Oregon Reporter Pries Preliminary Test Results from State Education Department – Will Others Follow Suit?*

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Projected scores are in blue, preliminary results are in orange. English is on the left. Math is on the right.

While many state and local officials nervously wait to get their Common Core test scores back and to share them out with the public, some states like Oregon and Washington have jumped the line and given out preliminary state-level data.

Well, not exactly given them out willingly.The Oregonian’s Betsy Hammond (@chalkup) report preliminary data publicly earlier this month, based on a public records request.

How did it happen? According to one insider, an Oregon state department of education official shared two slides of preliminary data with other public officials, and then the state received the records request shortly afterwards. 

However, Hammond doesn’t say that she heard about that meeting specifically, just that she’d heard other states had received preliminary data and wanted to see what Oregon had.  “I had heard that other Smarter Balanced states had received information that gave them a preliminary sense of how their students had performed,” writes Hammond in an email.  

You can see her request here

The state department of education initially declined to provide the information, citing the fact that the numbers were incomplete, preliminary, not vetted and double checked, according to Hammond.* But this wasn’t her first time going through this process. Hammond says she insisted on being shown state or federal law that allows the agency to keep secret student-level records that are not personally identifiable.

She wasn’t sure how quickly she would get a response — it took several months in the past — but her June request resulted in an early July story. 

“They KNEW I was right and their only way to stop me would be to delay, but that I would eventually prevail. So we worked out a deal that they would give me the statewide figures…. and would give them to me on an embargoed basis about 20 hours before they released them to anyone else. All in all, a class act by the Oregon Department of Education, in my opinion.” She didn’t ask for (or get) school- or even district-level results, just statewide scores by grade and subject.

It’s not entirely clear to me why Oregon didn’t stall, or simply declare that the data were preliminary and not ready to be shared publicly. 

Hammond says that they did stall for several weeks but she has a good working relationship with state officials, had the law on her side, and, had the good luck of requesting good news. “What’s not to love about releasing results saying kids did way better than expected?”

According to Smarter Balanced, no other public record has been filed and filled in a participating state. But all that could change if reporters start clamoring for preliminary results — and if state officials start giving them. Wisconsin’s data are rumored to be coming out at the end of this month, with a slew of other states (VT, ID, WA, SD, NV, DE, ME, CA) aiming for August, and a few more (HI, ND, OR, NH) slated for September.  The last few (MO & MI) aren’t going to report out their results until October, according to unofficial and unverified sources. And the PARCC states will all come out at about the same time in October or November, based on cut scores that are being set this summer.  

*Correction: The original version of this post had state officials citing privacy (FERPA) concerns, not readiness concerns. My apologies.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.