Oregon Decides To Keep High School State Tests

Jul 12, 2018
Originally published on July 11, 2018 6:38 pm

Oregon high schoolers will take state tests next year, reversing plans to shift to college board exams instead.

High school students have complained for years about the time they spend hunched over test booklets or in front of computer screens, taking standardized exams. When Oregon switched to the Smarter Balanced exam a few years ago, the inconvenience and stress got even worse due to the length and complexity of the state exams.

Teachers complained that they had to modify their lesson plans to make time for the tests. 

With large numbers of high school students in Oregon opting not to take the Smarter Balanced exams, the state was going to drop it for high school this coming school year.

Briefly, students and teachers thought they'd caught a break. Oregon education officials told the U.S. Department of Education it would pursue replacing the Smarter Balanced high school test with a college entrance exam, like the SAT or ACT, which many students were taking already. 

But state education officials said they've decided to stick with the Smarter Balanced exams after all. A recent review found problems with college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT. Those problems were major areas of concern in discussions with teachers, parents and others, according to state education officials.

The Oregon Department of Education announced the decision in a message to school district leaders Wednesday. In a statement to OPB, head of ODE and Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Colt Gill said the decision comes after months of deliberation.

“he department conducted a rigorous review process and six months of stakeholder engagement with students, parents, teachers, administrators and other community members to determine the best testing approach for Oregon’s high school students," Gill said.

He said the work revealed the college entrance exams have "accessibility limitations" that fall short of ODE equity goals and "content standards."

Officials say they’ll offer the high school exam earlier in the year to avoid the kind of "test overload" that high school juniors complain about when they seem to go weeks doing nothing but taking big tests. In future years, ODE said it may offer the exams to sophomores "in advanced courses who have received appropriate instruction."

ODE said it is working with higher education officials on a study of test results as a possible lead-up to using student test results in university admission decisions. That could make the tests more relevant to the students most likely to opt out.

The state is concerned about students continuing to opt out in large numbers, particularly at the high school level.

Officials said they'll "renew" efforts to increase participation.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.