Shocker! Oregon Dumping Smarter Balanced Exams in High Schools


So much for Oregon’ commitment to the Smarter Balanced exams.

In a shocking action, after just two years of using the tests, the Oregon Department of Education has decided to abandon the controversial Smarter Balanced tests at the high school level.


According to Education Week, Oregon will continue to administer the exam to students in grades 3-8 and 11 through the spring of 2018, state education department spokeswoman Tricia Yates told the publication. Starting in 2018-19, only students in grades 3-8 will take the test, she said.

Yates said Oregon will explore using a “nationally recognized” test, such as the SAT or ACT, for high school student going forward. The state will issue a “request for information” this spring to collect ideas from the field, and then issue a “request for proposals” later this summer, she added.

Federal law has long allowed states to use college-admissions exams in place of other summative tests for accountability, but few states have done so. The Every Student Succeeds Act invites states to use “a nationally recognized high school test” for accountability instead of state-developed or consortium-designed exams.

The popularity of the consortium tests has eroded particularly at the high school level. Trying to cut back on testing time and boost students’ motivation to do well on a high school test, states are increasingly opting to use the ACT or SAT.

Oregon’s decision is particularly significant because leaders of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium drew heavily on Oregon’s experience with computer-adaptive testing when they set out to craft the new exam in 2010, Education Week said.

The state’s decision likely has the support of the Oregon Education Association (OEA), which has aggressively opposed the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests. In June 2015, Gov. Kate Brown pleased the OEA, but exasperated and angered many school officials, when she signed a bill making it easier for children to opt out of standardized tests, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment.


Danger ahead: the dismal performance of some minorities on the SAT

The College Board recently reported the results for SAT test-takers in the class of 2015…and the news isn’t good.


On average, high school graduates in the class of 2015 had lower scores in all three subject areas (critical reading, math and writing) than in 2014 and overall the lowest performance since the 2,400-point scale was developed about a decade ago.

The mainstream media covered this pretty well, but most ignored or said little about a more disturbing aspect of the report: the results for Native American, African American and Hispanic students were appalling.

Just 41.9% of SAT takers in the class of 2015 (712,000 students) met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark. That means they have a 65% probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B- or higher at a four-year college. It indicates a student’s readiness to enter college or career-training programs and to succeed in credit-bearing, entry-level college courses.

But look at the percent of U.S. test-takers who met the benchmark broken down by race/ethnicity:

  • Asian: 61.3%
  • White: 52.8%
  • Native American: 32.7%
  • Hispanic: 22.7%
  • African American: 16.1%

The numbers for native Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans in Oregon who met the College and Career Readiness Benchmark were pretty dismal, too: 

  • Native American: 31%
  • Hispanic: 22.6%
  • African American: 24.9%

Some argue that the averages for minority students are low because the number of them taking the test is expanding: 32.5% were underrepresented minority students in the class of 2015, compared to 31.3% in the class of 2014 and 29.0% in the class of 2011.

Others argue that this is avoiding the real issue, that too many minority students are not getting a good education. “Without access to challenging courses and assessments that measure their progress, students will not be able to get the most out of their opportunities to prepare for college and careers.” The College Board said in its report.

The College Board noted that there continue to be striking differences in academic preparation between white and Asian students and African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics that affect college readiness. White and Asian students taking the SAT, for example, are more likely to have taken AP and Honors courses. They are also more likely to have completed a full “core curriculum,” which includes four or more years of English, three or more years of mathematics, three or more years of natural science, and three or more years of social science and history.

“Nowhere is there more of a need to expand access to more rigorous coursework than among low-income and minority students,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, Chief of Assessment at the College Board.

The U.S. Census projects that racial and ethnic minorities will represent more than half of all children in the United States by 2023, and that the U.S. population will be 54 percent minority by 2050. As noted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Youth from these communities need full preparation for and access to higher education. It would be both immoral and impractical to ignore the disparities facing these young people, as a brighter future for them means a brighter future for all.”