Portland Common Core Critic To Sound Off In Eugene

Steve Buel
Steve Buel

Portland School Board member Steve Buel has a reputation for stirring things up with his vocal criticisms of the Common Core State Standards. On Sept. 24, he’ll bring his thoughts on high-stakes standardized testing to Eugene, the first talk in this year’s series of Community Alliance for Public Education’s community dialogues.

In 2010, the Oregon State Board of Education adopted Common Core State Standards in the subject areas of reading and math, and ever since then, school districts around Oregon have worked to prepare their students for the transition.

That transition is coming fast: The Smarter Balanced Assessment, a standardized test based on the new standards, will hit Oregon school districts for the first time this school year.

“The Smarter Balanced test is a mess,” says Buel, a teacher of 40 years who served on the Portland School Board from 1979 to 1983 and was re-elected in 2013. “The Common Core Standards are supposedly more rigorous and challenging, but another way to say that is that a lot of them are developmentally incorrect. They’re pushing kids to do activities they’re not ready for.”

With other board members, Buel drafted a resolution asking Gov. Kitzhaber to suspend the Smarter Balanced test for two years. Buel says that the standards force teachers to focus on getting all students to pass the test, rather than addressing the individual needs of the child and recognizing that every child is different. When teachers teach to the test and focus on standards only, he says, kids miss out on a well-rounded educational experience.

In Portland, Buel says that the school district spends millions of dollars on testing fees and consultants yet can’t afford social service coordinators for homeless high school students or additional support to the district’s library staff.

Buel says his talk in Eugene will focus on the history of the Common Core and why he thinks the standards are not allowing teachers to make individualized decisions in the classroom.

“Standards never teach kids — teachers teach kids,” he says.

Buel’s talk is 6:30 to 8 pm Wednesday, Sept. 24, at North Eugene High School, 200 Silver Ln. — Amy Schneider 

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