Dear Oregon Education Leaders,
As ESSA is rolling out in our state, we urge you to take a stand against the past practices begun with NCLB that created a test and punish accountability system. This system was in place for 15 years and did nothing to improve our schools.
We have read Salam Noor’s letter to Secretary John King commenting on the proposed ESSA regulations. While we appreciate Dr. Noor’s requests to drop the requirement King proposes for a single summative rating in favor of a dashboard approach to measures of school success as well as his request to allow states to determine, with community input, what measures should appear on state report cards, we wish that his to allow states the time to develop and incorporate “innovative measures of accountability” were a little more direct.
What we believe that Dr. Noor is trying to get at with the “innovative measures” comment is the fact that Smarter Balanced has been an utter and abject failure, as has every other standardized measure of achievement, at truly measuring how well schools serve our students and communities. Smarter Balanced in fact represented a doubling down on reliance on a very limited measure of student success and achievement, as well as school quality, with a singular focus on test scores in two subject areas. We wish that Dr. Noor had been more direct in condemning not only Smarter Balanced, but the entire failed system of using test scores to drive school improvement and had stated that Oregonians intend to work together to create a new path that uses assessment FOR learning and demands a system of accountability related to inputs in at least equal measure to outcomes.
We would like to share with you the statement that the Vermont State Board of Education sent to Secretary King because we believe that this is what true education leaders should be shouting to the rooftops: the test and punish system has failed. Tweaking it won’t fix it. It is time to support and fund a well rounded education for ALL students. The gap that must be closed is an opportunity gap, not an achievement gap. Further, requiring all children to meet some sort of time table to achieve a certain number of points on a scale, particularly when there is no attempt to equalize support to those children let alone provide extra support to children who need more, is nothing less than a Sisyphean task that dooms our schools and many individual children to a perpetual label of “failing”. This is why Oregon citizens worked together to pass an Opt Out bill: we refuse to condemn our children to this dysfunctional cycle. We are quite stunned that this was not mentioned in Dr. Noor’s letter. We hope that the will of the people of our state will be supported by our state officials, regardless of any decisions that ultimately come out of Washington, DC.
It is time to demand clearly and resoundingly a system that puts student assessment and education plans in the hands of professional educators and families and moves away from one-size-fits-all arbitrary timelines and cut scores. It is time to end what the Vermont Board referred to as the “commoditization” of our schools. It is also time to demand that all students are provided with adequate and equitable resources and that local communities are allowed to select and teach curriculum that is culturally responsive to the needs of each community. This is the only way that each child can become his or her best self. It is our job as adults who care for them to demand that.
Oregon Save Our Schools