On the Results of the SAGE/AIR Common Core Testing   12 comments

The news report is out:  “Sage Test Results Indicate Majority of Utah Students Not on Track for College”.

The  Office of Education’s official comment is: “With the new standards and with the new assessments they will see fewer students actually being proficient, but take that in context…”

Thus the USOE readily admitted that the new standards (Common Core) and the new assessments (SAGE/AIR) will make it appear that fewer students are actually being proficient.  So it’s not reality.  It’s an illusion created by the flawed new standards and testing system. It’s not that suddenly students are failing; it’s that the measuring stick has been switched midstream.

Everything’s different!  How can we say that Utah students are “not college and career ready” when even the very phrase (and meaning) of the term “college and career readiness” has been hijacked by the federal government to mean only what the federal government says it means?  And that means sameness.  Nothing else.

America had locally controlled, traditional, time-tested education in the past.  We have Common Core –standardized but experimental– education standards now. The test and its standards are a whole different beast from anything we had a few years ago. Children taught traditionally up until the past year or two or three (depending on the location of their school district) suddenly have been tested using a different measuring stick.

It’s almost as if we used to measure children’s height and now, instead, we’re measuring their weight. It’s almost like measuring with metric when you used to use pounds, ounces and inches.  It’s almost like taking a test in Spanish when you were raised speaking English.  We used to test traditional learning.  Now we test Common Core-defined math, Common Core-defined English.  It’s not the same thing.

How is it different?  Well, the Internet  is buzzing with examples of awful, awkward, unwieldy Common Core math problems that confuse and slow down math learning.  But what about the writing portion of the Common Core SAGE/AIR tests?

A friend who served on a state committee and recently reviewed 500 textbooks, recently expressed his Common Core English writing test concerns this way:

“In a typical Common Core practice item, children as young as 6 and 7 are given two “opinion” passages to read, usually on a social issue of some kind. The passages are short. The children are directed to read the passages, form “their own” opinion, based on one of the passages (an inherently biased exercise, but that’s a separate issue), then ADVOCATE for their opinion in writing, using information from the opinion pieces as supporting evidence. Net, net: Read little to no actual information, then form your own opinion, supported another person’s opinion. 


Consider the following:

·         The word “opinion” or “argument” is mentioned 38 times in the 110 Common Core writing standards.

·         Under Common Core, opinion-forming practice and testing is required for EVERY student in all thirteen grades, including Kindergarten.

·         “Opinion writing” testing is a central feature of the SAGE/Common Core tests.


(Source: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf)


What do you get when you combine low-info opinion practice, with messages (from the “informational texts”) to organize, resist, influence, strike, stand up, sit in, and vote, vote, vote…and you do this regularly for thirteen years? Yep, an entire generation of highly-opinionated ‘Low-Information Voters.'”

The same idea was expressed by an Arizona teacher who wrote:

My turning point came when in answer to questions I had about a student writing sample, my Common Core handler blurted out, “We don’t ever care what the kids’ opinions are. If they write what they think or put forth their opinion then they will fail the test.” I have always taught my students to think for themselves. They are to study multiple views on a given topic, then take their own position and support it with evidence. “That is the old way of writing,” my Common Core handler sighed. “We want students to repeat the opinions of the ‘experts’ that we expose them to on the test. This is the ‘new’ way of writing with the Common Core.”  From http://www.sott.net/article/280622-Creating-a-generation-of-Authoritarian-Followers-Interview-with-5th-grade-teacher-reveals-ideology-behind-Common-Core-creators


The above observations are supported by additional evidence from the actual SAGE test.  When a high school student last year chose to post screen shots she’d taken of a SAGE/AIR Common Core test question, we all saw that the students were being asked to opine about whether video games or books were a better way for students to learn.  The question itself framed the purpose of education oddly.  And the pieces that students were to read were slanted toward the opinion that video games were better.

The point is that SAGE/AIR Common Core tests are not just the flavor of the month, not just any variety of a test.  They are heavily agenda-driven.  They are manipulative of academic tradition, of student thought and student beliefs.

The news that students didn’t score “well” on them, should not lead us to conclude that “Utah students aren’t ready for college.”  The news should lead us to conclude that “these experimental, secretive tests are a departure from traditional, time-tested education and must be immediately revoked.”

The whole false narrative being pushed by the USOE should be scrutinized by sane minds.  For example, Judy Park of the USOE defended the tests and Common standards in the Fox 13 news article cited above.  Park implied that conforming to a national standard and test had been a good idea because “Our students are seeking jobs all over the world.”  Her argument, that Utah needed to become Common Core- aligned to help students be more competitive, truly lacks common sense.  The whole world flocks to U.S.Universities, including Utah universities– not because we have conformed to others, but because traditionally, we have been above and beyond others. Shouldn’t America remain individualistic and free, especially in the realm of education?

Making the education standards of Utah conform to Mr. David “Noneducator” Coleman‘s Common Core was a huge mistake; jumping on the “alignment of common data standards” bandwagon was likewise a huge mistake. We are losing individuality, autonomy and local innovation because of Common Core and its testing and data collection practices.

Dropping Common Core like an ugly hot potato, the way that Oklahoma did this year, is going to be increasingly difficult, however, because the Utah Attorney General fanned the flames of Common Core promotion when he reported that there’s no reason to worry about Common Core.

That’s another topic for another post.


12 responses to “On the Results of the SAGE/AIR Common Core Testing

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  1. Thank you for this article. I have taught in Alpine School District for 17 years. I am appalled at what is happening to our students through CC and SAGE testing. I am also furious that now we have to give the writing portion of the SAGE in February when only half of the curriculum has been taught in most cases. In my case, I teach junior English, it isn’t even halfway through the curriculum. English 11 and English 12 are a curriculum band. So, giving the writing portion in February tests students on 5 out of 18 months of curriculum. How is that fair. Also, English 12 has no SAGE test. They don’t plan on adding one. This assessment is wrong in every way imaginable.

  2. These are no-brainer observations. How could anyone want to support Common Core and Sage? Are our legislatures that out of touch???

  3. I’m so sick of government experimenting on students with standardized tests that are invalid and then saying, “Oh, don’t worry.” Standardized testing is probably the worst possible way to measure student achievement.

  4. Dear 3 Moms,
    I am so, so, so confused about Common Core.
    I have tried to read and study as much as possible, to make an informed opinion about the matter.
    I can find nothing, and I mean nothing, positive out there about Common Core.
    I read all this terrifying information about the dumbing down of our children’s education, the tracking of our children’s personal information and the creation of robotic teaching.

    But, when I speak to teachers (I have an education degree and and currently work at a charter school here in utah) when I speak to teachers, and I have spoken to a lot, they don’t have negative things to say about CC. I have spoken to teachers in public and charter schools, new teachers as well as seasoned veterans, elementary and secondary teachers; all say that the new standards are better; that theses standards have raised the bar. The consensus from the teachers I have spoken to is that they are now teaching more analytic thinking. Students are urged to form their own opinions, create intelligent arguments and back those arguments up with evidence. They are learning the old ways as well as newer ways of thinking; we don’t live in the same world we did 50 years ago. Although I believe firmly in the beauty of the basics; shouldn’t education evolve? (I’m genuinely asking your opinion, not arguing!:)

    I work directly every day with teachers that have worked tirelessly to help write the SAGE test. All are wonderful people, great teachers who love what they do and care for their students. These teachers want to better the education in Utah. None of these people are liberal government employees with alternate agenda’s; they good people, good teachers.

    When I was in college and student teaching, it was NCLB. I thought that was garbage and ushered in the high pressure standardized testing. I think CC is garbage too and when the next administration changes it all, it will most likely be garbage. But for at least the past 30 years, there have always been standards, there has always been a test (Iowa Basics, CRT, SAGE, etc). So why is this any different?
    I lose sleep at night. I can’t afford to send my children to private school, I feel like I have made a very education decision in where they are going to school, and play a very active roll in their education; but from what I read there is no escaping “satan’s work” that is Common Core.
    I sometimes feel that a lot of it is conservative propaganda because so many hate the Obama administration. I don’t know if what I am reading is true.
    I don’t know what to think or believe. I JUST. DON’T. KNOW. It has me terrified as a mother and very frustrated as an educator.
    Am I being naive in thinking that both ends of this argument have gone too far?

    In closing….
    what is being done to change this and what can I do? What can I do to have more say in my children’s education. How can I be better informed?


    • Maggie, thank you for your comment/request for help. I think your comment mirrors the feelings of many, many people out there! Here’s my explanation: there are multiple issues being labeled “common core.”

      If the issue was simply standards, and if they were not nationally standardized and controlled (only amendable by) forces outside Utah (Remember, the unelected and unaccountable-to-voters groups, NGA and CCSSO, wrote and copyrighted these standards; and the AIR and SBAC and PARCC lead the writing of the tests that match the standards) –in other words— if what the teachers were seeing were the only issue, then we’d have a pretty simple argument. It would be: are these standards helping children at every grade level and in every state, or are they harming true education for some/all children at some/all grade levels in some/all states? Pretty simple. That’s why so many teachers are okay with the standards. In some grades, they are virtually the same as they used to be. In other grades, they are dramatically, frighteningly different. Depending on how closely the districts choose to align with the philosophies and conferences and advisory groups of Common Core, implementation is different in different places (for now).

      But the issue is NOT just the standards. Common Core (aka “college and career ready standards” in fedspeak) came as a part of a larger parcel. That parcel of federally and corporate-agreed upon reforms included FOUR PILLARS. Look them up. Obama’s spoken of them often. They are on the white house website. They are in contracts Utah’s signed years ago when we received ARRA money from the federal government. These four pillars attached Utah to federally defined, different standards, tests, data collection technologies, teacher evaluations, and school evaluations. Standards were just a key piece of that reform package. MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THIS. We further entrenched our state in these four reforms when we applied for the Race to the Top federal money, where we gained more points for agreeing specifically to use Common Core standards. (We didn’t get the money but we still stayed tied to Common Core, voluntarily.)

      Long story short: it almost doesn’t matter to the federal government what the standards are– as long as they are all the same. They can’t measure, track, reward and punish states unless there’s a common measuring stick. That common measuring stick includes common ed standards as well as common data standards (aka CEDS). Common Educational Data Standards were created and promoted by the same group, CCSSO, that co-created and co-copyrighted common education standards. No coincidence. CCSSO is also officially partnered with the federal department of education.

      The reason that I don’t spend much time talking about how ridiculous the elementary school math is, how devoid of upper level math the high school common core math is, how absurd it is for informational text to edge out imaginative literature in common core language arts classes, etc… is that talking about the standards is like discussing the arrangement design of the sunbathing chairs on the Titanic. Why?

      The current state of the common core standards is temporary. The official website itself declares that common core is a living document that will change as its creators feel the need to change it. Nowhere is there an amendment process for voters. Nowhere is there an amendment process for teachers, administrators, state or local school boards. It is controlled by those who wrote and copyrighted it. It is enforced by the aligned tests, which we voluntarily imposed upon ourselves.

      The reason it keeps us up at night is twofold: one, we care so much about what our children are learning today. Two, we care so much about what they could be potentially learning five or ten or fifty years from now– when common core changes without our consent.

      Being governed (educationally and data-privacywise) by a system that we cannot easily opt out of, alter or change, is education without representation. It violates the spirit of autonomy and liberty that made America great. So Common Core and the education reforms that come with it are unconstitutional, because they don’t allow for representative change, for repeal or alteration “by the governed,” as our founding fathers and mothers established this country to remain.

      The solution: Plan A: Insist that our legislature work to drop Common Core like the ugly hot potato it is– following Oklahoma’s lead. Also insist that legislators write a bill to make opting out of the state longitudinal database system legal and possible for any parent or student attending public school. Plan B: Work around it: send children to schools that do their best to work around and above this mess rather than cater to and welcome more and more of it, including using private or homeschooling options; and opt out of the SAGE/AIR tests and any survey or assignment that feeds the state database (aka state stalking system) which is happening if the child is in any publically funded school.

      • Dear 3 moms, I have an idea I’d like to share privately. Can one of you email me please? It’s about Pearson and Sir Michael Barber. Thank you for all you do !!

      • This reply hits on the horrifying problem with Common Core: It defied the Constitution of the United States in its creation, and may very well destroy the Constitution. Those who have implemented the Common Core are are like dictators. We must pray for our country.
        I live in Texas, but follow your website. Thank you for all that you do. You are not only working for the freedom of education–but for the Constitution of the United States.

        For those of you who do not believe that there is an inside threat to our liberty as American cititzens, go research Nazi Germany and how it began.

  5. Well done. Thanks again. Can’t wait to read about Sean Reyes less than impartial investigation.

  6. The best analogy I can offer Maggie is how a drug rep “sells” their new medication/product to a doctor or pharmacy. Does the drug rep believe the drug to be the next best thing? Yes! Does the drug rep want to harm anyone with their new drug? No! Is their drug the best new thing for every patient? No! Yet they give a give a great presentation to the doctor and/or their staff and suddenly they are prescribing or recommending that new drug/product to their patients. I work in healthcare and I can’t help but see this parallel with how common core has been presented to the education community. We have got to get over a “one size fits all” education!

  7. Thank you for this article. When my daughter was in 7th grade and took the SAGE test in her English class, I was horrified to learn that she had to argue whether landfills or garbage incinerators were better for the environment. I kid you not! Could they come up with a more lame, uninteresting, obvious environmental wacko persuading topic for a 12 year old girl to write on?! Then, on top of all of this, the computers went down halfway through the testing so the students had to hope that their work was saved when they came back the next day to finish the test. If this is what USOE thinks is improvement, then they need their heads examined! I’m also disgusted by the little twitter like English blasts that they have to do each week. This last one was on drug testing in athletes. The kids had to comment on a series of statements and then rate the comments of five of their peers online. What does this have to do with learning the English language?! How is this helpful?! (And this is an Honors English Class) What happened to reading and analyzing the classics like A Tale of Two Cities or To Kill a Mocking Bird? Those texts are full of interesting discussions on human behavior, yet we settle for Tabloid entertainment type junk to teach our children?

  8. This is way off topic, but would it be possible to change the colors used on this website? They are so hard on my eyes, but I love to read the posts here. I’m not trying to be rude, it is just very hard to read the white text with the dark background.

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