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Oregon House approves one-year delay; test will measure progress toward new standards.



Results from a new standardized test for Oregon students will not be used this year in compiling school report cards or teacher evaluations under a bill that has cleared the Oregon House.

House Bill 2680, which imposes a one-year delay, went to the Senate on a 48-9 House vote Thursday.

The test, known as Smarter Balanced Assessment, will be administered to students this year as part of the Common Core academic standards that Oregon and 42 other states have adopted.

Oregon and 17 other states are in a consortium developing the test. Last year, 4.2 million students, including 24,000 in Oregon, were part of a pilot project for the test.

“This bill gives a temporary reprieve for the use of this high-stakes assessment,” said Rep. Susan McLain, D-Forest Grove, the bill’s floor manager.

The Oregon Board of Education adopted Common Core, which was developed by the states, on Oct. 28, 2010. The House Education Committee has scheduled a hearing on a bill to scrap it, but it is unlikely to advance.

Lawmakers and others have expressed concern about the new test, which some officials say may result in half the students failing it.

“If a school or educator is labeled as failing by this test, it does not matter later if the test is deemed inaccurate or invalid,” said Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland. “That label will be hard to shake. Bad reputations are more durable than good ones.”

Frederick has been a critic of the test.

“It is not ready for prime time,” he said. “It is not clear it ever will be. The point today is that it is not ready now.”

Teachers have protested its use in determining their evaluations, not just in measuring academic achievement of students.

“As a business person, I can tell you if I have a rebellion going on in my customer base, I’d better be paying close attention to it,” said Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass.

But state and federal laws require some form of testing. Under the current Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which began in 1999, students in grade 3 through 8, and in grade 11, are tested. Some students, such as those learning English, also are tested.

“The same things were said about OAKS when we rolled that out,” said Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, who remains on his local school board. “Any time you bring in a new statewide test system, there are going to be some growing pains.”

Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, opposed the bill. She said the aim of testing is to help improve teaching and learning.

“I think accountability is important,” she said. “We are here this session debating how much money we are going to put into education. I am all about getting more money for schools. But money into schools with no accountability is a recipe for disaster.”

The bill also requires an informal work group to review state assessment practices — something already started by Rob Saxton, deputy schools superintendent and leader of the Oregon Department of Education, and Nancy Golden, the state’s chief education officer.

The panel released its recommendations on Feb. 9, the same day the House Education Committee heard HB 2680.

Oregon is among the 43 states with waivers from the U.S. Department of Education on standards under the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. But Oregon’s waiver requires the state to show how it will evaluate teacher effectiveness based partly on student assessments.

Rep. Jodi Hack, R-Salem, voted for the bill. But she said if the delay extends beyond one year, Oregon could jeopardize the $42.4 million that it receives in federal aid for education of students from low-income families.

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