(Wendy Hart is a current member of the Alpine School Board, Alpine, Utah. She is running for re-election. Please, if you live in ASD District, vote for her, as she is one of the few truly courageous, truly principled, outspoken and extremely knowledgable school board members in the entire state of Utah.)
SAGE State Tests
Can I opt out of testing? I was told that it was required that my student take the SAGE test.
The schools are legally required to administer
the test (http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_061100.htm
). The parents are not legally required to have their kids take the test. You may also cite matters of conscience, if you so choose, in opting your child out.
If I opt out, will my student receive a non-proficient score?
Yes and no. Yes, the state will provide the districts with a score of a 1 for all opt outs on SAGE. The districts can remove this information before inputting it into their computer system. Alpine School District will remove the non-proficient score. For more information on this question, click here
In short, the non-proficient score will not be used in any way by the district that could negatively affect your kid.
Will schools become failing schools? What does the 95% participation rate mean?
Students who formally opt out and aren’t just absent for 6 weeks, will NOT affect the 95% participation rate required under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Students who are absent will affect the participation rate. If a school doesn’t obtain a 95% participation rate, they are considered failing under No Child Left Behind. (So opt out. Don’t just keep them home for 6 weeks.)
Does opting out punish teachers or schools?
Unfortunately, yes. However, the State Office of Education has indicated they will adjust their grading system if enough kids are opted out that it negatively impacts teachers and schools. So, if your student opts out and would normally pass the test, instead of getting whatever score they normally would receive, the State Board has indicated a 1 (non-proficient) will be used in place of a non-score for purposes of teacher and school grades. This is unfair, wrong, and completely inaccurate. If you opt your kid out, contact the State Board and ask them to change their grading system. Reassure your teacher that you are doing this, and ask him/her to contact the State Board as well.
Will my school lose funding if I opt out?
Schools do not have any funding tied to the tests. There are No Child Left Behind consequences should a school fall below the 95% participation rate (see above). But opting out doesn’t affect that rate. While state law requires school and teacher grading, there is no funding WHATSOEVER tied to those grades. How do I opt out?
Communicate with your teacher(s) and your principal(s) about your wishes, in writing. Ask the teacher(s) how they would like to handle it. In one instance, a teacher provided a paper and pencil final exam to my kid. In another instance, I was provided the testing schedule and asked to check my student out. Be willing to do whatever the teacher requests, as he/she is working to fulfill your desires in your child’s best interest. Alpine School District has provided an opt out form on the website (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4LZ8teFSo0fcVBfei1tSGgwcDVjUWpKZTFQV0hXd1JxRjZz/edit
Will the teacher lose his/her job?
No. Any district or charter school that would incorrectly assign blame to a teacher for the actions of the parents exercising their natural rights to direct the education of their child in this matter has a board and an administration who need to be replaced. The State Office of Education (see above) has indicated they will change the rules on school grading (something the State Board of Education could do at any time) should it negatively impact schools and teachers.
Why won’t the State Board change their grading system now? Why are they waiting?
There is no formal reasoning that I’m aware of. This is the way it’s always been done. Ask them why they won’t. If they won’t do it, my only possible conclusion is they want to force parents to comply with taking the tests, and are using the teachers and schools as leverage against parents. It also creates a bad system where they are, unfortunately, creating adversaries of the two entities, parents and teachers, who should be working together for a child’s education. Explain this to your child’s teacher. Please write the State Board and ask them to change the grading system.
With all these hoops and pressure, why do some parents want to opt out? Why not just go along?
There are many reasons why parents would want to opt out. Some of them are:
- Data privacy isn’t guaranteed.
- Opposition to high-stakes testing.
- Opposition to teacher/school grading, based on a single test
- Inability to view test questions
- Discomfort with the mission and contract of our test provider, American Institutes for Research
- Concern of the possible use of behavioral indicators (not prohibited by state law or by the contract)
- Concern that a teacher’s professional judgement and interaction over 180 days in a classroom will be reduced to a single set of scores on a test that parents don’t control
- Reducing classroom instruction to teaching to the test, or ONLY to the standards.
- Individual concerns: student IEP’s, test anxiety, etc
Just because a parents doesn’t want their student to take the test doesn’t mean that we, as a society, must agree with and approve of that parent’s reasons. State Code says: ” Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, aparent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children.” It is your right and your responsibility to properly care for your child. In a free country, that means you shouldn’t need the State’s permission to decide your child won’t take a test.
Thank you, Wendy Hart.