Opt Out? YES!
In June, 2015 Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill that would make it easier for parents to opt their children out of high stakes testing. Curiously, almost immediately, she told parents they shouldn't do it. Confused? Don't be. It took a tremendous grassroots effort against business leaders and some politicians to pass the Opt Out bill. Here are some reasons why parents should run, not walk, to opt their students out of the SBAC. This article was recently printed in the CHALKBOARD newsletter (not to be confused with Chalkboard Project) of the Oregon Retired Teachers Association. It is reprinted here with permission from its author, Pat Eck, co-founder of Angry Grandparents Against High Stakes Testing (A.G.A.H.S.T.)
Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed HB2655, the Opt Out of high-stakes testing bill, into law earlier this summer. School districts will now inform parents of their right to opt their children out of tests such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) for any reason not just for religious belief or disability. There is much discussion on the pros and cons of opting children out of the SBAC. Many business leaders and government officials favor high stakes testing while many parents, grandparents, and educators do not.
Sometimes it becomes critically important for grandparents to exercise the lessons of their lifetimes and speak out against an abuse of common sense. This is one of those times. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a high-stakes test that is doing harm to children, school staff and communities. Elders can play a key role in stopping the damage being done by the SBAC and guiding our public schools toward positive reforms.
Why is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) a mistake?
This assessment harms children by:
Stressing children out with a test that 60% or more are expected to fail
Stifling creative learning.
Reducing teaching/learning time (Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the nation with an average being 165 school days compared to the national average of 180 days).
Further reducing time on meaningful learning tasks by forfeiting an estimated 1/3 of the school year to preparing for and taking the SBAC.
Reducing available money for certified school librarians, art/music/vocational program, support staff, and materials.
Taking away the child’s privacy with the potential misuse of their personal information
This assessment harms teachers by:
Forcing teachers to teach to an invalid test.
Taking away professional decision making.
Unfairly evaluating teachers by the use of a tool that was not designed for this purpose.
This assessment harms schools by:
Reducing school funding.
Mislabeling successful schools as “failures”.
The No Child Left Behind test and punish reforms are a failure. We need to focus on reforms that are evidence based and are designed to benefit children, teachers and their communities.
Paul “Pat” Eck has BS and M.Ed. degrees in education; 27 years experience in public schools as a teacher, sp. ed. teacher, school counselor, school psychometrist, special education director/teacher and school principal. Co-author: Voices From the Wilderness, an Idea Book for Rural Health Educators.