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

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