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Changes Coming to Oregon’s Systems of Assessment

By Andrea Shunk | Education Policy & Practice Strategist, OEA Center for Great Public Schools

The 2020-21 school year had plenty of disruptions for educators and students. Among those disruptions were changes to Oregon’s assessment system. As we return to in-person instruction, educators and students can expect more changes coming. In this article, we will explain some of the statewide changes you can expect to come in the 2021-22 school year.

Statewide Summative Assessments

In spring of 2020, as schools around the country did an emergency pivot to online instruction, the U.S. Department of Education issued a blanket waiver allowing all states to forego the required statewide summative assessments in language arts, math, and science. For Oregon, this meant that no student took the Smarter Balanced Assessment or Oregon’s science assessment.

In the 2020-21 school year, the Oregon Department of Education applied for a similar waiver that would have allowed the state to forego administering these tests. However, the U.S. Department of Education rejected that initial request. ODE amended the waiver, which was approved, and included the following changes:

  • Limit testing opportunities to only one or two subjects per grade.
  • Requesting an exemption from the federal requirement to test 95% of students.
  • Only allowing in-person testing.
  • Reducing the length of the test and eliminating the performance task requirement for the language arts and math tests.

In the spring of 2021, several school boards and school districts made the choice to not administer any SBA or science assessments at all, given the time the tests take and how little time many students would have for in-person instruction. Overall, statewide participation this spring was quite low, ranging from 37 percent of students at 3rd grade taking the test to 11 percent at 11th grade.

For the 2021-22 school year, school districts will be expected to comply with the state and federal mandate to administer the statewide summative assessments again. This means students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take both the language arts and math tests, and students in grades 5, 8, and 11 will take the Oregon science test.

Essential Skills

The Oregon State Board of Education last changed the state graduation requirements in 2007. These changes included increasing the required number of credits to 24 and adding nine essential skills, deemed as skills that cross academic disciplines and included thinking critically, global literacy, and using technology. The board also added a requirement for graduates to demonstrate proficiency in three of the nine essential skills – reading, writing, and math. This proficiency requirement was in addition to the need to earn 24 credits with passing grades.

Students could demonstrate proficiency in these three areas in several ways including the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the SAT and ACT, certain portions of the GED exam, WorkKeys, IB and AP exams, and locally created work samples. Most students in Oregon met this requirement via the Smarter Balanced Assessment during their junior year.

The disruption of in-person learning in the spring of 2020 caused major disruptions to students’ ability to demonstrate proficiency in the essential skills. For the class of 2021 who were in 11th grade that spring, they lost the major opportunity to demonstrate proficiency by sitting the Smarter Balanced assessment, as no students in the state took the test. For the graduating class of 2020, some students lost the opportunity to complete work samples to demonstrate proficiency if they had yet to do so. As a result of this and the continued COVID-19 disruptions to in-person learning, the State Board suspended the essential skills graduation requirement for the graduating classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022.

During this time, ODE completed a rigorous data analysis looking at how students in different groups demonstrated proficiency in the three essential skills. A major equity concern emerged from the data, which shows that white students predominantly meet this requirement by achieving a certain score on the Smarter Balanced Assessments while non-white students, particularly African American/Black students, meet this requirement through local work samples. This disproportionate data raises several equity concerns.

In the 2021 legislative session, OEA led the successful campaign to pass Senate Bill 774, which suspends the essential skills graduation requirement through the class of 2024 and requires ODE to engage with educators, families, students, and other community groups to review:

  • Existing state high school diploma requirements
  • Research other graduation models in the nation
  • Examine local implementation of the requirements
  • Examine the expectations that post-secondary institutions and employers have for Oregon graduates
  • And produce a report to the legislature by September 2022

This bill had support from education organizations and community groups and no organized opposition. OEA is engaged with ODE to ensure a robust, inclusive engagement process.

Sample SEED Survey Questions

Think about your assignments from this school year. How often did they have pictures or stories of people who are like you and your family?

  • Never
  • Rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Often
  • Skip question

Think about your science classes in grades 6, 7, and 8. How confident are you about doing each of the following?

(Scale of: Not confident • A little confident • Somewhat confident • Mostly confident • Very confident • Skip question)

  • I can describe how the length of a vibrating string affects the sound it makes.
  • I can design an experiment to show how sunlight affects the growth of a plant.
  • I can describe what would happen to the number of frogs at a pond if all the insects were removed from the pond.
  • I can decide which tool to use if I want to measure wind speed.
  • I can describe how light interacts with a glass window.

How often did you do the following things at your school?

(Scale of: Never • Rarely • Sometimes • Often • Skip question)

  • Connect what you are learning in your classes to potential career opportunities.
  • Speak with a counselor or teacher at your school about career opportunities.
  • Use the internet to gather information about careers.


In the spring of 2021, ODE launched an innovative new student assessment – the Student Educational Equity Development Survey or SEED Survey. This survey is intended to gather information about the educational experiences of students in Oregon including having Internet at home, feeling like students have friends at school, whether or not students visit the library, or if students participate in extra-curricular activities.

Where Smarter Balanced is an assessment of students’ knowledge and skills, the SEED Survey is an assessment of the experience students have in school. What obstacles get in their way of learning? What about their environment is a help or a hindrance? What opportunities do some students have that other students do not have? Districts can use the results to target resources where they are most needed, such as in improving school climate, increasing student access to well-rounded opportunities like music, libraries, or CTE, and getting resources to families like Internet or connected devices.

The SEED Survey was developed with educator and OEA input and feedback. It was piloted in the Spring of 2021 and was optional for districts to administer, however because of COVID-19 disruptions, there was not significant participation. ODE will make the survey optional again for the spring of 2022 and is hoping more districts participate so Oregon can learn

Get Started with Social Emotional Learning

Have you been curious about Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? OEA has two new independent study opportunities to learn about SEL at your own pace and on your own schedule. Each tutorial takes between 90 and 120 minutes and is entirely self-paced. There is no facilitator and no time limit. Tutorials are hosted in OEA's Learning Management System, OEA Learn. The SEL modules are suitable for all member groups and are most appropriate for educators new to SEL. Two PDUs are available for each module. Additional SEL modules will be added later this year. All of OEA’s self-paced modules are free as a benefit of membership.


Self-awareness is one of five competencies designated by The Collaborative for Academic Social, and Emotional Learning as crucial to effective social and emotional learning for children and adults. In this foundational SEL tutorial, learners gain a better understanding of their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, values, strengths, and challenges. The module introduces concepts and strategies for self-perception, self-efficacy, and self-confidence.


This self-paced independent study module will guide educators through learning about relationship skills. The module covers topics and activities that are key to building, maintaining, and restoring relationships: expressing care, building trust, listening, challenging growth, sharing power, and expanding possibilities. Learners will have the opportunity to reflect on their own relationships as well as their students' relationships.

Visit https://grow.oregoned.org/ independent-study to learn about these and other independent study opportunities.

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