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

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:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
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[email protected]

Then 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.