In a year when many students will only get a few months of in-person learning or less, some Oregon school districts have rebelled against standardized testing.
But Central Oregon’s two largest school districts will stay the course. Bend-La Pine Schools and the Redmond School District will still offer standardized tests this year, and families will still have to ask to opt out if they don’t want their students to take the tests.
“We’re going to stick with it as is,” said Chris Morton, Redmond’s director of school improvement, who oversees standardized testing for the district.
Dave VanLoo, Bend-La Pine’s director of school improvement, said this year’s dramatically scaled-back standardized tests mean less class time is lost.
Standardized testing was largely canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with students barely back in the classroom this spring, it’s been scaled back throughout Oregon.
Earlier this spring, the Oregon Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education agreed that instead of Oregon students taking the traditional suite of tests in various subjects, each student would only take one test in one subject this spring. Which subject a student is tested on depends on the grade level.
“We don’t really anticipate a detrimental impact on student learning, having kids take one test that takes an hour,” VanLoo said.
Other Oregon school districts — like Ashland and Eagle Point in Southern Oregon — are taking the opposite approach to standardized testing: opt in. That means students won’t take any standardized tests, unless their family emails the school district and asks if their child can participate.
Other school districts have decided to not offer standardized tests at all this year, including Oregon Trail School District and Salem-Keizer. Salem-Keizer School District spokesperson Sylvia McDaniel said the school board canceled the tests because students have had limited opportunities for in-person learning during the pandemic.
VanLoo said Bend-La Pine Schools’ ability to bring back students earlier than many other large districts means missing a bit of regular instruction for tests isn’t as tough for local students. While Bend-La Pine high schoolers returned to hybrid learning in February and full time in-person Monday, Portland high schoolers won’t return to buildings until next week, and it will be part time.
“For kids who haven’t had as much in-person instruction, I could see that possibly being a higher concern,” VanLoo said.
Both VanLoo and Morton said they’ll respect the wishes of any family that chooses to pull their kid out of standardized testing.
Bend-La Pine and Redmond teachers’ union leaders had mixed responses to their schools moving forward with the opt-out method for standardized tests this year.
Sarah Barclay, president of the Bend Education Association, is pushing for her school district to move to an opt-in style. She believes standardized tests are a waste of time when students had to spend more than half the school year learning online.
“We have really precious time with students in-person this spring,” Barclay said. “So even one week (of testing) is just not a good use of time.”
Barry Branaugh, board member of the Redmond Education Association, doesn’t believe there should be standardized testing this year. But if the district is going to still give the tests, it’s still easy for students and families to opt out if they choose, he said.
“I don’t think we really should be having it, but given that’s what the state wants, it’s fine,” Branaugh said. “The opt out is not a difficult thing. It’s just a matter of filling out a piece of paper or going to a website.”