Feds to Oregon lawmakers: Don’t make it easy to skip Common Core

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education warns state legislators of a loss in federal funding if they pass a bill making it easier to opt out of Common Core testing.

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Oregon schools could lose $140 million in federal funding if the Oregon Legislature passes a bill making it easier for students to opt out of Common Core testing.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle wrote in an email sent May 27 to Oregon schools chief Rob Saxton that the state shouldn’t support House Bill 2655, which could be passed by the Senate as early as Wednesday.

The measure already passed the House, 47-10. Rep. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) has spearheaded the effort to make opting out easier.

Oregon this year switched to a new set of tests known as Smarter Balanced, which about 15 states used this school year. Frederick thinks the Smarter Balanced tests are suspect. He wants all parents to be sent more information about them and guaranteed the right to exempt their children. If the HB 2655 passes, parents would not have to cite any basis for opting out of tests, ending the requirement that parents cite a religious justification. Frederick said he thinks the Obama administration is just blowing smoke about withholding federal funds from states that permit students to skip tests and fail to penalize schools that don’t test enough students.

“Sanctioning a state for making reasonable public school policy would not be good for the long-term credibility of the federal role” in education, he said.

(SOURCE: OregonLive.com)

A summary of the bill:

Directs State Board of Education to adopt specified standards related to student education records. 

Provides that parents have right to excuse student from statewide standardized summative assessment and that school districts must provide notice of that right to parents. Provides that students must receive certain information related to statewide standardized summative assessments.

A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education said, “We see the opt-out bill the same way the U.S. Department of Education does.”

Toya Fick, head of Stand For Children Oregon, strongly opposes the bill and believes the risk of losing federal funding is real.

“The legislature is playing chicken with hundreds of millions in federal funding,” she said. “Further, the bill ensures our kids become invisible by sabotaging the results of our statewide assessment, making it much more difficult to identify gaps in our public school system. The bill adversely affects our neediest children, who benefit most from federal funds and work to eliminate gaps.”

(SOURCE: Associated Press)