This summer, thanks to the leadership of Lew Frederick and several other long-time education advocates, the state legislature took an important step to curb high-stakes testing in Oregon. The adoption of HB 2655 allows parents to opt their children out of state testing, particularly the Smarter Balanced Assessment, without having to give a reason. Previously, opting-out was only allowed for religious beliefs or a student’s disability.
HB2655 was an important check on the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), which has consistently refused to acknowledge t
he many destructive elements of high-stakes testing. But rather than recognize these problems, which led 10 percent of high school juniors to opt out of SBAC last year, ODE has snubbed the legislature and turned the notification requirement in HB2655 on its head. At issue currently is ODE’s new opt-out form that requires parents to acknowledge that, in effect, they might be damaging the child’s school by opting them out of state testing, and that by not taking SBAC they would be denied “valuable information” about their child’s academic progress. What is this “valuable information” ODE is referring to, since educators can’t use SBAC as a diagnostic tool to guide instruction?
Thankfully, the Portland School Board has approved a proposal by Steve Buel to provide more accurate information to PPS parents about their rights under HB2655. The District will be attaching what Buel calls a ‘disclaimer’ to the ODE opt-out form when they send materials out to parents next year, and we will share these materials with PAT members when they are available.