Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Strong Turnout at Playdate PDX Opt Out Event!

Parents with their kids in tow flocked to Play Date PDX Sunday evening to learn how to opt their students out of high stakes standardized testing. The kid-friendly venue provided a pleasant atmosphere to share information about the worrisome test their children will be subjected to this year.  photo 41adcd85-8030-4c0a-893a-300a386411a7_zpsed85ddfa.jpg In December of 2013 the Oregon Department of Education said the new tests are needed primarily because Oregon's current tests, known as OAKS, don't cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. But parents and teachers say not so fast. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools, headed by the Opt Out of High Stakes Testing Committee chaired by LuAnne DeMarco, organized the event to share information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC (referred to as s-bac) and how parents may request that their children not be required to take the test.  photo 9f9898da-e8d9-4034-b57b-f45fc65a6ace_zps5bba15d2.jpg  photo 2b98064d-666e-413e-97f4-f89d87d5155f_zpse1e64bdb.jpg Quintessential primary teacher Emily Crum objects to the new tests for several reasons. In states where the SBAC has already been given, two-thirds of students failed. Similar results have already been projected for Oregon students. Too much time is spent preparing for tests that are developmentally inappropriate for children. The tests take away valuable teaching time and leave little time for kids to be kids. Emily asked families to create posters citing their reasons for opting out of the test.  photo 15b63937-cc9a-4934-b71d-05b92a459232_zps0cfe0c25.jpg Elizabeth Thiel (left) gave testimony before the state legislature this past week explaining why she opposed the test as a teacher and a parent. Listen to Elizabeth's fabulous speech here.  photo a40f7798-dd70-453e-9ee6-57aa8601c6fd_zpsc279bac4.jpg More than 90 people came to receive information and resources to support their decision to opt out. You can find that information and opt out forms here.  photo 590c0d26-6e31-4398-961b-b2686f044be3_zps479c713c.jpg Many parents are finding out more about the dark side of high stakes testing and are not willing to simply follow the order of the task masters who are not acting in the best interest of children. Read here why one mother and educator will be opting her children out of the SBAC.  photo 1ac50501-d8d2-449a-942a-4b8d49c42aa3_zps066d5597.jpg Oregon is not alone in questioning the efficacy of the new tests that supposedly align to the Common Core State Standards. Fair Test and United Opt Out are promoting resistance to the tests nationwide.  photo 6f6decd9-a5d0-46f5-8a02-f0f854ec9f4d_zps5eeda156.jpg  photo d761d1d4-4866-483d-84d4-78b0c5d08ce6_zpsf986d1dc.jpg  photo 07364814-fdad-42b9-be46-6b31d03f15a8_zpsb79ce441.jpg  photo fec9fd85-24e5-42d9-8d12-4afb8f2d12d6_zps44db8d21.jpg  photo e6d1171d-b69b-4ce2-a3d9-d7960315ea00_zps4b09a211.jpg Ultimately, the question becomes, "What kind of school experience do we want for our children?" Do we want schools with rich curriculum and exciting experiences, a place where teachers and children want to learn and work and play? Yes. We have the power to opt out of standardized testing!  photo 9cfbc76e-f7a7-41af-9f1a-3778fa376ebf_zps4c3a646d.jpg

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunset the OEIB

Oregon Save Our Schools completely supports the current plan to sunset the Oregon Education Investment Board as scheduled, March 15, 2016.  The OEIB was never intended to be a long-term and permanent board in our state.  Furthermore, it hasn't made much of a meaningful impact, but instead has created an expensive and ineffective bureaucracy.

Pat Muller, an ELD teacher and member of Oregon SOS, wanted to share her upcoming testimony regarding Senate Bill 215 to be heard by the Senate Education Committee this Thursday, Feb. 5th at 
1 pm. 

In her testimony, Pat provides many strong reasons to sunset the OEIB as well as proposes remedies on how to better use our state resources. 

This week, the Senate Education Committee will hear SB 215 which, at the request of Gov. Kitzhaber, seeks to extend the term of the OEIB and thus cancel the planned sunset.  Both Pat Muller and Oregon SOS call to keep the sunset plan in place.

Please contact the legislators of the Senate Education Committee and encourage them to NOT support SB 215 which seeks to keep the OEIB indefinitely:  Sen.ArnieRoblan@state.or.us, Sen.TimKnopp@state.or.us, Sen.HermanBaertschiger@state.or.us, Sen.LeeBeyer@state.or.us, Sen.SaraGelser@state.or.us, Sen.MarkHass@state.or.us, Sen.JeffKruse@state.or.us

by Pat Muller 
teacher and member of 
Oregon Save Our Schools

It’s time to stop this failed, duplicative, and expensive experiment in education bureaucracy.


·      Achievement compacts

o   Because they have not been used for anything related to actual learning, they are worthless pieces of paper that have taken up valuable educator time – time that would be better spent planning and implementing quality instruction for students.  The hours spent researching the data needed to fill out the compacts cost districts money.  You would be hard pressed to find an educator who feels this process has been effective at improving instruction.  

·      Lack of meaningful public and educator input

o   Members of the OEIB Board poorly attended a series of “roadshows” allegedly designed to elicit public input.  In one memorable event in Portland, just one OEIB member appeared before an audience of several hundred angry parents.  Throughout this sham process, public testimony given at the “input” events was subsequently ignored.  Once a proposal is made by the OEIB, it rarely changes as a result of input by any parent, teacher, or other interested party.  OEIB leadership presents the same proposals over and over again, refusing to alter plans that have been pre-ordained. 

o   “Listening sessions” were held early on in OEIB’s life.  They gathered public input in a workshop-type format that was similarly just window dressing.  The attendees were guided through a structured “input process” and then the results were written for each table, mirroring not the input, but the intent of the planners.  The results were then shared with the room.  Most of the participants’ real concerns, brought forward during these sessions, never influenced any of the OEIB’s proposals.

o   “Stakeholder” groups are stacked with corporate education privatization-oriented lobbyists and representatives from groups that could personally benefit if they are chosen to run one of the community-based programs funded with educator dollars. Some even were rewarded with a job in one of those programs.  The ODE and OEIB are employing more and more of these former lobbyists.

o   During Board meetings, members of the public have to wait until the end of many hours of meeting business for their three minutes of fame during public testimony time. Unsurprisingly, it is not possible to effectively comment on eight hours of ill-advised staff-led business in three minutes.  This does not concern OEIB members, however, because, as previously noted, testimony rarely alters a word of their plans in any case.

·      It’s concentrating power in the governor’s office.

o   The public lost the power to elect a state school superintendent, disenfranchised permanently because of the perceived ineptitude of a single officeholder.  Instead, the Governor became the superintendent in addition to his elected office.

o   Various committees have been either eliminated, moved or new committees formed and moved into a structure that was intended to sunset.  The sunset seems as though it was a ruse to get previous legislators to go along with creating the superfluous new layer of government, with the promise that it would disappear after its limited mission was accomplished, when the real plan was to invest new powers in OEIB at every opportunity so that they could later say that unraveling the OEIB would be somehow too difficult or deleterious because of all its new responsibilities.  This bill to eliminate the sunset is Exhibit A of that tactic.

·      It’s a waste of money.

o   We already have a Department of Education and Governor’s staff.  There is no reason to have yet another layer of infrastructure. Indeed, some bills in this very session jointly vest authority for program oversight in both the Department of Education AND the OEIB.  What conceivable purpose such duplication may have in terms of use of limited resources is hard to fathom.

·      There are no investments being made by this “investment” board.

o   Money is merely moved around, resulting in further reductions to core programs and increases in class sizes.  The result is not helpful to students or Oregon’s public education system.

·      Proposals are unproven by research or based on false assumptions.

o   No examples are given of how OEIB’s proposals have worked in other states.  Those who have tried to warn the Board of negative consequences are ignored.  Make no mistake: this is a political agenda, not an educational improvement strategy.

o   The assumption is made that districts are not working as hard as they can and can be “leveraged” into better results without additional investments or removal of other requirements. For those of us who have followed the deliberations of OEIB, it has been hurtful to bear witness to the many insults embedded in their conversations, terminology, and proposals of OEIB members.  Most seem to lead with palpable antipathy to our hard-working and dedicated classroom teachers.  In many cases, the sole classroom teacher of 14 Board Members is silenced, ignored, and marginalized.  Frequently, votes are 13 to 1, with the teacher providing the only objection.  Such insolence flies in the face of public regard for our educator workforce, which is deeply respected by Oregonians.

·      Equity lens:

o   A still widening achievement gap with no plan is the output of this Board.  While the OEIB appropriates the language of equity, it operates from a corporatist agenda that exploits civil rights language in the service of privatization, demonizing of public education as a system, and sliding resources out of the State School Fund and to pet organizations and even religious groups.

o   The State English Language Learner Plan has been ignored in favor of a funding formula change proposal that blames teachers for ELL students’ inability to test out of programs at an artificially accelerated pace.  Indistinguishable from the OEIB, Superintendent Saxton’s ODE is pushing this plan that actually ends resources to students in an arbitrary way – just as OEIB’s subcommittee on “accountability” desires.

·      OEIB has failed to leverage their own outcomes.

o   Kindergarten students continue to arrive not prepared for what is now taught at that level.  An investment would be in order so all students would have access to early childhood education, instead of focusing on the accountability of current program.  Most early education programs fail to pay a living wage.  Certified teachers should staff pre-school programs in public schools.

o   The kindergarten readiness assessment told us what we already knew, and resulted in no actionable outcomes or additional investment.

o   The achievement gap is widening as we focus on accountability and bring forth proposals that would cut funding to the most vulnerable populations.

o   Outcomes consist mostly of reports and metrics.  Classroom teachers see no difference now as a result of the work of OEIB.  Workload has increased more than ever as resources have never caught up to the place they were before the recession and the jobless recovery.

In short, this experiment has been an expensive disaster for public education and for the students we serve.  By its own admission, OEIB has failed to meet its objectives and remains functionally accountable to no one.  Unless the Legislature retakes its place as overseers of effective government in your one best opportunity to do so, more money will be wasted, ill-spent, and used to reward loyal friends, not to enrich students’ educational opportunities.  Don’t be fooled by the carefully crafted narrative:  this is nothing more than an ALEC-like takeover of public education.  It will not improve our schools. 

Let the sunset stand.

Proposed Remedies:

·      Allow sunset to take place.  Legislators will be pressured to “support the governor”.  

·      There’s no rush.  See if the OEIB is actually able to accomplish something toward the end of session. Change the OEIB budget to an outcomes based budget.

·      Change mission of the OEIB to implementing the Quality Education Model.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Representative Frederick Protects Parents' Rights

Oregon Save Our Schools encourages those who support a parent's right to opt his or her child out of high-stakes standardized testing to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board and let them know that testing is not providing the information and support needed, either in the classroom or in the home.  Also, contact your legislators and encourage them to support Lew Frederick's HB 2714 which supports a Parent's Right to Opt Out for any reason.  Finally, check out Opt Out resources from Oregon SOS here.

                                                        Dr. Rex Hagans

Your Editorial titled "Misguided bill would nudge parents to say 'no' to state testing: Editorial Agenda 2015” sarcastically attacks Representative Lew Frederick for sponsoring House Bill 2714, which provides that parents have the right to excuse their children from state wide assessment and directs that the school districts must provide notice of that right to parents. As one of the Co-founders of Oregon Save Our Schools, I am here to tell you that Representative Fredericks is, once again, simply doing the right thing.

It is no secret that high stakes testing has grown increasingly onerous over the years, forcing a narrowing of the curriculum, putting children and their teachers under great stress and literally sucking all the joy out of learning.

Or that the so-called "Smarter Balanced” tests have shamefully and secretively developed by non-educators and rushed to market in a red hot hurry by the huge testing concerns who stand to make billions of dollars from them. Quick - before parents (and the public at large) come to understand just how damaging they will really be.

Parents know this, and in rapidly increasing numbers, are becoming very concerned about the impact on their children. Like their children’s teachers, they know that this is a recipe for disaster.

But instead of responding to this deep concern, and following the example of many other states in calling for a pause in this ridiculous process, our Governor and his minions on the Oregon Education Investment Board have launched an all out campaign, orchestrated from the very top, to convince parents that they should not exercise their best judgment in this matter and to frighten them with thinly veiled threats of negative repercussions for their children's schools of they do decide to opt out.  

The Editorial Board now contributes to this campaign in its editorial by describing these parents as "disgruntled"- a belittling word which the dictionary equates with such terms "sulky', "peevish" "petulant" and even "malcontent."  How about “responsible”,"worried" and “informed” instead?

And for what?  There is absolutely no evidence that these tests or the standards they are intended to support will produce anything. William J. Mathis, a noted researcher from National Education Policy Center writes "No studies support a true causal relationship between national standards and economic competitiveness, and we know that nations with centralized standards generally tend to perform no better (or worse) on international tests than those without. "

Your editorial concludes "In what universe does it make sense to invest billions of dollars in a sweeping educational enterprise without any expectation that it deliver a verifiable return in the form of smarter kids?"  Wrong question.

You should be asking, "In what universe does it make sense to invest billions of dollars in a sweeping, poorly planned and disruptive educational enterprise without any evidence that it can deliver a more vibrant and engaging education to our children?" And to that question as you so glibly put it, "Surely not this one, Frederick's colleagues must agree."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Oregonian's Misguided Push to Restrict Parents' Rights

Oregon Save Our Schools encourages those who support a parent's right to opt his or her child out of high-stakes standardized testing to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board and let them know that testing is not providing the information and support needed, either in the classroom or in the home.  Also, contact your legislators and encourage them to support Lew Frederick's HB 2714 which supports a Parent's Right to Opt Out for any reason.  Finally, check out Opt Out resources from Oregon SOS here.

                             by Kathleen Jeskey

The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board published this yesterday. What is truly misguided is The Oregonians defense of an attempted government takeover of our local schools from the top down. Our public schools should be democratic institutions, with elected school boards and community oversight. They should not be controlled by people from far away who do not know our children.

Lew Frederick’s bill allowing parents to opt their child out for any reason is the right thing to do. Parents have not just a right, but a responsibility, to protect their children from harm. 

If significant numbers of parents around the country, both “conservative” and “liberal”, believe these new Common Core tests are not in their children’s best interest, they should be listened to. 

When both parents and teachers are telling you something is not in the childrens best interests, its time for our lawmakers to listen. 

When respected administrators, professors and historians of education in Oregon, like Professor Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon, and across the country Joseph Rella  of New York, Stephen Krashen of California, and Diane Ravitch, former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton (to name just a few) say it, having the Oregonian mock those parents is insulting. 

Also insulting is the Oregonians insistence that these tests hold any value for evaluating teachers and schools. Principal Carol Burris disagrees. So did the Washington state legislature, which refused the federal waiver from No Child Left Behind because it required the states teachers to be evaluated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The resulting threat from the US Department of Education to withhold federal dollars from the state again points up the overly intrusive nature of the federal government in local matters of education.

This should not even be a question. Parents should have the right to opt their child out of standardized, high stakes testing. Email your legislator, and support HB 2714, Lew Frederick’s Opt Out bill! 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SWOOSH! It’s Good To Be Queen

by Kathleen Jeskey

On Thursday, the Oregon State Board of Education approved a rule change which will require many districts to increase instructional time, also known as seat time, for students.  This decision was made in spite of the Board hearing from Oregon State Employees Association (OSEA) the Oregon Education Association (OEA) the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) and the Oregon Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that this rule change should not be made at this time.

While all of these organizations representing Oregon school employees, teachers, principals, superintendents and parents agree that we need to make this change for our students, all were also united in stating that it should not be done without serious study of the fiscal impact this would have on schools and districts, since no increase in funding is attached to this rule change. Many representatives of these groups are concerned because some Oregon districts that have chosen to preserve programs such as PE and music, or retain smaller class sizes rather than increase instructional hours, may be required to add as much as three weeks to their school calendars with no additional funding. The result of this would then be cutting programs or increasing class size due to the necessity to lay off staff; as one Oregon teacher said when she heard the news of this rule change, Just when things were starting to get slightly less horrible.

The rule change was adopted very quickly, with a timeline of only about three months between the initial reading of the proposed amendment and its adoption. There were only a handful of public hearings. You can read testimony from the December hearing (held three days before Christmas) here.

Some concerns result from the language of the hastily adopted amendment. For example, many believe that language that states that “ ‘Instructional time means time during which students are engaged in regularly scheduled instructionworking under the direction and supervision of a licensed or registered teacher…” will eliminate counting Outdoor School as instructional time. This would virtually kill the Outdoor Science School program that has been a capstone activity for over 200,000 sixth graders and a valuable learning experience for over 50,000 high school students who have served as counselors throughout Oregon since 1968.

Other examples of language in the rule change that is concerning include the requirement that 80% of students must receive minimum hours of instructional time. This fails to take into account special education students who may need to be on a reduced schedule, alternative education students whose schedule may be different, or students in poverty who may need to work in order to help their families make ends meet. Setting an arbitrary requirement of 80% does not allow schools flexibility to meet the needs of diverse student populations. Additionally, non-academicfield trips and assemblies will no longer count as instructional time. This is vague language that might result in some principals fearing that they must eliminate many or all field trips and assemblies in order to be in compliance.

With all these concerns, with all these organizations united in the request for nothing more than a deeper study of these rule changes prior to implementation, why did the State School Board decide to forge ahead? Could it be that the original complaint was brought by the Portland Parent Coalition, a group which counts among its members none other than Julia Brim Edwards? In case you are unfamiliar with Ms. Edwards, let me introduce you. She currently is employed by Nike as Senior Director of Global Strategy & Operations; Government and Public Affairs. She also serves on the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) to which she was appointed by Governor Kitzhaber. You can view her LinkedIn profile here.

The undue influence of Nike and the Oregon Business Association on our governor and his appointed Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton, and apparently the appointed State School Board as well, is unacceptable. When one small group of parents can push through their agenda over the protests of virtually every group representing all of Oregons students, this is cronyism at its most blatant. But hey, its good to be queen.

Its time for us to take back our schools. Please contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about this rule change. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Who's Threatening Our Kids' Future?

by Kathleen Jeskey

Jonah Edelmans recent opinion piece in The Daily Beast is a classically beautiful batch of snake oil. The thing that makes it so beautiful is that it combines just enough truth and righteous indignation (over things about which one should be righteously indignant) with the deception of a slick ad campaign to make it palatable and easy to swallow. But like any classic snake oil, we shouldnt expect it to offer relief from the problems it purports to cure.

Edelman begins by informing us that Congress may be about to actually do something and rewrite the long-overdue-for-renewal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) known in its current form as No Child Left Behind. Those of us who have been waiting and hoping for a reauthorization and renewal of ESEA since 2007, one that might correct the errors in its incarnation as NCLB, begin to feel hopeful.

Next he invokes the history of ESEA, which has its original roots in Lyndon Johnsons War on Poverty and was born during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. And clearly, we continue to face those same issues today. Once again, there are those who wish to deny assistance to people who live in poverty and blame the poor rather than the system that creates their living conditions. Once again, there are those who would like to have a separate schooling system for their children. Once again we have those who are trying to ensure that all children have access to equal educational opportunity no matter their address, income, or the color of their skin. But today, those lines of conflict are not as clearly drawn. They have become quite blurry, and some of us believe that might not be an accident.

Edelman continues to speak about NCLB and even defend it somewhat, since after all, it exposed grossly unequal educational outcomes and motivated a range of efforts across the country to address the low performance of low-income children and children of color. He then says that the law was nonetheless flawed, and particularly in its stated goal of 100% proficiency by 2014, which he rightfully mocks as ridiculous.

But then come the corporate reform talking points: The federal government has offered incentives; they want to offer more choices to parents; they want to strengthen teaching through more accurate educator evaluations. We are reminded that these reform ideas are all state-based, however. And of course, we need more rigor in there somewhere.

He then returns to a statement with which I and many others agree: that there must be some accountability to federal law by state and local schools, since without meaningful federal oversight many children will be put at risk of not receiving an equal educational opportunity. However, I and many others are beginning to wonder if the current brand of federal oversight is capable of providing the equal opportunity that should indeed be its responsibility. It seems to be working in the opposite direction. I believe the definition of meaningful must be what Mr. Edelman and I disagree on.

And then comes the deception. Theres also talk by states rights advocates of no longer requiring annual testing by states, which would deny parents and educators valuable information about whether students are on track, reduce the ability to measure and improve teacher quality, and make it harder for administrators to know how schools are doing and when they need to intervene. Ironically, this is being proposed just as smarter assessments come online that will more accurately measure student learning, including their ability to think critically, solve problems, and write.

Really? States rights advocates?  Not teachers and parents. Its those states rights advocates.  The ones who want little to no federal oversight.  I know those people exist, but Edelman paints everyone who disagrees with annual high stakes testing for every student in America on the same set of standards with an incredibly broad brush. And then hes right back to the corporate reform talking points: How will parents and teachers know if kids are on track without those tests? How will we measure teacher quality without those tests? How will we know how our schools are doing without those tests? And come on! The tests are smarter now. I bet he thinks theyre more balanced as well.

Clearly we have known since at least the 1960s that children who live in poverty need more support. When will we stop measuring that fact and start to actually do something about the roots of poverty? Clearly there continue to be those who wish to deny the civil rights of all children. But just who are those people? Are they the ones who believe that the federal government should serve and support communities and require a democratic process for decisions made about our schools? Or are they the ones who are attempting to sell us snake oil, a Common Cure for what ails us?

He ends by mentioning the sign that famously sat on Harry Trumans desk: The Buck Stops Here. Sadly, today that sign would probably be sitting over the door to the banks where the snake oil salesmen deposit their money.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action: Oregon SOS Opt Out

Oregon SOS Opt Out Video

With the Smarter Balanced tests looming this spring, teachers are now being advised to give kids practice time to get used to the test; teach keyboarding, not for research projects--but for the test; order curriculum that helps with being comfortable online--for the test; teach writing--for the test; it is time to really start thinking about not only the increased cost to implement this test, but also, more importantly,  the lack of validity and value that these tests provide to teachers and students.

These tests have been piloted, but not calibrated.  The Portland Public School Board has so far voted to not have the SBAC count as a valid measure in their Achievement Compact.  The Oregon Education Association has been allowed by Arne Duncan to not have teacher evaluations tied to the results of the tests--yet.   OEA members have demanded a moratorium on these tests until they are researched and evaluated.

The tests are taking hours beyond expected.  Students are overwhelmed and frustrated.  Teachers have had little or no time to understand and learn what the SBAC expects, let alone teach students how to prepare for it--even though, many argue, teaching to a test isn't teaching authentically.  And then of course, there is this: quality instructional time being lost in order to have students learn how to prepare and perform for a test that has no strong calibration set yet, has technological difficulties, is unreliable, and has an extremely high failure rate.

So those that are truly left to struggle and feel the negative effect--are the children.  The students.

This is nothing but disgraceful.

In light that the adults and school districts in this get a pass until the process is evaluated, one has to wonder why this is allowed?

The only answer really seems to be that the testing company needs more data to strengthen their need to calibrate.  This means,  students are guinea pigs.  The testing companies get to use our students to put their product on trial--at the expense of taxpayers, money not going into the classroom, and children feeling stressed and demoralized.

However, until legislators, school board members, administrators, and superintendents start to question and stand up for our children (teachers have a harder time as they could lose their job) parents do have the power and the right to opt their child out of these tests.

Check out our easy to access opt out information here. Oh, and enjoy the show of our Opt Out video that reminds us why opting out of high-stakes testing is important.

“There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old "accountable" for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.” 
― Jonathan KozolThe Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America