Portland Public Schools parents, teachers and members of the Don’t Shoot Portland activist group are calling for parents to opt their children out of taking the new Smarter Balanced state test.

Activists are planning a press conference for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district’s Blanchard Education Service Center to encourage parents to request that their child be exempt from taking the test. Speakers will then testify at the following school board meeting. 

The Smarter Balanced test will cover the Common Core reading, writing and math standards Oregon adopted in 2010, and replaces the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Students in grades three to eight and 11 will be tested in math and language arts. This year the test will be administered at all Oregon public schools and students will be scored, though some students took practice tests last year. 

The Smarter Balanced exam is more demanding than the old OAKS tests as it requires students to cite evidence and is not solely multiple-choice. Oregon Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden has proposed holding off from rating schools based on test scores for a year. 

At tomorrow’s meeting the Portland Public Schools board is scheduled to hear an update on the district’s readiness to implement the test this spring. The readiness plan outlines holding test administration training, creating testing schedules, giving students practice tests, distributing necessary technology and communicating with families. The district reports varying levels of readiness for each category. About 90 percent of schools are on track with assessment training, though only 58 percent have given out practice tests or are on schedule to do so.

The district allows parents to request that their child is exempted from taking state tests. Parents must speak with school administrators and fill out a form prior to the start of testing. The district’s exemption form gives disability or religion as the only two reasons parents can opt out, in accordance with state law. Parents are then asked to propose a learning activity their child can complete in lieu of the test. 

The district reported valid exemption forms for 33 students for the 2014-2015 school year, as of Feb. 4. Seventeen of those students are in grades three to seven or 11. 

Third through eighth grade students will test beginning March 10, and 11th grade students will test starting April 22. Testing will wrap up by June 5.

Tuesday won’t be the first time Don’t Shoot Portland has made an appearance at at a Portland Public Schools meeting. Members of the group, which formed in light of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, blocked a vote in January on changes to the district’s enrollment and transfer policy. The group objected to the board’s plan to approve changes without further comment from parents and community members. 

Tuesday’s board meeting will begin at 6 p.m at the district’s offices, located at 501 N. Dixon Street. 

— Laura Frazier

[email protected]
503-294-4035
@frazier_laura

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