Editorial: Saxton’s right to reject delay on Common Core testing

“Is there any rational reason why you would give an assessment that 65 percent of our students would fail?” The question was presented as rhetorical, suggesting the answer is an obvious no.

In fact, the answer is a resounding yes.

Oregon Education Association President Hanna Vaandering offered the query as part of the union’s opposition to Common Core tests scheduled in K-12 schools next spring. Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton has rejected the group’s request to cancel the tests, saying that although the tests will be difficult, Oregon can’t afford to fall behind in the nationwide move to increase expectations that prepare students for college and career.

Saxton’s right, and the teachers’ union is disingenuous when it argues the delay is needed to protect students from feeling like failures. That issue can be managed by informing students and their parents about what the tests do and don’t mean. What the union is really worried about is teachers being judged by the test scores of their students.

That’s a reasonable worry, created by the confluence of the new standardized tests and new teacher evaluation methods that consider student scores as one factor in judging teachers. The state has already taken steps to address that problem, however, by requesting permission to use other tests in teacher evaluations in the first year, according to The Oregonian.

The Common Core standards are getting lots of negative attention. It comes from those who say the standards represent a federal takeover of education, and from teachers and parents who say the standards and the associated tests are just too hard.

They are hard, and that’s the point. We need demanding standards and tests that allow us to compare students across states.

Early testing suggests a high percentage of students will fail to meet benchmarks on the new tests as everyone adjusts to new teaching approaches and new testing methods.

The right remedy is leaving those scores out of teacher evaluations in the short term and making sure students, parents and admissions officers know how to put them in perspective.

The wrong remedy would be to step back, rejecting or delaying the long and thoughtful work that has created the standards and the tests.