By Rob Kremer,
Oregon Education Coalition

The Dramatic Drop in Scores from Last Year Illustrates Flaws in Oregon’s Assessment System

Nearly eight out of ten sophomores at Oregon high schools failed to meet the state standard in this winter’s tenth grade math problem-solving assessment. “This further illustrates the serious validity and reliability problems that plague Oregon’s system of student assessments,” said Rob Kremer, President of the Oregon Education Coalition.

The scores, which have yet to be released to the public, are much lower than last year. In 2003, 51% of Oregon tenth graders met standard in the math problem-solving assessment. In North Clackamas School District, for instance, 80% passed the test last year.

This year the scores plummeted. At Rex Putnam High School in North Clackamas, 17% of tenth graders passed the test. At Clackamas High School, only 10% met the standard. Other districts in Oregon experienced a similar drop in scores.

“Either the students got a lot dumber this year, or the test lacks validity and reliability, just as we said all along,” said Rob Kremer, who ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2002. Kremer led an effort to pass HB 2415 in the 2003 legislature, aimed at replacing Oregon’s assessment system with tests written by an independent testing company.

“Faddish assessments such as Oregon’s math problem-solving tests are not suited for use as large scale, high stakes tests,” Kremer said. “This year’s test results just prove it again. We’ve wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a dysfunctional assessment system. Why do we think Oregon bureaucrats are better able to design valid tests than companies that have been doing it for decades?”

During the legislative hearings on HB 2415, North Clackamas Superintendent Ron Naso testified against the bill, favoring keeping Oregon’s current assessment system. North Clackamas is one of the only districts in Oregon that requires students to complete the CIM to graduate, which means students must pass the math problem-solving assessment.

“Perhaps Mr. Naso has changed his mind about the validity of Oregon’s tests, now that he’ll have to explain to his district’s parents why the vast majority of his tenth graders’ ability to graduate is now at risk,” said Kremer.

The test scores have been released to the school districts, but not to the general public. “They’ve got a huge problem, but so far we’ve gotten nothing but silence out of the Oregon Department of Education,” said Kremer. “They’ve got some explaining to do.”

Rob Kremer can be reached at 503-244-7523 or rob@oregoneducation.org

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