Thursday, March 8, 2007

TESA - an update...

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

March 8, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday at about 2:00 PM, I received an e-mail from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) that was sent to all school districts in our state telling us that the TESA assessment program was suspended until further notice. It was also sent to all principals among others.

What is important for you all to know is that any changes being contemplated in student assessment are being directed at the state level by ODE. We are taking our lead in what we might need to do from them.

Of major concern to many is whether we will need to switch to a “paper and pencil” test as has been reported in the media. That decision is not a district decision but a state level decision and will impact every school in our state. When we know what direction is determined by ODE, we will work with that as best we can.

Because of NCLB requirements, states are mandated to assess students, as we all know. TESA has been a system that enables us to use assessment processes as part of the teaching-learning process. Going to a “paper and pencil” test is regressive and will only serve to meet federal mandates.

I know you are all frustrated and your frustration may only be exceeded by mine. Since this is a state issue and since it impacts every school in our state that uses TESA, our frustration is shared statewide. Every issue and concern we have is the same in every school. (I heard these same frustrations from my daughter who teaches 7th grade in the Portland area.) You have many questions, and we have the same ones. I know that at the BEA Representative Council, TESA was a topic of conversation and many questions and comments were raised and forwarded on by BEA President Dan Jones.

As we know more, we will keep you informed. From the memo it looks like for now, all assessment is suspended; a decision on “paper and pencil” assessments is pending; and we will all have to deal with the aftermath of this situation from an accurate appraisal of student learning to AYP determination to lost time to cost and legal implications to . . . . It is very hard for all of us to have faith in an unreliable system.

Here are the major components from the e-mail sent yesterday by ODE:

Schools are continuing to experience serious technical issues that make reliable testing impossible. The Oregon Department of Education has determined that all state assessment testing on the TESA system is suspended, effective immediately, to allow us time to conduct quality assurance and stress testing of the system with our vendor, Vantage Learning.

We are actively investigating a paper-and-pencil testing option in order to complete the school year and ensure that schools, districts and the state of Oregon meet their obligations under state and federal law and to support the use of valid and reliable assessment data to improve student achievement.

No later than 5 pm on March 13, ODE will make a determination if TESA can be used for the remainder of the school year or if paper-and-pencil testing will proceed. . . .

The bottom line is this: Either our vendor will be able to test the system and assure us that they can proceed or we will turn to another option to finish this year. Failing to complete testing will generate costly sanctions for school districts and the state.

IMPORTANT NOTE: ODE recommends that schools DO NOT begin any planned paper-and-pencil testing during the current paper-and-pencil testing window. Based on the outcome of March 13th decision, ODE may extend the paper-and-pencil testing window. Students might be better served by testing later in the school year. . . .

Even though suspending TESA creates new challenges, we believe it is the only responsible action given the ongoing technical issues everyone is experiencing.

That is what we know. I can only advise that we take a deep breath and wait for further direction from ODE. In the meantime, please continue providing that wonderful education to our students.


Students First * Success Focus
Data Driven * Positive Relationships