After Pushback, a Retreat from Standardized Testing in Schools

Portland Public Schools changes its mind on testing requirements during virtual school—at least for now.

By Julia Silverman September 28, 2020

Who among us doesn't feel this way after a day of virtual learning?

Last week, parents in Portland Public Schools received an update from district officials about the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test which, on its face, is intended to give teachers a sense of student aptitude levels at the start of the school year.  

But by Monday, they'd reversed that decision, just as the planned assessments were set to begin.

The back-and-forth began last week, when families were informed via email that testing would continue as planned. In a fun bonus for all the working parents out there, the district wrote that “many students, especially younger children, will need assistance from an adult in the home,” to complete the tests. 

(Note: administering the tests was expected to take at least two hours, and teachers would likely have had to break students into groups to administer the tests, thereby cutting into already reduced instructional time for all.) 

Then, on Monday morning, the district announced via email that all MAP tests were suspended for the fall, effective immediately.

The testing decision comes after pushback from parents and teachers. At three elementary schools—Chief Joseph, Grout, and Abernethy—teachers had circulated a letter, shared with Portland Monthly, urging the district to suspend the testing, in large part for equity reasons. 

We know there is extreme variability in student home environments, access to technology, responsibilities and challenges and supports that students need,” teachers noted in a letter to the district. “It would be an affront to our District’s equity goals to make any decisions about instructions or programs based on data that is inevitably inaccurate and racially biased.” 

It’s not the first time the school system has announced a decision and then reversed on it this year. Just last week, after parent complaints about face-to-face instruction for middle school students being limited to Monday and Tuesday mornings at some schools, the district sent an email standing by its schedule for sixth through eighth graders, noting that “PPS schedule exceeds the requirements of the recommended grades 6-8 schedule from the Oregon Department of Education.” 

After more pushback, five days later Portland Public Schools sent another email, apologizing for “the confusion many students and families are feeling with regard to the middle school schedules,” and clarifying that sixth through eighth-graders are expected to work “directly with teachers online from 9:30 am to 12:15 pm, Monday through Thursday,” though that may be via small-group instruction as opposed to whole-class meet-ups. 

And PPS is far from the only public school district back stepping right now. In Lane County, a handful of schools were planning to reopen for in-person learning for kindergarten through third graders last week, but had to call off their plans at the last minute because of rising caseloads (likely driven by the return of students to the University of Oregon). 

As for the MAP test, PPS leaders left the test’s future open, saying only that they would “re-evaluate the opportunity for assessments later in the school year.” 

Show Comments