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.