Teachers union request to delay tough tests rejected in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. — The teachers union in Oregon wants the state to put off tough new statewide tests scheduled for next year because a majority of students are expected to fail. But state schools chief Rob Saxton has refused.

The new statewide tests are part of a national standard called the Common Core, and the state Department of Education estimates that only 35 percent to 40 percent of Oregon students will pass the first year, The Oregonian reported.

Teachers in some districts have not had enough time and training in teaching to the tests, said Hanna Vaandering, president of the Oregon Education Association, a potent political force with 40,000 members.

Some students will become ill, cry, feel frustrated and feel their self-worth badly undermined if forced to take state tests they aren’t equipped to pass, she said.

“Is there any rational reason why you would give an assessment that 65 percent of our students would fail?” she said.

Teachers and students are taking samples of the test, and the state should wait until those results are available, she said.

Saxton said it’s important for Oregon to give students, schools, parents and policy makers accurate information about how students measure up against rigorous national standards in reading, writing, math and analysis beginning next spring, so that Oregon won’t lag behind other states in adopting the standards.

“We need to do everything we can to equip our students with the knowledge and content and skillsets they need to be successful when they leave high school, whether for college or career,” he said.

States that have switched to Common Core tests saw marked improvements in the second and third years, he said.

Since 2001, federal education law has required all states to give standardized reading and math tests in grades three through eight and in one high school grade every year. All 50 states have complied.

Some states have already changed to Common Core-aligned tests, and the rest plan to do so in 2015.

No state has made a serious effort to discontinue or suspend annual reading and math testing, as Vaandering says Oregon should. If Oregon refused to comply, it would jeopardize at least $140 million in federal education funding.

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