Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New English-Learners Test Rolled Out, Though Not Ready and Harmful

On September 24 at the Oregon Department of Education’s Title III Directors webinar, the directors heard about some changes in the ELPA21 test that could potentially discriminate against English Language Learners.

This slide from the meeting shows the shocking news that was revealed. The new ELPA21 test will be rolled out on time despite dangers to students, civil rights issues, and that it isn’t ready yet.

Historically, ELPA (English Language Proficiency Assessment) scores come before the end of the school year and decisions about whether students can be exited or continue to receive services are triggered by that score. Each district or consortium has an approved Lau plan, which outlines identification and exiting procedures, and the ELPA score is an important part of the body of evidence used to make exiting decisions. The ODE also stated that most of the assessments that have been part of that body of evidence can no longer be used as they are not aligned to the new standards.

The effect of the data delay will result in students and teachers not knowing what to do in order to meet the requirements for exiting the program and many students’ status in the ELL (English Language Learners) program will be in limbo. Schools will have difficulty in planning for staffing requirements for the 2016-17 school year. Students could miss out on the chance to get their desired electives or other graduation requirements because it will be unknown if they have to take an English Language Development class. Older students and their parents have become accustomed to hearing students’ exiting status at the end of the year, and look forward to their “graduation” from the program.

To make matters even worse, it was also announced that the adaptive algorithm will not be functioning this year. The test will not be adaptive resulting in additional testing time and student anxiety. And the practice test for ELPA 21 will not be ready on time so students can practice with Oregon’s platform.

The above factors all point to the need for a delay in the implementation of the ELPA21 test. To go forward with this test in the manner described is further cause for concern that the state is using students as uncompensated test subjects, who have not given informed consent to participate in the validation of an unproven test.

Once again, as with SBAC, the data collection has become more important than the kids.

Video of the meeting:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Morning musings on NEA and the Wall Street shuffle to pre-K


By Rex Hagans

I awoke this morning to a C-SPAN rerun of "Newsmakers with Lily Eskelsen Garcia" in which one of interviewers was Emily DeRuy, who covers education for National Journal's Next America project. DeRuy previously reported on politics and education for Fusion, the ABC News-Univision joint venture.

Ms. DeRuy almost immediately made the hair on the back of my neck stand up both in her questions to Eskelsen, and in the post-interview analysis where she pretty much trashed NEA for making common cause with the Republicans on accountability and for "breaking with the current administration." She essentially said NEA was now a paper tiger.  When her fellow interviewer from EdWeek noted that he would be cautious about that view, she cited declining union membership and was essentially completely dismissive.

So I just had to check DeRuy out and in that process, I came across some interesting work of hers at NationalJournal.com: "Charter Schools Are Especially Good for ELL Students" and
"Is Wall Street Starting to Recruit in Pre-K? - Proponents of early childhood education are willing to follow the money" [Links not working when we posted this - Ed.]

That "Wall Street " article really got my attention because I believe that:
  • Early Childhood is the next and even more dangerous route the corporate raiders and philanthropic philanderers intend to take in their quest to control and distort public education.
  • We have already seen that door opened a bit here in Oregon, with the passage of HB 3380, which will cost about $27 million and open around 2,700 additional subsidized preschool spots to 3 and 4-year-olds. As I understand it, a big part of this bill allows for public money to flow to private preschool providers, essentially to ensure that we will be moving toward more "high quality" than would have been the case if all of the money had simply gone to proven programs like Head Start to expand the numbers of kids served. In case you missed it, this one passed at the very end of the session, and only after some hard fought negotiations. Some skeptics believe that it only got done after a big chunk of the change was designated for Head Start programs, causing the Head Start leadership to switch from opposition to extolling the virtues of HB 3380 to the very heavens.

Be that as it may, the passage of HB3380 set off a major celebration among the philanthropic "in" crowd, as per this article from The Children's Institute of Portland.

SO as I end my thoughtful meanderings, and get serious about my breakfast, I am increasingly worried about just what mischief the entrenched ECC gang will bring to our door going forward. While our "victories" in opting out, helping to hand Kitzhaber his hat, and (hopefully) at least slowing the crazy testing down have been really fun, I think we have just scratched the surface of the powers out there working constantly to "reform" public education into their own privatized and elite vision. We need to keep looking ahead!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Standing Strong With the Dyett Hunger Strikers

Oregon SOS values several ideas about public education.  Two that are very important are honoring parent voice and supporting neighborhood schools. We are also supportive of social justice issues.  All these issues have convened at Dyett High School in Chicago where parents and community members have been holding a hunger strike to demonstrate the fact that their voices are being ignored and the neighborhood school is being set up for takeover by corporate interests.  We at Oregon SOS support the Dyett 12 who are protesting and standing up for their schools. Here is our official statement with links for more information about this issue.

"Oregon Save Our Schools supports the Dyett 12, who are now entering their second week of a hunger strike to save their local school in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. It is the last neighborhood high school in this community. Bronzeville, on Chicago’s South Side, was historically a major destination for African-Americans who moved north during The Great Migration. The neighborhood has been home to many illustrious African-Americans, such as Ida B. Wells and Louis Armstrong. The school is named for Walter Dyett, an Black music teacher who worked for Chicago Public Schools for 30 years between the 1930s and 1960s and whose students included, among others, Nat King Cole and Bo Diddley.

The Dyett community has banded together and worked with education experts over a period of four years to develop a proposal for keeping Dyett open as Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology School. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS appointed school board seem more disposed to privatizing the school or selling off the property for development. The community feels that the mayor and CPS board have been unresponsive to their needs and requests for dialogue.

Like many schools in low income communities and communities of color, Dyett has been systematically underfunded and neglected in favor of privatization schemes under the guise of “school choice”. It appears that “choice” is something only the well-to-do are afforded by advocates of corporate reform like Rahm Emanuel. 

Oregon Save Our Schools believes in local control of neighborhood schools and social justice. Communities of color, like Bronzeville, have been disproportionately affected by school closures, privatization and gentrification in cities around the country. We believe this is wrong.

We stand with the Dyett 12. "

#FightForDyett #WeAreDyett

To donate, go here:

To read more, go here:


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Increasing Teacher Stress is a Recipe for Disaster!

Yeats QuoteBy Rex Hagans of Oregon Save Our Schools:

At a recent meeting, it came to my attention that the Oregon Teaching Standards and Practices Commission has been receiving an increasing number of complaints about teachers who have engaged in conduct that is extremely out of the ordinary for them as individuals, or who have acted before thinking, resulting in interactions that were then judged to be unprofessional. The Commission Director indicated that she felt this was an indicator of rising stress in the teaching force.

Rising teacher stress is painfully obvious to any objective observer and is approaching epidemic proportions. We must change it before we completely lose the excellent teachers that we now have.

But this is only the latest reminder about the scope of the problem that I have encountered. This really should not be news to those who make educational policy. Two different studies now nearly two years old sounded the alarm loud and clear. Unfortunately, both have been alternatively “spun” or just plain ignored.

One was the 2012 release of the prestigious MetLife Survey of the American Teacher - Challenges for School Leadership. This was the twenty-ninth in a series sponsored annually by MetLife since 1984 to give voice to those closest to the Classroom.

The other is the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (2013).

The way in which these two were presented to the public, however, was strikingly different. The Atlantic headlined its story on the MetLife survey "Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits 25-Year Low" and said:
Principal and teacher job satisfaction is declining. Principals’ satisfaction with their jobs in the public schools has decreased nine percentage points since it was last measured in 2008. In that same period, teacher satisfaction has dropped precipitously by 23 percentage points, including a five-point decrease in the last year, to the lowest level it has been in the survey in 25 years. A majority of teachers report that they feel under great stress at least several days a week, a significant increase from 1985 when this was last measured.
But Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education, and Dr. Shane Lopez, Gallup Senior Scientist, writing about the findings of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index chose a much sunnier headline "Teaching May Be the Secret to a Good Life", saying:
According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a career in teaching may be the secret to the good life. Never mind the media reports that make teaching in America look like a horrible job; it may be one of the best careers for a person’s well-being.
Teachers beat out investment bankers, consultants, accountants, engineers, sales professionals, and entrepreneurs on how they rate their lives overall. When thinking about their life on a scale of 0-10 — with 0 being the worst possible life and 10 being the best possible life, teachers rate their lives higher than all other professions surveyed, except physicians. Further, teachers are No. 3 among the professions surveyed in terms of saying they get to “use their strengths and do what they do best every day.”
This was trumpeted widely by those who would have us believe that Oregon teachers love the Common Core and the many other key attributes of ex-Governor Kitzhaber’s education reform — Stand for Children chief among them. But these cheerleaders for the failed education policies of Obama somehow failed to take public note of the following passage in the Gallup blog, which stated:
The only obstacle in our way, however, may be the workplace in schools themselves. Despite enjoying top marks in overall wellbeing, teachers rank toward the bottom (eighth out of 14) of the professions surveyed on one very important element of well being: work environment. They rank sixth in saying their “supervisor treats me more like a partner than a boss.” And they are dead-last — 14th, behind coal miners and truck drivers — in saying their “supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open.” They are also dead last in saying they were “treated with respect all day yesterday,” and experience the second-highest stress level across all occupations. And according to Gallup’s workplace engagement surveys, 31% of teachers are “engaged,” which ranks sixth overall behind farmers and fishermen, nurses, physicians, managers, and business owners. We have to fix this.
Oregon policy makers must heed this continuing message and make teacher motivation our number one education policy priority. Instead of mouthing the catchy but sketchy Lake Woebegone-esque quest for "A World Class Teacher in Every Classroom”, Oregon needs to recognize that our teachers are already a highly skilled and dedicated group and switch their focus to take action to assure a motivated teacher in every classroom.

We can and should begin with ending the Smarter Balanced Assessment and its Kafkaesque demands and processes that are causing our teachers to be unwilling accomplices in damaging their kids!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Washington Tribal Leaders Strongly Question Standardized Education and Testing

Robey Clark, a member of Oregon Save Our Schools, shared with us a letter that was sent to Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn by the governing tribes of the Washington State Tribal Compact Schools on June 5th, 2015. Mr. Dorn has yet to respond to the tribes.

As Kathleen Hagans Jeskey, of her Teacher Talks Truth blog, (she is also an Oregon BAT and member of Oregon Save Our Schools as well) states in her post regarding the tribal letter, "The sentiment in this letter can be broadly applied not only to Native students but to all students.  Our public schools are diverse. Students deserve to have their cultures recognized and respected. They deserve lessons that engage and speak to them, and they deserve to be evaluated in an authentic way. We must bring the humanity back to our schools. "

Thank you Robey Clark for sharing this with the public.

Their official letter is presented below:


We, the governing tribes of the Washington State Tribal compact schools, hope to break the chronic cycle of failure among schools serving American Indian reservations. We intend to capitalize upon the opportunity presented by this new Tribal Compact School law by promoting the adoption of teaching practices which we believe to be more congruent with tribal cultures. In support of this effort, we intend to foster some important reforms in educational accountability methods that will encourage and reward a change in practice.

In recent decades, state and federal educational policy has focused on raising test scores for poor and minority students up to the general population average by the third grade (or soon after) in an effort to minimize the dropout rate. This policy has been a particular disaster for most public schools serving Indian reservations. The result has been a system that labels Indian children early; subjects them to continued remedial instruction; and fails to keep them engaged after the 4th grade. The over-emphasis on early grade test scores has evolved into a self-fulfilling (and self-perpetuating) prophecy of failure for Indian students. We believe it is this labeling effect, coupled with limited instructional methods that cause many if not most dropouts.

The Iroquois Sachem Canasatego once said to the English colonists of his time, “...you who are so wise must know that different Nations have different Conceptions of things and you will, therefore, not take it amiss if our Ideas of this kind of Education happen not to be the same as yours. We have had some Experience of it...”.

Our experience has been that our schools have diligently tried to adopt “research based” models and “data based decision making” as primary methods for school improvement for years now. For the past 15 years, federal policy has placed more and higher stakes on test results. So much weight has been placed upon them that, standardized tests have become an end unto themselves. Something must change. We do not accept that standardized testing defines the potential or truly measures the growth of our children in any meaningful way. Therefore, as sovereign tribal governments, shouldering the new responsibilities under the state compact, we feel it is our duty to make a change toward authentic assessment and accountability. If Indian students are motivated, they will succeed. It is our goal to create places where our children and young adults wish to be and where there is an inherent expectation and tradition of success.

In recent years, the state has commissioned and adopted assessments, such as the High School Proficiency Test (HSPE) and End of Course (EOC) exams, which have only served to make the student disengagement and dropout problem worse. Now, with the coming adoption of the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) testing will take a quantum leap toward becoming much longer, more difficult, and demanding even greater attention. We believe that we cannot test our way to success. We have walked far enough down this path and are determined to change direction. Therefore, we are proposing a five-year moratorium from standardized testing in Tribal compact schools. During this time, we propose to develop a new evaluation paradigm based on applied learning and public demonstration. During this development period, we will use formative tests and/or other tools chosen by our staff to monitor progress and assist in teaching. We will develop a viable alternative evaluation system equaling or surpassing the rigor of state adopted testing. In addition, we will demonstrate American Indian student attendance and graduation rates that match or exceed state averages. Although intended for reservation-based districts, we hope such a system might be used by any district experiencing this chronic syndrome of failure.

We will call upon our schools to develop ways to teach content and to hone student academic skills through authentic work for real life purposes rather than to depend mainly upon passive and abstract classroom instruction. These methods may further enhance Indian student learning as they more closely resemble historical tribal teaching practices. Traditionally, our children learned specific skills within the context of an immediate and worthwhile task. As students progress toward later grades, authentic instruction should increase and passive classroom instruction decrease. To support these proposed reforms, we intend to provide our schools an evaluation model based upon public demonstration to the community. We will give our professional educational staff the flexibility to re-organize as necessary and to experiment in developing more deeply engaging educational experiences. In addition, we will find new ways to evaluate and award credit for the work completed outside the classroom. The teachers will work in teams to share the burden and include high school students in yearly planning.

We will require our schools to initiate formal public demonstrations of student work that meet the highest level of state standards, so that the tribe and community may appreciate the quality and value of the school. The demonstrations may include but are not limited to: individual or group projects in science and applied math; performance in music and dance; displays of art and literary work; student enterprises and worthy deeds for the school, tribe or community. The demonstrations will be challenging enough to show high skills and/or thorough understanding by students. Such demonstrations will also serve to help WOSPI to evaluate student accomplishments in terms of the state standards. We anticipate that the institution of such events will not only serve as a new method to evaluate student work but will also help rally our communities to support their schools.

To us, making sure all students graduate “on time” is not as important as making sure that all do indeed graduate as mature capable individuals with knowledge and skills to go forth in their chosen path. Our students will receive a diploma when each is ready to present herself or himself before the community with a portfolio that shows she or he is ready for college, skilled career training or the everyday work world. By the same token, this also means a student may graduate early by petition if they demonstrate extraordinary ability or talent and can meet the standards. As the vision stated in: From Where the Sun Rises: Addressing the Educational Achievement of Native Americans in Washington State--Delivered to the Washington Legislature, December 30, 2008--"Indian education dates back to a time when all children were identified as gifted and talented. Each child had a skill and ability that would contribute to the health and vitality of the community. Everyone in the community helped to identify and cultivate these skills and abilities. The elders were entrusted to oversee this sacred act of knowledge being shared. That is our vision for Indian education today."

Friday, July 31, 2015

Get the Scoop! What You Need to Know About Kindergarten Testing and Opting Out

Photo credit: by sarah-ji at Creative Commons.

Please join Oregon Save Our Schools for an important parent information session  particularly designed for parents of incoming kindergarteners. While geared toward this specific audience, all parents and community members are welcome. The sessions are free and open to the public.

This is information you will NOT be getting from your school district or teachers prior to the first week of school when most kindergarteners in Oregon are administered the state mandated OKA (Oregon Kindergarten Assessment) also sometimes referred to as the KRA (Kindergarten Readiness Assessment) at all publicly funded schools (including charters). 

That’s right- these days in Oregon children are introduced to their first high-stakes standardized test in kindergarten-often on the first day or within the first week of school. Most parents don’t know anything about it as it’s presented as being part of a “meet-n-greet” get to know you time. 

Come find out what this assessment is and isn’t, how its data is and isn’t used, and hear first-hand from actual kindergarten teachers what they think about it and how it informs their work. Learn about how the Common Core standards that the test is based on have quickly changed the way kindergarten is being taught. Get information on the origin and history of these changes and better understand sweeping “education reforms” are impacting our publicly funded schools and how. Information on how to “opt-out” will be available as well.  One shorter session will provide information and time to answer questions.  The two hour sessions will also include the viewing of the documentary Education Inc. with a discussion to follow.


3 DATES/2 LOCATIONS/THREE TIMES- all at Multnomah County Library locales

1)             August 20th THURSDAY                 
                MIDLAND LIBRARY          
                805 SE 122nd Ave Portland                           
                Large Meeting Room    
                6:30-7:30 pm

This event will provide important information about kindergarten assessments and opting out.

2)             August 21st FRIDAY                         
                North Portland Library   
                512 N. Killingsworth St.  Portland              
                Upstairs Large Room    
                10:30 am - 12:30 pm

This session will provide important information about kindergarten assessments and opting out as well as a showing of Education Inc., a documentary that examines broadly and deeply how corporate interests are impacting public education. Kindergarten information session will be held for the first hour. Movie showing and discussion will follow.  

3)             August 23rd SUNDAY                     
                North Portland Library   
                512 N. Killingsworth St. Portland                
                Upstairs Large Room    
                2:30-4:30 pm

This session will provide important information about kindergarten assessments and opting out as well as a showing of Education Inc., a documentary that examines broadly and deeply how corporate interests are impacting public education. Kindergarten information session will be held for the first hour. Movie showing and discussion will follow.  

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

HB 2655: Oregon Parents Deserve Testing and Opt Out Information Now

This session has been promising for Oregon.  Education issues have been on the minds of our legislators more than ever.

However, one bill in particular has been surprisingly somewhat controversial.

We are talking about HB 2655: The Assessment Bill of Rights and Opt Out Bill.

Now this is a good bill, and Oregon SOS strongly supports it.  The Oregon Education Association supports it as well.
It is a bill that serves the people, parents, students, the public.
It is a bill that fosters information, transparency, and consistency about state testing and opt out rights.

One has to wonder why it has been so hard to get it passed with ease.  Really, it should have been on the Governor's desk by now. 

The answer is simple:  it is a classic case of the public good vs corporate interests

There is a lot of money to be made from high-stakes testing.  And such testing fosters a business model for our public schools.   Such testing fosters a narrative of failure for our public schools.  Such a narrative will open up the potential to have our public schools become charters or go into receivership.  Such testing will try to break down teacher unions as well.  Such testing will label students, schools, and teachers as failures or as a number, and this is wrong.  Our public schools should be held as untouchable and protected as a foundation of our democracy.

Informing parents to include opting out rights stops the business model in its tracks because it denies the existence of the data they crave to justify their plan and corporate policy making.

What this bill does is simple:  it creates a single statewide opt out form, informs parents and students of the purpose, schedule, and information provided by state tests before the school year starts, explains their rights regarding opting out, and allows parents to opt their child out of high-stakes testing for any reason.

So why is this such a problem for some folks?

The corporate reformers such as Stand for Children and Chalkboard feel that without high-stakes testing there is no accountability for our public schools.  They also feel that it helps keep students from falling through the cracks if they are struggling.  They feel these tests are a simple "check up" and good for kids much like taking your vitamins or eating your spinach.

They couldn't be more wrong.

But ultimately, that isn't really the point of this bill. 

The point of this bill is to allow parents to make an informed decision and exercise their rights in a manner that is simple and easy.

This bill passed the House, despite the fact that some representatives, who align themselves with the corporate reformers such as Stand for Children, tried to derail or weaken the bill.  A compromise was delivered which allowed the bill to be in effect for six years before sunsetting as Oregon works to make a transition away from high-stakes testing to a more authentic and valid assessment system that our students deserve.

Then the bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee with a "do pass" recommendation, with only one 'no' vote by Senator Hass.

Now the bill is headed for a vote in the Senate, but suddenly it is stuck in the Rules Committee, as a new amendment (A15) has cropped up that seeks to delay notifying parents for a year of their rights and of the testing information.

Say what?!

Who wants to keep parents in the dark for another year?

Again, this bill is about transparency.  But groups like Stand for Children, Chalkboard, and the Oregon Business Association fear their gains in power and influence with state education policy will dissolve if high-stakes testing becomes a thing of the past.  And their fears are hopefully right.  Their approach is not good for our schools, and in fact, has shown no closing of any kind of achievement or opportunity gap since the inception of NCLB.

And corporate reformers are also highly supportive of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and all his federal policy making as well.  This policy making has supported tying funding to the implementation of such policies. And when you tie funding to policy, that goes down the road of blackmail and loss of state control.  Some fear we will lose money if parents know they can opt out and exercise their right to do so.  So far no school has lost money.  This fear is unfounded and puts the interests of money before children and parents.

Our parents need to know the truth and they need to know their options.  They need to be able to make an informed decision, and our legislature needs to help them.

Please contact the Senate Rules Committee and voice your support for this bill without Amendment 15 and to then ask to have it sent to the floor for vote.

Senate Rules Committee contact information:


Then contact your State Senator and recommend they do the right thing and vote yes on HB 2655A without the amendment to delay notification.

Parents deserve to be informed in a transparent way.  They can then decide what is best for their family using simple, clear, and consistent information.  The state shouldn't have the right to deny them that.

Parents will make their voices heard, and at the end of the day, who will they trust?  Teachers and those who supported their rights.  Not those who stood in their way.