Calling Smarter Balanced assessments an “ineffective measure of student growth and accountability,” the Springfield School Board in Oregon unanimously approved a statement on Monday recommending that parents “strongly consider exercising their right” to opt out of the state exam, the Springfield Register-Guard reports.
“[Smarter Balanced] was designed to compare districts and teachers, not to help students learn,” claimed Board chair Jonathan Light. “I just don’t feel like it’s okay to encourage our students to participate in something that doesn’t help them in any way.”
Here’s where Light gets it wrong: high-quality student assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development. Opting out of those tests impairs families’ and educators’ access to accurate information and ultimately puts students at a disadvantage.
“Let’s be clear: there are constructive ways to improve education and accountability policies. Opting out is not one of them,” former Education Secretary Bill Bennett wrote this year. “Refusing to participate in assessments puts students, parents and teachers at a disadvantage, and it does little to address legitimate concerns about the quality and volume of state tests.”
Evidence shows high-quality assessments like Smarter Balanced are providing parents and teachers with better information about student readiness. An analysis by Achieve found most states significantly narrowed their “Honesty Gaps” by implementing high standards and high-quality assessments.
“[States] should really be commended for starting to be more transparent with parents and educators about how their kids are doing,” explains Sandra Boyd, COO of Achieve. “It really is the first step in improving outcomes.”
And stepping away from its exam isn’t the right move for Oregon either. “The process of leaving consortia that was meant to pacify local protests against Common Core-aligned tests has actually led to chaos and confusion in the classroom, not to mention extra costs to those same states,” a recent Chalkbeat article notes.
“Beyond the costs, time constraints and technical challenges that accompany the development and implementation of new assessments, states that have struck out on their own have also jeopardized their ability to compare their progress to other states—and may very well come out with an inferior assessment in the process,” Jim Cowen adds.