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Federal education leaders reject Oregon’s effort to fully skip standardized tests

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
March 31, 2021 8:51 p.m.

Oregon education officials say they’re “looking at options” with the federal government.

The U. S. Department of Education has rejected Oregon’s request to completely waive standardized testing this spring.

Two months ago, Oregon education leaders asked to skip the standardized tests. They said testing would not be the best use of the little time students have left in the school year. And they said the tests may not yield useful information. Instead, the Oregon Department of Education suggested a survey to assess student needs and access to educational resources, and have districts do interim tests throughout the year.


Now the state has received a response from the federal government, offering “initial feedback” on Oregon’s proposed alternative to days-long assessments. U.S. Department of Education officials said the state’s proposal is not enough.

“As promising as information from the SEED [Student Educational Equity Development Survey] Survey will be in informing plans for next year, we believe that this information should complement and not replace student learning data,” Ian Rosenblum, U.S. Department of Education deputy assistant secretary for policy and programs, wrote in a March 26 message to Oregon education director Colt Gill.

In his message, Rosenblum said student data helps identify “where opportunity gaps are persistent and may have been exacerbated,” and offers guidance on where states can direct resources.

In its waiver request, the Oregon Department of Education said that proper test-taking conditions cannot be met this year, making test information unreliable. Threats to “valid interpretations and uses” of data include trauma related to the pandemic, problems created by administering the test remotely, and differences in resources to support students at home.


Rosenblum said the U.S. Department of Education continues to review Oregon’s request.

At least one Oregon school district has already taken action on mandatory testing.

Earlier this month, the school board in Ashland passed a resolution directing standardized testing only to students or families who “opt-in.”

“By default, students will not participate in state assessments this year,” according to a release from the district. “If a family wants their student to participate in the state assessment, an opportunity will be provided.”

“We believe most parents want their kids in class and learning this year, and not taking valuable class time with the state assessments,” said Ashland board Chair Eva Skuratowicz in the release.

Oregon Department of Education officials say they’re still “looking at options” with the federal government.

The federal government may provide some flexibility for Oregon, as it has for other states. U.S. Department of Education officials approved Colorado’s request to test a smaller number students in one subject, according to Education Week.

If Oregon’s waiver is not approved, test windows will open April 13, according to ODE. Parents may opt-out of the tests.

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Tags: Education, Oregon, Testing