- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) - The Springfield School Board urged parents and guardians to allow their children to opt out of the state-mandated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.

Calling the test an “ineffective measure of student growth and accountability,” the five-member board unanimously approved a statement Monday recommending that parents and guardians “strongly consider exercising their right” under state law to “opt out their student from the Smarter Balanced test.”

The test is designed to assess students’ knowledge of the Common Core standards, a set of learning goals for each grade level that most states, including Oregon, have adopted.

Board Chairman Jonathan Light said the test was never created for students’ benefit.

“It was designed to compare districts and teachers, not to help students learn,” he said. “As a board member, I just don’t feel like it’s OK to encourage our students to participate in something that doesn’t help them in any way.”

Light said he wants other districts to follow suit.

“I really feel like school boards have to stand up for what’s right for their students,” Light said. “We all need to come together and say something. If we could all do it, it would make a huge difference.”

A state law passed last June gives parents the right to opt out their children for at least the next six school years. It requires schools to notify parents and students of that right at the start of each year.

Before last June, parents could opt their children out of the test only because of a disability or religious reasons.

The board’s statement contains a list of what it described as problems with the Smarter Balanced test. They include the test being too long - third-grade students spend about seven hours per year testing, and high school students spend about 8½ hours, neither of which includes time spent preparing for the test, the statement said.

The state spends about $27.5 million on the Smarter Balanced test, the board’s statement said, which is far more the $3 million it spent on the former OAKS test, the statement said.

“These dollars could be spent in other, more productive areas for our students,” the statement said.

The statement also said the test is technologically unfair and discriminatory - especially for special needs students; its content and format is different from other nationally recognized tests like the SAT and ACT; and it’s highly stressful for many students.

“In summary, the Springfield Board of Education finds that the Smarter Balanced test is neither smart nor balanced,” the statement said. “It is poorly designed, discriminatory, often punitive and is of little benefit to our students. It does not inform student learning and, furthermore, does not make the best use of limited classroom time. It encumbers teachers and staff to focus both time and resources on an assessment that has shown little, if any, value.”

Board member Laurie Adams said she “could not be more supportive of this statement.”

“This is our way of saying to our families that we are your education leaders in your community and this is what we’re recommending.”

The board issued the statement Monday to present its views before the end of the current school year and before the start of the 2016-17 school year, Light said.

“If we wait until the next school year, that’s too late,” he said. “We want people to be thinking about the issue well in advance.”

The board expects to send its statement to Gov. Kate Brown.

Anne Goff, president of the Springfield teachers’ union, applauded the school board for opposing the test.

“I’m happy to be hearing more conversations about testing and opting out,” she said. The test is “not something I’m in support of. I don’t think it’s good for kids. It takes too much of our time, but we do need to have something (else in place.)”

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Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com


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