Every Child Deserves a Great Education

Opt Out PDX — Photo Essay 0

Posted on February 15, 2015 by dmayer

Parents with their kids in tow flocked to Play Date PDX Sunday evening to learn how to opt their students out of high stakes standardized testing. The kid-friendly venue provided a pleasant atmosphere to share information about the worrisome test their children will be subjected to this year.

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In December of 2013 the Oregon Department of Education said the new tests are needed primarily because Oregon’s current tests, known as OAKS, don’t cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. But parents and teachers say not so fast. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools, headed by the Opt Out of High Stakes Testing Committee chaired by LuAnne DeMarco, organized the event to share information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC (referred to as s-bac) and how parents may request that their children not be required to take the test.

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Quintessential primary teacher Emily Crum objects to the new tests for several reasons. In states where the SBAC has already been given, two-thirds of students failed. Similar results have already been projected for Oregon students. Too much time is spent preparing for tests that are developmentally inappropriate for children. The tests take away valuable teaching time and leave little time for kids to be kids. Emily asked families to create  posters citing their reasons for opting out of the test. You may view the posters here.

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Elizabeth Thiel (left) gave testimony before the state legislature this past week explaining why she opposed the test as a teacher and a parent. Listen to Elizabeth’s fabulous speech here.

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More than 90 people came to receive information and resources to support their decision to opt out. You can find that information and opt out forms here.

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Many parents are finding out more about the dark side of high stakes testing and are not willing to simply follow the order of the task masters who are not acting in the best interest of children. Read here why one mother and educator will be opting her children out of the SBAC.

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Oregon is not alone in questioning the efficacy of the new tests that supposedly align to the Common Core State Standards. Fair Test and United Opt Out are promoting resistance to the tests nationwide.

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Jesse Hagopian, teacher and editor of More than a Score, happened to be in town and stopped by to talk with parents about his experiences in Washington state and how the Opt Out movement is affecting teachers nationwide.

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Ultimately, the question becomes, “What kind of school experience do we want for our children?” Do we want schools with rich curriculum and exciting experiences, a place where teachers and children want to learn and work and play?  Yes. We have the power to opt out of standardized testing!

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Common Core Resolution to PPS Board 0

Posted on April 18, 2014 by dmayer

Portland Public School board member Steve Buel presented a resolution citing concerns with the implementation of Common Core $tate $tandards at Wednesday night’s meeting. He called for a three-year moratorium much to the chagrin of presiding member Pam Knowles, but to the delight of a sizable contingent of the audience of parent, teachers, and students. After a verbal skirmish over the rules, Steve was permitted to read the resolution.

The resolution is the result of hundreds of hours of research by concerned members of the community who have noticed the effects of Common Core in New York and Kentucky. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools and Portland Association of Teachers met to flesh out the details of the resolution. Steve Buel and Aaron Smirl drafted the final version presented to the board. They welcome any and all concerned about the implementation of Common Core to use our resolution as a model to call for a moratorium. The text of the resolution:


Whereas, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and promoted by two private membership organizations (The National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers), and by other organizations none of whom are connected with Portland Public Schools, and these organizations received millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop CCSS for the benefit of corporations; and

Whereas, the corporate profit motives that drive the CCSS are often in direct conflict with good education and can work to the detriment of the children of Portland Public Schools; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and

Whereas, in our own state CCSS were adopted without open and transparent public scrutiny, and with minimal input by Oregon educators; and

Whereas, the implementation of CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing is a substantial financial burden on Portland Public Schools and Portland’s taxpayers; and

Whereas, CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college, career or citizenship; and

Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and

Whereas, high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and emphasizes teaching to the test at the expense of other important educational topics and learning experiences; and

Whereas, there are serious questions about the validity of standardized testing to inform instruction, evaluate teachers or other educators, and measure the value of a specific school’s educational quality; and

Whereas, data collected under high-stakes testing has been shown to be vulnerable to misuse; and

Whereas,  the purpose of education is not solely preparation for college and career, but to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable as citizens of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives; and

Whereas, top down imposition of the CCSS adversely impacts students of highest need,  underserved students, emerging multilingual students, and special education students; and

Whereas, curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom and district professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and

Whereas, significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying our curricula to the CCSS takes precious resources away from meeting the actual needs of our students; and

Whereas, the Portland School Board and its Superintendent have a responsibility to make decisions which are in the best interests of its students

Be it therefore resolved PPS educators shall use the Common Core State Standards as only one factor among many in educating PPS students and put no more emphasis on these standards than other important educational factors, not listed in the standards, in an effort to make sure PPS students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Be it resolved district administrators and teachers take into account educational equity in implementing CCSS. This includes, but it not limited to, making sure students in all schools have nearly equal access to the following:

  • A broad range of educational offerings.
  • Access to courses outside of tested subjects which are both considered electives and/or part of a traditional education.
  • Appropriate testing practices which take into account the background of students including underserved students, special education students, ESL students, and poverty factors.
  • Equal testing support at each school where necessary.
  • Field trips, recreational activities, educational projects and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Parent communication regarding testing.
  • Computer access throughout the year.

Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents.

Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials.

Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.

Be it resolved CCSS shall not unnecessarily burden teachers with the following:

  • Inordinate amounts of professional development or training to implement the CCSS, both in amount of time spent and in overemphasizing CCSS professional development instead of other forms of professional development or classroom instruction.
  • Mandated use of CCSS curricular materials.
  • CCSS use by educators as a part of teacher evaluation or plans of assistance.
  • Use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing as part of teacher evaluations unless specifically mandated by state law.
  • Time spent on identifying CCSS use in teacher’s lessons.
  • Required practice testing for district-wide testing.

Be it resolved PPS administration shall convene a committee to assess the validity of CCSS and their use within PPS. This committee will include strong representation from the PAT as well as PPS parents, students and community members. This committee will review and report on the following questions:

  • Are there standards which we believe are incorrect for PPS students?
  • How much of the time spent on teaching to the CCSS could be better spent on other educational endeavors and what guidelines should be developed?
  • How much instructional time should be dedicated to intervention programs and test preparation classes for students who do not meet the CCSS requirements on the SBAC?
  • Are there standards which are developmentally inappropriate?
  • Are there CCSS related decisions which are not helping the education of PPS students?
  • What testing procedures or protocol might create a validity problem for SBAC testing?
  • Is the administration promoting CCSS in a realistic manner, making claims which are backed by peer-reviewed research and experience in other states or locales?
  • What steps should PPS take in order to correct any validity problems?
  • What is the effect of high-stakes testing on children and what can be done to minimize any negative impacts?
  • Are restrictions on children brought about by their scores, or their school’s overall scores on high-stakes testing appropriate? (i.e. missed electives, missed recess, loss of extra-curricular activities)

Be it resolved PPS make a concerted effort to inform parents concerning PPS’s use of CCSS as well as their right to opt out of testing.

Be it resolved inordinate pressure to perform on CCSS testing shall not be placed upon students, teachers or administrators.

Be it resolved pedagogy responding to CCSS shall be based upon well established educational principles which do not include an overemphasis on scripted curriculum, one type of approach to educational problems such close reading or non-fiction, wholesale diminishment of literature, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, inordinate importance placed on testing, or the narrowing of curriculum.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position which opposes state and federal mandates which require PPS to use testing to label schools, personnel, or students based on test scores, including the labeling of focus/priority schools and subsequent consequences for these schools.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position that the state should suspend the implementation of Common Core for a period of at least three years and until this untested mandate has received adequate research and been field-tested.


Opt Out Resources 0

Posted on March 17, 2013 by dmayer

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More Opt Out Visuals


KBOO Opt Out of Standardized Testing

If you missed the forum, listen in here.

A panel discussion and Q & A on the growing movement of resistance to standardized testing, featuring Jesse Hagopian, leader of the teachers boycott of the MAP test at Seattle’s Garfield High School; Uvia Murillo, a Woodlawn Elementary parent who opted out of the OAKS test for her son; Elizabeth Lehl, a Vernon Elementary teacher; and Alexia Garcia, a Lincoln High student and leader of the Portland Student Union campaign urging students to opt out of the OAKS test. KBOOs Jamie Partridge recorded the forum at Grant High School on March 16, 2013.

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Why Opt Out?

  • High stakes testing fosters test score-driven education rather than meeting the individual needs of students.
  • The emphasis on testing puts pressure on the child, who learns that it’s not learning that matters but getting a “good” test score.
  • The child who does not pass the first time is identified for intensive coaching, making the child feel different. The extra time devoted to coaching is time the student may lose in enrichment subjects, PE, recess, and other activities that make school enjoyable.
  • The tested subjects become the focus of instruction to boost scores, leading to neglect of useful and enriching subjects such as music, art, shop class, even writing.
  • The tests favor middle class students and disadvantage low-income and minority students and students limited in English proficiency. As a result, disadvantaged students suffer a narrowed curriculum and are denied access to subjects that might engage them in school.
  • Investing money towards testing, new tests, and data collection diverts money away from providing a quality, well-rounded education for all students. That is money that could be used to lower class sizes, provide counselors and aides, and more time for teachers to interact with parents and students.
  • High stakes tests fuel push-outs, drop-outs and the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Opting out gives parents a say in public education. Top-down mandates from federal and state policies have left the public, and the people most directly impacted – students, teachers, and parents – out of public education policy decisions. Opting out makes your voice heard.

How to Opt Out

  1. Send a letter to your child’s teacher and principal stating you are opting out of state testing for reasons of disability or religious belief. “Religion” can be construed broadly and you do not need to invoke a particular tradition or denomination. Suggest an “alternative learning activity” for your child to do during testing time, such as reading, researching, writing, helping younger students, etc.
  2. You may want to call your district just to verify that they share your understanding. Try to make this process as easy on the school teachers and principals as possible by getting all the most accurate information for your district. There should be a testing coordinator at the district level that can also answer any questions.
  3. If your child is in high school and opting out of the 11th grade OAKS assessment, he or she will need an alternative assessment in order to graduate, such as the ACT, SAT, or a locally scored work sample. Be prepared to state your preferred option. If your child is not in high school, no other alternative assessment is required.
  4. Make sure your child wants to do this. Don’t apply any pressure.

Frequently Asked Questions


Will opting out cause my school to not receive funding?

By law, all students are entitled to a free, public education. It would be illegal to withhold funding from schools if students opt out.

Won’t test scores be required for college entry?

State test scores such as the OAKS are not required for college entry. Some colleges require SAT or ACT, but over 815 universities across the nation, including several in Oregon, do not require such test scores for admission. View the list at FairTest.

The  Test Administration Manual  from the Oregon Department of Education cites only disabilities or religious beliefs as a basis for opting out. Can I still opt out just because I don’t believe the tests are worthwhile unjust in their use?

Yes. We have checked with local ministers on this. Religion is a set of beliefs. Disagreeing in the use of high stakes testing is a set of beliefs. Additionally, it would be a violation of civil rights to allow some people to opt out due to their beliefs and not others.

Won’t this hurt the ranking of my child’s school?

It can. Schools that do not meet participation targets in all subgroups will have their overall rating lowered by one category. All subgroups with at least 40 students in assessed grades over two years combined must meet the 95% participation target. These subgroups include economically disadvantaged student, students with disabilities, English learners, and seven identified racial or ethnic groups.

Also, according to the new 2012-2013 Oregon Report Card, a school that does not meet participation targets for every subgroup for two years in a row will have their overall rating lowered by two categories and will be reviewed for particular supports and interventions. In 2013-2014, per the new Report Card, a school that does not meet participation targets for every subgroup for three years in a row will have their overall rating lowered by three categories which would result in such schools receiving either a Focus or Priority rating. However, there are no consequences to individual students.

What would it really mean to fall into a Focus or Priority category?

Schools in this category are to receive “interventions” that help students improve achievement. A team would need to examine why participation rate is low. Obviously, this forces an important discussion. Students in Priority and Focus categories based on low test scores receive interventions such as tutoring and closer monitoring of a school. Of course, it would not make sense to apply interventions simply on the basis of participation rates. This may be uncharted territory.

Didn’t receiving an NCLB waiver mean we didn’t have to have such punitive measures?

No. The waiver just renamed the measures. You can read more about that here: http://www.boldapproach.org/policy-blog-templates/stop-nclb-waivers

Won’t this harm my child’s teacher because they have to be evaluated based in part on test scores?

Participation rate should not factor into such evaluations. As a teacher would have proof from families as to their desire to opt out, this decision should not reflect negatively on teachers.

What about the new tests that are coming out, the Smarter Balanced Assessments? Will they be better and take less time and resources and provide better measures of learning?

It is hard to say what the quality will be, but we do know these tests will be more costly. They may take more time if they are given to even more grade levels. In any case, even if they are of “higher quality,” however that is defined, they will still pose the problems we have identified in terms of consequences: lack of application to student learning and narrowing the curriculum to tested subjects.

As parents, students, and educators, we need to voice how our education money in education should be spent. Should it go to more testing? Or should it go to smaller class sizes and programs and services. Find out what others are saying about the Opt Out movement, follow these links:

Do Not Judge, Do Not Condemn

My wife and I have decided not to put all the pressure of carrying out the Bartlbey Project on our son’s shoulders this year. When he is a little older and decides on his own that this is what he wants to do then we will definitely support him. However, we have not given in to the high stakes testing culture. We are going to “opt out” our son from NCLB testing (PSSAs here in Pennsylvania). We have asked other families to join us and some are considering it, but their support or lack of it will not deter us from our decision.

The Little Data Point and the Big Bad Test

This is a story written by Noa Rosinplotz, a sixth-grade student in the District of Columbia public schools. It first appeared on a Facebook page called “Children Left Behind,” a protest site for students and families. Noa sent it to her story, and she also wrote a letter, which follows the story. Students are not widgets; they are not pieces of clay. They don’t like what is being inflicted upon them. Once they become active, everything changes.

Opt Out Bumper Stickers, Yards Signs and Buttons

In January, when nearly all of the teachers at a Seattle high school decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they said, the exams don’t evaluate learning and are a waste of time, people took notice. Since that time many other teachers, parents, and students have joined in to support them. They have released the genie from the bottle and it’s not going back in. Today many people are beginning to question the testing craze.

Social Equality Educators (SEE)

We oppose the major initiatives embodied in the Race to the Top (RTTT) program that relies on market-based approaches for our schools. Therefore, we oppose privatizing influence of charter schools that drain desperately needed funds from public schools. We oppose merit pay and other initiatives that seek to define teaching and learning through curriculum narrowing/culturally biased standardized tests.

Oregon Save Our Schools

Jesse Hagopian is a leader in the group Social Equality Educators focused on social justice unionism within the Seattle Teachers Association. He has written many articles on education reform. He co-wrote the chapter “Teachers’ Union and Social Justice” for the book Education and Capitalism Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Jesse teaches social studies in Seattle at Garfield High School and is one of many teachers boycotting the MAP Test.

Portland Student Union

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.

Seattle Education

We now have two levels of learners. Those whose fate is to memorize basic facts and the second set of learners who are learning how to think creatively and critically. The second level of students are for the most part in the private schools or the schools in the wealthier communities. With the re-segregation of our schools into neighborhood schools in Seattle, the line has been drawn quite clearly.

Garfield Teachers on Democracy Now!

Great Schools for America

It would be like a mechanic whose boss has said,” I want you to use the cheaper version of the brakes even though they’re not as good, I want you to use that.” And mechanic finally stood up and said, “You know this is bad for customers, right? You know the breaks are going to give out sooner, and I feel so strongly that that’s the wrong thing to do that I’m not going to turn to my boss and say no.”

United Opt Out National

Members of this site are parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education. We use this site to collaborate, exchange ideas, support one another, share information and initiate collective local and national actions to end the reign of fear and terror promoted by the high stakes testing agenda.

Fair Test

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.

Parents Across America

By the way, the third MAP test which is given in the Fall is solely for the use of NWEA. That’s why it’s “optional”.

Rethinking Schools

I walked away from the rest of my class and over to the three computers in the corner of my classroom. Two of my 1st graders, Jasmine and Jayden, sat at their computers with their headphones off, waiting for me to reset their computers to Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test number 2.

“I got 162,” said Jasmine. “You got 142.”

“You did better than me,” replied Jayden with a frown.

Shelly sat at the third computer. “I don’t wanna do the computer test,” she pleaded. “Do I have to?”

Save Our Schools

Dear Save Our Schools Supporters…

We wish to offer an opportunity to express your support for The Letter of Endorsement of the NYC Field Test Boycott.

We the undersigned, education researchers and scholars from across the United States and abroad, support the New York City families in their decision to boycott the field test from October 23 to 25.

We wish to offer an opportunity to express your support for The Letter of Endorsement of the NYC Field Test Boycott.

We the undersigned, education researchers and scholars from across the United States and abroad, support the New York City families in their decision to boycott the field test from October 23 to 25.

Texas Parents Opt Out of State Tests

In Texas, more than 10,000 people joined a recent rally to protest it. In Seattle, high school teachers launched a boycott over it. And in Los Angeles, school board candidates are arguing over it — a debate considered so crucial to the future of education reform that outside donors have poured millions into the campaigns.

Dr. Yong Zhao

If just 6% of the children per school site were opted out of this grossly over-rated system of assessing students and holding educators accountable, we could begin to have a productive dialogue about more humane and complex systems of assessment and education.

We are UPSET — photo diary 0

Posted on May 13, 2012 by dmayer

This is the mission statement of UPSET, the newly formed activist education organization in Portland, Oregon, but it could well apply to many as school districts across the country deal with the austerity posed by shrinking funds available for education.

We are a school community in crisis – we no longer believe that the State of Oregon can deliver the resources needed to facilitate a proper educational environment in our schools. We are teachers, parents, and students who have decided to take action directly and together as a community. We will not stand by and silently let any more resources be taken from our schools; resources our communities’ youth so desperately need to give, thrive, find fulfillment, and lead in the 21st century.


According to the Statesman Journal:

Portland Public Schools official Matt Shelby commented on the march: “We understand that people are frustrated. Certainly, we’re frustrated. At the end of day, school funding goes downhill, decisions made at the state level translate into a budget gap at the district level and that translates to the building level. Decisions made in Salem have a real impact on teachers and parents.”

Shelby said that the district is working to try to curb cuts. The district is facing a $27 million shortfall in next year’s budget. He said a tentative agreement has been reached that would use $5 million from Portland Mayor Sam Adams’ pledge toward Portland Public Schools. The Portland School District has also pledged $2.65 million from salary reductions for administrators and another $2.65 million from teachers who are delaying a salary increase by six months in the agreement. All of that is meant to save 110 teaching jobs and cover $10.3 million in staffing cuts.

UPSET (Underfunded Parents Students and Educators Together) rallied May 11th in Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest PPS budget cuts. The protest began at the Rose Quarter where over 800 people met to march to the city center.

We are UPSET:




Once at Pioneer Courthouse Square, the U.P.S.E.T. rally begins. Students and parents comment on the effects of 20+ years of education funding cuts in Oregon (with a musical interlude provided by students from Atkinson, Buckman and Sunnyside elementary students).

Saving the best for last… Three PPS students present spoken word pieces, Grant High School history teacher Don Gavitte gives his closing remarks. Stick around until the end for the poetry slam. The impassioned words and delivery of three young high school girls is awe inspiring.

The momentum is building to fund our public schools adequately. Oregon Save Our Schools is calling for a statewide May 31st Action Day to demand that government officials provide an excellent education to all Oregon students. Are you listening Governor Kitzhaber?