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

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