Opt Out movement organized by Portland teachers union

According to a local news service from Portland Oregon, the teachers union there is "quietly" organizing and opt out movement encouraging parents to opt their children out of the Portland test program. Portland school officials say that the tests will help the kids.


Teachers Union Wants Schools to Boycott High Stakes Tests

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Annie Ellison, GoLocalPDX Reporter

Portland's teachers union is quietly campaigning to get educators not to administer controversial high stakes tests this spring.

The mobilization marks the latest development in an ongoing battle over the controversial Common Core curriculum in Oregon.

"Portland teachers are trying to figure out the best way to protect our students," said Portland Association of Teachers President Gwen Sullivan. "If you love kids in public schools, opt out."

Opposition to the high stakes test in the Common Core curriculum, the Smarter Balanced test, has been growing among parents, teachers, and education advocates.

Straw polling of teachers by the union shows that some schools support the idea of refusing to administer the test to students, according to Sullivan. She said that officials would not be able to stop a boycott by teachers if an entire school agreed not to administer the test.

School revolts against standardized testing were successful in Seattle and New York, when teachers banded together school by school.

Beginning March 10, Oregon students will take the Smarter Balanced test, designed to try their knowledge of the new curriculum.

Common Core in Oregon

In 2010, Oregon was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core curriculum, intended to improve students' chances of success in post-secondary education. The curriculum, which puts a heavy emphasis on demonstrated critical thinking, is adopted on a state-by-state basis, but the same tests are written nationally.

Students in third through eighth grade, and juniors, must take the tests, which run roughly seven hours and test students on reading, writing, and math skills. They replace the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) test.

Test results will not be used to measure students in this school year, as Oregon education officials predict that between 60 and 70 percent of students could fail the first year the test is administered.

Parents can opt their children out of the tests, for either faith-based reasons or due to special needs.


Parents, students, and officials in Portland Public Schools have defied the curriculum and the test multiple times.

In 2013, students at Lincoln High School boycotted standardized testing, gaining national attention. The Portland School Board refused to set achievement standards for the test, and voted not to use the results to evaluate teachers or students.

A House bill backed by the Oregon Education Association and Reps. Margaret Doherty, Susan McLean and John Huffman, requested for the Feb. 2 session of the state legislature, would put a moratorium on the administration of the Smarter Balanced Test.

Some parents have teamed up with teachers to convince parents to opt out of the test, PPS parent Betsy Salter said.

While resistance to the test is mounting, education officials with the State of Oregon say the Smarter Balanced test will better prepare children for the future and hold them to higher and more rigorous standards. Derek Brown, Director of Assessment at the Oregon Department of Education, said a more engaging test would force students to do deeper, more critical thinking. "This is going to provide us accurate information about student learning in the context of their trajectory on a path of college and career readiness," he said. "The test reflects the expectations of the standards."

Teachers mobilize

At Garfield High School in Seattle, teachers led by Jesse Hagopian successfully boycotted the Washington State MAPS test by banding together. Six other schools joined boycott.

Sullivan said a movement is building toward the same thing in Portland. Initial polling of teachers found that thus far two schools might have enough teacher support for a boycott.


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