kind of data.

For those of you who will be responsible for assisting with test administration or answering
questions from families, please pay close attention to the information forthcoming from our
assessment department. If you have any questions along the way, please reach out to your
direct supervisor for clarification.

PPS Expectations for Oregon State Assessments

Administrators are expected to provide parents and families with information about how SBAC results will be used to inform decision making and resource allocation in the future. Administrators should share the district's position about the value of state assessments and the importance of gathering data. Administrators are responsible for ensuring successful administration of state assessments in their schools.

Educators are expected to administer state assessments and to provide the best assessment conditions possible for gathering clean and reliable data. While I understand in the past it was considered acceptable for educators to promote opt-out to families or students, this is no longer the case. The state assessments are part of the required curriculum and more importantly, we need to have data that can be used to evaluate the success of instruction from year to year. I want to be very clear that It is not appropriate for staff to discourage participation, or to actively promote opt-out.

It is important for our families and students to be well-informed about student assessments. The role of PPS staff is to provide information and ensure an environment that is conducive to the successful administration of assessments.

Please see the attached letter that will go to parents today. Thank you for your commitment to serving our students.


Dr. Yvonne Curtis
Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Read PPS Deputy Superintendent Yvonne Curtis Letter to Parents

Earlier this week Portland Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Yvonne Curtis sent out emails to PPS principals, staff, and families regarding the district's misguided effort to refocus its limited resources on enforcing full participation in the biased, highly questionable Smarter Balanced Assessment. You can read excerpts of each of the letters here at our Opt-Out Oregon blog

Curtis was formerly a member of John Kitzhaber's failed Oregon Education Investment Board which the Cascade Policy Institute once called "Top Down on Steroids". The top down tradition continues as Curtis misleads families about the value of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in order to increase participation numbers. 

As a counter to Curtis's insistence that the SBAC test "provides critical data that can be used to improve student achievement" you can ask a teacher you trust about the truth in that statement. That is if they aren't afraid to answer you after the letter they got. You can read the letter to teachers here tomorrow.

Sign our joint letter to Oregon officials here to remind them that Oregon law requires full and accurate information on standardized testing and that families should not be coerced into testing.

Read the full letter to families below.

Dear PPS Families,

Under the leadership of Superintendent Guerrero, PPS is focused on improving the quality and consistency of instruction, and on using data to inform our educational decisions. We are in the beginning stages of building the necessary systems to support our teachers and to provide core curriculum and instructional standards that we believe will lead to better student outcomes.

In order to focus instructional resources where they are most needed, we must have a method to determine where there are gaps in learning. This kind of information is critical for PPS to make improvements needed to raise the level of student success. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has adopted an effective tool to gather data about how well students are learning. The Smarter Balanced Assessments, or SBAC, is available to grades 3-8 and grade 11. The SBAC is just one tool used by PPS to gather this kind of information. PPS uses a comprehensive framework of quality assessments designed to provide data across all grades.

A balanced assessment system offers all students, especially historically underserved students, opportunities to demonstrate their progress. Ultimately, a balanced assessment system creates a shared understanding among educators and a more transparent process for parents to access and understand their student’s progress throughout their educational career.

PPS will begin administering the SBAC from February through May 2019 with a renewed focus on increasing the number of students who participate. The SBAC is an annual measure of progress that gives our teachers and administrators the ability to view growth across multiple years and against other districts, both in Oregon and nationally.

Ideally, students will gain specific knowledge and skills at each grade level. If SBAC results demonstrate that students are not meeting these standards, we will explore why and make the necessary adjustments for improvements at a district-wide level. In addition to providing the district with data, increasing the participation rates impacts school ratings assigned by ODE each year. ODE uses the SBAC scores to rate each school and ratings are used to determine where additional support is most needed.

Classroom teachers will continue to test their student’s mastery of subjects throughout the school year in order to adjust their lessons and provide additional support to students where needed. These types of assessments are most useful for short-term instructional adjustments in the classroom.

In Oregon, parents may choose an opt-out for their students for state assessments in math and English. Additionally, parents may exempt their students from other state assessments for reasons of student disability or religious beliefs. Additional information regarding exemptions and opt-out is available here: https://www.pps.net/Page/1651. While PPS respects a parent's right to request an opt-out for their student, we strongly believe the SBAC provides critical data that can be used to improve student achievement. 

Your students' academic success is my highest priority and I want you to have access to all of the facts before tests are administered. 

Dr. Yvonne Curtis
Deputy Superintendent, Instruction and School Communities

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

PPS Thinks Parents/Students Need Less Information About Their Legal Rights

Oregon Save Our Schools has obtained a memo sent out to Portland Public Schools administrators regarding parents' legal right to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The memo asks administrators to reduce parent access to opt out information, sending the information out only via email and making opt out forms less visible in school offices. In the past, forms have also been sent home with students and placed on counters in school offices along with other information that might interest families. Sending notice to families only via email makes it far less likely that low income families will receive this information. The high correlation between income and test performance means that PPS has in essence decided to double down on inequity.

We also have reports that this sort of information gate keeping is happening in other districts. The original intent of the Opt Out bill was to provide transparency, so that families could make informed decisions about their children's education. The law requires schools to inform parents about standardized tests and their right to refuse the tests for their children. Why would a public school system, whose mission it is to educate, hide information from families and try to out maneuver their attempts to exercise their legal rights?

Read the memo below.  

From: Joe LaFountaine <jlafountaine@pps.net>
Date: December 7, 2018 at 4:40:01 PM PST

Subject: SBAC testing and Opt Out recovery
Dear High School Administrative Team Members,

Below is a message that was going to be sent to you today.  This message was a notification that PPS was going to be sending a parent email this weekend that explains how parents can opt out of SBAC testing.  We are delaying this email, so we can prepare our schools for managing the opt out process.

You need to know that PPS is taking a far more aggressive posture on ensuring all students are taking the SBAC.  All the executive leadership and school board have the expectation that all eligible students, minus a few exceptions, will be taking this assessment.  We know this will be a challenge since past messaging contradicts this stance.  That is why we are providing some time and direction on how to manage this at your school.  Certainly the email below covers some of this, but there are some other measures you should consider taking.

Last year we had some schools that permitted teachers to distribute these waivers to students in the classroom.  That is no longer permissible.  This waiver process should be initiated and completed by the parent of the student/s. 

Meet as an administrative team to discuss this and establish your agreed upon talking points.  You need to message this to your staff , so establishing your talking points will help you manage pushback.  Our expectation is to meet or exceed state expectations.

While forms should be available at the office, I would suggest that you not print out a stack and leave them on the counter.  They should be at one of the secretaries desks so you have a person in the office who can speak to the outflow of forms.  I would suggest you print a specific number of forms so you can track that flow.

We know we are trying to “put the genie back in the bottle.”  If we are not united on this practice, it will make the task harder on those who are trying to manage this change in  practice.  We will dedicate some time at the end of the Leadership agenda to discuss this further and answer any questions you might have.  Next week the parent email will go and this will all go live.  Anything you can do to prepare your school will benefit your school through this paradigm shift.

Here is the email you will get from Systems Planning.  Don’t wait for it to arrive to initiate your conversations. 

“Dear Principal,

The Oregon Department of Education requires that we provide a 30-Day Notice for Statewide Tests along with the ELA and math opt-out form to parents each year. In the past we have provided hard copies to be back-packed home with students. Beginning this year, our Communications team will be sending the link to the 30-day notice to parents by email. The message below will be sent to parents this week. Schools do *not* need to send this communication directly to parents.

30-Day Notice for Statewide Tests and Opt-out Form

The purpose of this communication is to notify parents and guardians of the upcoming statewide tests for the 2018-19 school year. The notice can be viewed on this web page: https://www.pps.net/Page/1651

Please know that although most students will not participate in testing until spring, some students will begin testing in January. Please contact your school for school-specific testing windows.

In addition to the email message to parents, we ask that you have hard copies of the notice and opt-out form available in the school office. Please do not display those copies, but do have them available upon request by parents. If students ask about opt-out forms they should be directed to talk with their parents first, as the opt-out decision lies with the parent and not with the student. The process for handling opt-out requests remains the same this year:
1.       Parents complete and sign the opt-out form and turn it in to the school.
2.       All opt-out forms should be direct to the School Test Coordinator (STC).
3.       The STC scans and emails opt-out forms to testinghelp@pps.net.
4.       The school should retain a copy of the opt-out form for the remainder of the school year. Testing Help will keep a copy for a minimum of three years.

The opt-out form applies only to the Oregon ELA and math tests. It does *not* apply to other assessments. Requests to exempt students from other learning activities, including science or ELPA assessments will be handled in a different manner. Soon, we be providing you with additional clarification around school expectations regarding student participation in our required assessments, including steps to take for exemption requests from other assessments and expectations regarding communicating with students and staff on this issue. “

I know this is a challenge on many levels.  My confidence in you to nuance the messaging is very high.  Let’s work together to share ideas we feel might help each other .

Have a good weekend.  That last week before the break always feels a little longer than five days.  So get some rest.  We will see you next week.

Area Assistant Superintendent of High Schools
Portland Public Schools