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US Education Department Warns Oregon Over Test Opt Outs


The U.S. Department of Education is warning 12 states it could cost them if they can’t get more students to take required tests.

Oregon's standardized testing scores in 2017 continued to fall below expectations. Less than 50 percent of students who took the tests passed the math portion, with 53 percent passing the reading exam.

Oregon’s standardized testing scores in 2017 continued to fall below expectations. Less than 50 percent of students who took the tests passed the math portion, with 53 percent passing the reading exam.

Rob Manning/OPB

Oregon, Washington and Idaho all got letters from federal education officials last month warning that missing the 95 percent participation target could have consequences, including a possible cut in federal funding. The feds pressed the states for improvements.

Oregon Deputy State Superintendent Salam Noor responded earlier this month.

He wrote of “unique circumstances creating potential risk” that schools could again fall short. The circumstances he’s referring to are a new Oregon law that allows parents to opt-out their kids without giving a reason.  

Among Oregon’s testing shortcomings last spring:

  • a quarter of Oregon schools missed the target for at least one student subgroup
  • 54 percent of Oregon school districts missed the target for at least one student subgroup
  • 21 Oregon school districts missed the “overall” participation requirement for all students
  • Oregon missed the statewide requirement for two student subgroups: African American students and students with disabilities

State officials are leaning on school districts that fell short, particularly the 21 districts that missed for “all students.”

Oregon’s letter emphasizes that schools with too few test takers could see their school ratings drop.  

Congress overhauled federal education law this month, but it still requires annual testing.

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