Oregon legislative bills address data-driven inequity in Salem-Keizer School District

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Equity advocates at Oregon Public Education Network (OPEN) continue working on legislation to reduce standardized testing, eliminate the opt-out sunset and create accountability for summative SBAC high-stakes testing. Two are repeats of the 2020 walkout session, and legislators are familiar with the issues. Momentum is growing behind Senator Lew Frederick’s latest effort to increase equity in all Oregon public schools.

Eugene’s Community Alliance for Public Education has spent years educating their community about data-driven equity and now more progressive groups are stepping up. The Democratic Party of Lane County recently passed a resolution relating to bills regarding Equity in Assessment Practices in the 2021 legislative session. Other progressive groups in Eugene are joining in the effort to end reliance on data-driven equity decisions.

Progressives in Salem-Keizer School District should be taking note. As local outcome measurements are scrutinized by the Salem-Keizer School Board and District, reliance on data-driven decision making should be avoided. As a member of Oregon Public Education Network since 2016, I invite you to help get these bills passed for our students and communities.

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From Democratic Party of Lane County:

DPLC Resolution
Equity in Education Assessment Practices
21st of January 2021

SB596: Too Young to Test
Prohibits mandated standardized assessment in Pre-K through grade 2. Makes exception for assessments administered for diagnostic purposes as required under state or federal law. Teachers allowed to make individual professional decision on testing.

•There is a strong sentiment within educational professional communities that repeated standardized testing of young children is developmentally inappropriate. Testing, sorting and tracking of young children fails to acknowledge that young children learn at different rates, in different ways and at different times.

•Extending the “Testing, Sorting and Tracking” impact of standardized testing to young children is prejudicial against low-income students and students of color and has a disproportionate impact on these communities of children.

•Many primary age educators report that these assessments do not positively contribute to educational practices that best support developing and implementing instruction for young children. Rather educators in Oregon report that subjecting young children to repeated standardized testing causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, leaving many children feeling inadequate.
•Teachers will still be allowed to select and administer standardized assessments in individual classrooms in accordance with their professional judgment.
•Oregon’s law is modeled after successful legislation in New York and New Jersey.

SB597: Eliminating Oregon’s Graduation Barrier
Prohibits State Board of Education, school district or public charter school from requiring student to pass test to demonstrate proficiency in Essential Learning Skills in order to receive diploma. Retroactive diplomas to be awarded to students not allowed to graduate based on not passing such test.

•Oregon is one of only 11 states that still have a testing requirement for graduation. •
•Nine states, including California, have retroactively awarded diplomas to students.
Studies increasingly indicate that such requirements do nothing to raise achievement, improve
employment prospects or ensure college success.
Such testing requirements have been shown to increase the dropout rate, especially among low
income students, English language learners and students of color.
There is a significant trend towards the elimination of essential skill type testing. Eighteen states have ended such testing requirements, including most recently: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington.

SB600: Audit the Use of Statewide Summative Assessments
Directs Secretary of State to conduct audit of use of statewide summative assessment in public schools in Oregon. Includes input from teachers and administrators on testing impact.

A previous audit of the Statewide Summative Assessment was submitted by Oregon’s Secretary of State in 2016 under HB 2713. That audit was incomplete. More information is needed on the true costs of the assessment to schools and districts.
The previous bill (HB 2713) to audit the costs of the Statewide Summative Assessments was implemented in a way that narrowed the definition of testing costs. This bill would correct that.
This bill would require a more complete audit, specifically of “the fiscal, administrative and educational impacts of the statewide summative assessments on the public schools of this state, including the impacts on instructional time, curricula, educators’ exercise of professional judgment, budgets and administrative time and focus.”
The Smarter Balanced Assessment represents a significant expense of the financial and human resources in our public schools. We need to know how many of our resources are actually being expended on these assessments to be able to prioritize the use of critical education funding.

SB602: Eliminate Opt-out Sunset
Removes sunset on Student Assessment Bill of Rights (opt-out law).

Under a nationally-groundbreaking bill passed in 2015, Oregon parents have a right to opt their children out of the statewide summative assessment for any reason they choose.
This bill would eliminate the sunset of this option for families and continue to empower them to make an important personal decision about the education of their children. Many families who choose to opt out of these assessments do so because of the stress and trauma standardized tests have for their children.

2020 Legislative Session
Some of these bills were originally introduced in the 2020 legislative session, but fell victim to Republican walkouts as was the case for many important issues that year. The following represents some of the many sponsors of these bills in the previous legislative session.

HB2318 Too Young to Test (now SB596)
Chief Sponsor: Rep. John LivelyChief Co-sponsors: Sen. Shemia Fagan and Sen. Lew Frederick Co-sponsors: Sen. James Manning, Sen. Floyd Prozanski (and others)
HB456: Eliminating Oregon’s Graduation Barrier (now SB597)
Chief Sponsor: Sen. Mark HaasChief Co-sponsor: Sen. Shemia FaganCo-sponsors: Sen. James Manning, Sen. Floyd Prozanski, Sen. Lew Frederick (and others)

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