PPS & Portland Student Unions urge students to boycott Standardized Testing.

The PPS and Portland Student Unions will be teaming up in organizing an Opt-Out Campaign in which students are encouraged to opt-out of taking their standardized OAKS tests. The Student Unions want to send a strong message against to the standardized testing system as we believe that standardized tests scores are an inaccurate depiction of a student’s knowledge, have an extremely high correlation to a student’s family’s income, have a high correlation with race, are expensive, and in all are taking up class time that we could use learning things that are more applicable to our lives, as well as be developing better relationships with our teachers and peers.

The goal of the campaign is the send a strong message to Governor Kitzhaber, the Oregon legislature, Dr. Rudy Crew and the Oregon Department of Education about the importance of not standardizing our education system. “We need more community based schools and better relationships between students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Schools should not be being evaluated based on student’s standardized test scores, but rather a 360 portfolio evaluation which includes feedback from people who are directly involved with the school. A test score cannot give someone the same insight to a school as a discussion with students, teachers, and parents can.” says Lincoln Senior Alexia Garcia. “The ideal solution would be to eliminate high stakes standardized testing and replace it with a more comprehensive evaluation system developed by the community.”

The Student Unions have been doing hours and hours of research and meetings trying to understand this testing system and the process for opting out. After talking to countless other students, teachers, administrators, and community members  the students have decided that the best way to send this message to the public officials is through an “Opt-Out” Campaign in which students refuse to take their OAKS tests.

Schools are required to test a minimum of 95% of their students in order to be qualified for a score other than “In Need of Improvement” on the state report card. The idea behind the campaign is to get as many students as possible to opt-out of taking their tests so that every high school in PPS earns an “In Need of Improvement”. “The fact is we do not need a standardized test to tell us that our schools are in need of improvement” says Garcia. “The system is what really is in need of improvement. That’s where our money and energy should be focused instead of the current focus on developing more standardized tests. That’s the message we’re hoping to send.”

Students and parents should know that these tests are optional. In the end students will have to prove proficiency in Reading, Writing, and Math, the three subject areas deemed important enough for students to “know” as they graduate high school. However, proficiency can be proved in multiple ways. If students earn a passing score on the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or an AP or IB exam they can turn those scores to prove proficiency as an alternative to taking the OAKS test. “We understand that these are just alternative standardized tests, but at least they are one, beneficial for students applying to college, and two, allow us to send a much greater message about how the system is in need of improvement.” explains Garcia. “OAKS tests literally have zero benefit to students, why take them if there are alternative measurement? With that said, OAKS are a waste of class time and our state’s resources”. Morgan Allen from the Oregon School Board Association reports that Oregon spends about $5 million a biennium on the assessment system. “That is a lot of money for such an unnecessary system.” says Garcia.

The Student Union branches at each high school will be informing students on this matter through “teach-ins” during lunch time. “We encourage everyone to participate in the opt-out campaign, especially in the upcoming science tests February 19th and 20th! Please contact your school’s Student Union, and your school counselor to learn more about opting out” says Garcia.

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23 Responses to PPS & Portland Student Unions urge students to boycott Standardized Testing.

  1. As a former public education bureaucrat in the great state of Oregon, I can assure you that standardization is imperative to the privatization of public education. There is HUGE money to be made from the de-professionalization and automation of instruction (teachers), and standardization is required for this to happen. Government and corporate interests are eager to get their hands on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent every year on classroom instruction, so you’re in for one hell of a fight. I wish you all the luck in the world.

  2. Pingback: Students in Portland are opting out « Seattle Education

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  4. Laura says:

    I support Portland Student Unions…beyond unhelpful, I have witnessed first hand that there are real consequences and risks involved. There are no Human Subject Review Boards looking at these tests or our testing protocols. There is real risk of anxiety, depression and other consequences for students in this culture of high stakes tests.

    • Marvin McConoughey says:

      Students who cannot cope with standardized testing have a dismal job future. Real life tests one in many far more stressful ways and often with long term consequences. The present student angst (a small percentage of students) suggests personal problems that go far deeper than the metrics of testing.

  5. bernardmoran says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Good to see. Pity it’s just one test but hey – slowly, slowly catch a monkey.

  6. Shelly Bender says:

    Wow, as a teacher, i can say i would be so proud of you as my students! This shows that despite the testing mania, you have still managed to receive a real education. Keep fighting for what you know is right!

  7. Melissa Lim says:

    I commend you on the stance you are taking in regards to standardized testing. Good luck!

  8. YinzerThing says:

    We are working on bringing Opt Out to another “PPS” — the Pittsburgh Public School system. But it sounds like Portland is ahead of us in gathering steam and we will be looking to learn from your experience! We are particularly excited about the involvement of students in your work. Youth advocacy for our public schools is critical. Way to go!
    Jessie Ramey, Ph.D.
    University of Pittsburgh

    • Cynthia Townsend says:

      As an Oregon teacher, I can honestly say that I am so proud of all of you for taking a stand for something that is so important. These tests cause narrowing of curriculum, cause good teachers to teach badly, and cause excellent high poverty schools to look bad in comparison to low poverty schools. Thank you for your bravery and courage.

  9. Mike Harris says:

    It is refreshing to see the resistance beginning to come from the ones who could truly stop the madness by simply saying, “No”…………………..Keep chopping!!!!!!!

  10. Thank you Portland students! We can stop this juggernaut of privatization through high stakes testing by throwing a stick in the gears–and the boycott is the stick. You are leading the way–more will follow–stay strong. You have friends and supporters across the country.

  11. Marvin L. McConoughey says:

    NOt a shining moment for students who want to escape accountability, nor for the teachers who support erosion of accountability.

    • Hey Marvin,

      We actually want more accountability, especially for our teachers and elected representatives, check out our goals section! We want a community based system of accountability that brings together members of the educational process, parents and students in evaluating teachers and schools, not through abstract testing completely divorced from everyday academia.

      Paul Wells
      The shining moment/student rep from Grant high school

  12. Marvin McConoughey says:

    “There is real risk of anxiety, depression and other consequences for students in this culture of high stakes tests.” I would appreciate a list of publications demonstrating that most students suffer undue anxiety and depression. One consequence of similar testing in my school was that I studied harder, learned more, and performed well in later life. By the way, the best way to avoid risks of anxiety and depression are to study hard and master the material.

    • I can assure you that students stress out over these tests. I personally remember getting incredibly stressed out because teachers put a lot of emphasis on the importance of these tests. That was before teachers were going to be evaluated based on them, imagine the emphasis on doing well on these now. I’ve heard stories of PPS elementary students taking practice tests once a week for their entire school year all leading up to that one day where they would take the real test. Clearly students will stress out when this is the environment they are put in.

      You say that students just need to study more, in response to that I’d say one huge issue with standardized tests like the OAKS test is that what is on the test is not always relevant to what students are learning in class. If you told me to study for the OAKS test, I would not know what to do. In PPS junior year we all take the science test, however, students are not all in the same science classes. How can we study for these tests without teachers taking time out of the real curriculum to teach to the test?

      Furthermore, for tests like the SAT and ACT, standardized tests that students are known to study for, I wouldn’t say that all students can as easily study for them. It becomes a business, taking the test costs money, some students are able to take it multiple times, and students buy books or go to tutors to prepare for these tests. Not only do we see the inequities in access to these tests and test practice, but we recognize that there are inequities in home life as the home environment can affect a student’s ability to learn at home.

      Holding students accountable for knowing what’s going on in class is important, but that’s different than having them take these standardized tests. I don’t think any of us are opposed to students having to show their knowledge, but I think students also all demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. With that said, we need to stop standardizing our education system and stop trying to say that “this is what students should know” and “this is how they will show us they know it”.

      And I think it would be beneficial to have actual statistics and studies about student stress levels. I’ll look into it, and I’d love for you to look into it as well. If you find anything let us know!

      Alexia Garcia
      Student Rep. from Lincoln High School.

      • Lisa Kane says:

        Alexia, I am very proud of you. I saw you give your speech at the school board meeting. You and your fellow students are the very best voice for what these tests are and what they are not. Your stories matter, and those stories are not being heard or respected by the decision makers in our state and in our nation. Your answer to Mr. McConoughey demonstrates an understanding of the nature of testing in public schools throughout our country that is honest, thoughtful, accurate, and ultimately compassionate. I am so encouraged that your student union recognizes and calls out the role that these tests play in the marginalization of students of color and students from disenfranchised backgrounds. I commend you for working for true excellence in all of our public schools.

    • geauxteacher says:

      Mr. McConoughey – You can find most of the information you week about standardized testing at http://www.fairtest.org/fact%20sheets/k-12 I want to point out that while standardized testing has been around for quite some time and has a narrow focus of usefulness for some puporse, the problem now is the use of these standardized tests for HIGH STAKES purposes. All reputable research shows that none of these tests were designed for or are valid for high stakes such as student graduation and/or retention, teacher evaluation, or school effectiveness. If you will learn more about the uses of assessment and their construct, I believe you will understand why qualified educators are finally revolting against the growth and overuse of standardized tests.

  13. Pingback: Fighting on Many Fronts | Yinzercation

  14. Mary Brown says:

    I am in great admiration of your bravery and strength for making the choices to take back education! You are incredible people. As a voter in Oregon, know that I support your efforts and reasons…they are solid and strong. It is time to stop this nonsense. Keep up the standards of modeling a response to a money making venture to those who insists on pushing tests that are proving to be more ridiculous each year. As you move forward, I hope other districts step up and partner with your effort. Thank you for your hard work.

  15. Bill Michaelson says:

    We understand the importance of biodiversity in the natural ecosystem. We know that robustness and security of computer networks is enhanced by heterogeneity. Why are we marching toward educational monoculture? Is assured mediocrity our goal?

  16. Susan Ernst says:

    I look forward to this movement arriving here on the East Coast with these very bright and competent students leading the way. This is education’s Arab Spring.

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