Portland Public Schools, Salem-Keizer to take action on state testing

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
April 13, 2021 12:51 a.m.

The school boards of each district will vote on resolutions Tuesday.

The Oregon Department of Education is moving ahead with scaled-back state testing after the U.S. Department of Education denied its request to waive standardized tests this spring.

But that doesn’t mean Oregon school districts are happy about it.


Oregon’s two largest school districts have proposed resolutions to cancel the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), state tests, this year. The school boards of Portland Public Schools and the Salem-Keizer Public Schools will vote at their meetings Tuesday.

Both districts say the testing would take away from time necessary for instruction, and that other tests can provide a sense of how students are doing.

For Portland Public Schools, students in grades 3-8 took MAP assessments earlier this year. For students in high school, the SAT is being offered this spring.

While PPS said data from the SBAC is usually as valuable as other assessments, this year the district says that’s not the case, especially considering the thousands of students learning from home.

“If the SBAC is administered this Spring, the value of the SBAC data to inform decision making and budget decisions to support students will be diminished because almost a third of PPS students remain in distance learning in addition to other students who opt-out,” according to PPS’ resolution.

PPS district staff also say skipping the state tests will make sure time remains focused on teaching and “social-emotional support” for students.

PPS district staff recommend administering MAP assessments next school year in grades 2-8 “to establish baseline data to inform learning recovery” for students.


Salem-Keizer students haven’t taken MAP tests, but elementary and middle school students take both literacy and math assessments. For students in high school, the district’s resolution lists class-based assessments, as well as the SAT and ACT. Salem-Keizer also lists Oregon’s essential skills requirement as a way to assess achievement for older students, but the state has suspended that requirement for the second year in a row.

District leaders say those assessments are sufficient.

“These assessments provide teachers actionable, real-time information about a student’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skill related to specific subjects,” according to Salem-Keizer’s resolution.

“This information is essential for teachers who will be modifying instruction to meet the needs of their students and address any interruptions in learning that occurred due to the pandemic.”

In his letter responding to the U.S. Department of Education, Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill warned of “local efforts to broadly opt-out” of state testing this year.

If Portland and Salem-Keizer’s resolutions are approved, they’d join a growing list of Oregon districts that have already taken action on testing.

The Ashland school board passed a similar resolution, making state assessments “opt-in” instead of offering an “opt-out” option. Last week, Eagle Point’s school board did the same.

According to ODE, having families “opt-in” to testing is a violation of Oregon’s Division 22 standards.

Oregon Trail School District announced it would not participate in the state assessments at all, as the state’s largest districts are considering.

Both PPS and Salem-Keizer acknowledge possible conflicts with state standards in their resolutions by planning to resume testing next school year.

“Should the district become out of compliance with Division 22, it would then report to ODE as required that it was out of compliance and would create an action plan to meet the requirement,” according to the Salem-Keizer resolution. “The action plan would be to administer the state-required SBAC assessments during the 2021-22 school year when students are back to five days a week of in-person instruction.”

Both school boards will vote on their resolutions Tuesday. Public comment will be accepted on the resolution at the PPS board meeting.