MEDFORD, Ore. – Oregon teachers are calling for an end to the state’s new standardized tests before they even reach the classroom, arguing that the system is too rigorous and sets students up for failure.
Next year, Oregon will adopt the Smarter Balance Assessment, joining more than 40 other states using the Common Core standardized tests. But the Oregon Education Association argues the testing will hold students back and damage Oregon’s already low graduation rates.
Medford Education Association President Cheryl Lashley says they haven’t taken an official stance, but share the OEA’s concerns. According to the Oregon Department of Education, the tests are designed so that about 35-40% of students will pass during the first year.
The Medford School District has been working on making the switch for three years now, already spending $230,000 for a line of Chromebooks on which to take the tests. Todd Bloomquist, the Director of Secondary Education for Medford Schools, says the new assessments are much more rigorous, but engage students more by relying on problem solving rather than memorization.
He also says that, because passing is a requirement, they’re preparing for it to have an impact on graduation.
“We’re worried we’ll have a significant drop in students being proficient on that assessment, in which case we’ll have to backfill how we’re going to get them there,” said Bloomquist.
Starting next year the test will be administered every year from 3rd through 8th grade and again in 11th grade.
Medford fourth graders participated in a pilot for the tests, but Bloomquist says they didn’t get to see how those students performed. They also don’t know exactly what the tests will look like, or what scores will be needed to pass.