Friday, January 30, 2015

Representative Frederick Protects Parents' Rights

Oregon Save Our Schools encourages those who support a parent's right to opt his or her child out of high-stakes standardized testing to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board and let them know that testing is not providing the information and support needed, either in the classroom or in the home.  Also, contact your legislators and encourage them to support Lew Frederick's HB 2714 which supports a Parent's Right to Opt Out for any reason.  Finally, check out Opt Out resources from Oregon SOS here.

                                                        Dr. Rex Hagans

Your Editorial titled "Misguided bill would nudge parents to say 'no' to state testing: Editorial Agenda 2015” sarcastically attacks Representative Lew Frederick for sponsoring House Bill 2714, which provides that parents have the right to excuse their children from state wide assessment and directs that the school districts must provide notice of that right to parents. As one of the Co-founders of Oregon Save Our Schools, I am here to tell you that Representative Fredericks is, once again, simply doing the right thing.

It is no secret that high stakes testing has grown increasingly onerous over the years, forcing a narrowing of the curriculum, putting children and their teachers under great stress and literally sucking all the joy out of learning.

Or that the so-called "Smarter Balanced” tests have shamefully and secretively developed by non-educators and rushed to market in a red hot hurry by the huge testing concerns who stand to make billions of dollars from them. Quick - before parents (and the public at large) come to understand just how damaging they will really be.

Parents know this, and in rapidly increasing numbers, are becoming very concerned about the impact on their children. Like their children’s teachers, they know that this is a recipe for disaster.

But instead of responding to this deep concern, and following the example of many other states in calling for a pause in this ridiculous process, our Governor and his minions on the Oregon Education Investment Board have launched an all out campaign, orchestrated from the very top, to convince parents that they should not exercise their best judgment in this matter and to frighten them with thinly veiled threats of negative repercussions for their children's schools of they do decide to opt out.  

The Editorial Board now contributes to this campaign in its editorial by describing these parents as "disgruntled"- a belittling word which the dictionary equates with such terms "sulky', "peevish" "petulant" and even "malcontent."  How about “responsible”,"worried" and “informed” instead?

And for what?  There is absolutely no evidence that these tests or the standards they are intended to support will produce anything. William J. Mathis, a noted researcher from National Education Policy Center writes "No studies support a true causal relationship between national standards and economic competitiveness, and we know that nations with centralized standards generally tend to perform no better (or worse) on international tests than those without. "

Your editorial concludes "In what universe does it make sense to invest billions of dollars in a sweeping educational enterprise without any expectation that it deliver a verifiable return in the form of smarter kids?"  Wrong question.

You should be asking, "In what universe does it make sense to invest billions of dollars in a sweeping, poorly planned and disruptive educational enterprise without any evidence that it can deliver a more vibrant and engaging education to our children?" And to that question as you so glibly put it, "Surely not this one, Frederick's colleagues must agree."



Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Oregonian's Misguided Push to Restrict Parents' Rights


Oregon Save Our Schools encourages those who support a parent's right to opt his or her child out of high-stakes standardized testing to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board and let them know that testing is not providing the information and support needed, either in the classroom or in the home.  Also, contact your legislators and encourage them to support Lew Frederick's HB 2714 which supports a Parent's Right to Opt Out for any reason.  Finally, check out Opt Out resources from Oregon SOS here.

                             by Kathleen Jeskey

The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board published this yesterday. What is truly misguided is The Oregonians defense of an attempted government takeover of our local schools from the top down. Our public schools should be democratic institutions, with elected school boards and community oversight. They should not be controlled by people from far away who do not know our children.

Lew Frederick’s bill allowing parents to opt their child out for any reason is the right thing to do. Parents have not just a right, but a responsibility, to protect their children from harm. 

If significant numbers of parents around the country, both “conservative” and “liberal”, believe these new Common Core tests are not in their children’s best interest, they should be listened to. 

When both parents and teachers are telling you something is not in the childrens best interests, its time for our lawmakers to listen. 

When respected administrators, professors and historians of education in Oregon, like Professor Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon, and across the country Joseph Rella  of New York, Stephen Krashen of California, and Diane Ravitch, former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton (to name just a few) say it, having the Oregonian mock those parents is insulting. 

Also insulting is the Oregonians insistence that these tests hold any value for evaluating teachers and schools. Principal Carol Burris disagrees. So did the Washington state legislature, which refused the federal waiver from No Child Left Behind because it required the states teachers to be evaluated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The resulting threat from the US Department of Education to withhold federal dollars from the state again points up the overly intrusive nature of the federal government in local matters of education.

This should not even be a question. Parents should have the right to opt their child out of standardized, high stakes testing. Email your legislator, and support HB 2714, Lew Frederick’s Opt Out bill! 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SWOOSH! It’s Good To Be Queen



by Kathleen Jeskey

On Thursday, the Oregon State Board of Education approved a rule change which will require many districts to increase instructional time, also known as seat time, for students.  This decision was made in spite of the Board hearing from Oregon State Employees Association (OSEA) the Oregon Education Association (OEA) the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) and the Oregon Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that this rule change should not be made at this time.

While all of these organizations representing Oregon school employees, teachers, principals, superintendents and parents agree that we need to make this change for our students, all were also united in stating that it should not be done without serious study of the fiscal impact this would have on schools and districts, since no increase in funding is attached to this rule change. Many representatives of these groups are concerned because some Oregon districts that have chosen to preserve programs such as PE and music, or retain smaller class sizes rather than increase instructional hours, may be required to add as much as three weeks to their school calendars with no additional funding. The result of this would then be cutting programs or increasing class size due to the necessity to lay off staff; as one Oregon teacher said when she heard the news of this rule change, Just when things were starting to get slightly less horrible.

The rule change was adopted very quickly, with a timeline of only about three months between the initial reading of the proposed amendment and its adoption. There were only a handful of public hearings. You can read testimony from the December hearing (held three days before Christmas) here.

Some concerns result from the language of the hastily adopted amendment. For example, many believe that language that states that “ ‘Instructional time means time during which students are engaged in regularly scheduled instructionworking under the direction and supervision of a licensed or registered teacher…” will eliminate counting Outdoor School as instructional time. This would virtually kill the Outdoor Science School program that has been a capstone activity for over 200,000 sixth graders and a valuable learning experience for over 50,000 high school students who have served as counselors throughout Oregon since 1968.

Other examples of language in the rule change that are concerning include the requirement that 80% of students must receive minimum hours of instructional time. This fails to take into account special education students who may need to be on a reduced schedule, alternative education students whose schedule may be different, or students in poverty who may need to work in order to help their families make ends meet. Setting an arbitrary requirement of 80% does not allow schools flexibility to meet the needs of diverse student populations. Additionally, non-academicfield trips and assemblies will no longer count as instructional time. This is vague language that might result in some principals fearing that they must eliminate many or all field trips and assemblies in order to be in compliance.

With all these concerns, with all these organizations united in the request for nothing more than a deeper study of these rule changes prior to implementation, why did the State School Board decide to forge ahead? Could it be that the original complaint was brought by the Portland Parent Coalition, a group which counts among its members none other than Julia Brim Edwards? In case you are unfamiliar with Ms. Edwards, let me introduce you. She currently is employed by Nike as Senior Director of Global Strategy & Operations; Government and Public Affairs. She also serves on the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) to which she was appointed by Governor Kitzhaber. You can view her LinkedIn profile here.

The undue influence of Nike and the Oregon Business Association on our governor and his appointed Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton, and apparently the appointed State School Board as well, is unacceptable. When one small group of parents can push through their agenda over the protests of virtually every group representing all of Oregons students, this is cronyism at its most blatant. But hey, its good to be queen.

Its time for us to take back our schools. Please contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about this rule change.