First Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out   1 comment

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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According to Utah law, a 15-member parent committee must be assembled to review the test questions on the Common Core SAGE test prior to the test being administered statewide.
Members of the committee now report that, contrary to what was reported by the Utah State Office of Education and the media, there was no consensus of approval on SAGE by the parent committee. Several members want to set the record straight. Here is the first of what will be a series of parental testimonies that all was not well with SAGE tests.  This comes from committee member Molly Foster, with her permission.

Email from Molly Foster (written to the other members of the 15-parent committee to review SAGE test questions)

… In the spring when I was made aware of the USOE putting words in my mouth I contacted Judy Park several times, through email and phone messages to no avail until I sent a more honest email to her one day, she immediately responded. I will enclose our emailed conversation.

…The results of the SAGE test across the state were not surprising for the 5 Supers I spoke to in southern Utah. Judy Park herself told them in training that the students would fail until they got all the curriculum aligned, this could take years, and quite frankly by then they will have another mandatory program they are shoving down each district’s throat, keeping everybody busy testing instead of teaching, and most importantly nurturing human relationships within their own schools and communities… Let’s not forget that the test scores are also tied to school grades, and teacher performance pay.

As a teacher, I believe formative and summative assessing is best done at district level. An antiquated idea, I know. While our law makers spend their time passing bills with the impression they are providing a little vehicles for educators in their state to produce “college and career ready” students, even “globally” ready for life I have to laugh (in order to not cry).
Last I checked, this is America! The rest of the world is trying to come here to work and live. Remember? We have the liberty and freedom to work and educate people as we so desire. Comparing test scores to kids in Scandinavia or Singapore does nothing. Their kids in the end have no choice of whether they will pursue arts, science, technology, this is decided for them before many have even hit puberty! I love that American kids get to choose. Some may really like science through high school but when they begin college they may find a new love for the arts and find a degree in that pursuit. In America you may even decide NOT to go to college (gasp!). Isn’t this the greatest country?!
The state is not going to get rid of a 38 million dollar exam anytime in the next few years. The parent committee is nothing but a political move they will continue to use to their advantage as long as ya’ll stay quiet and polite. Best case scenario for me would be to administer it only at the end of the year, just like the old state tests.
Cut any ties it has to teacher performance pay, and school grading. If they think this is silly you should tell Judy Park and the rest of the USOE staff and all the legislators to take it themselves three times a year, tell them they will be fired if they don’t score at an appropriate global level. Tell them not to get nervous when they sit down in front of a computer for 2-4 hours a day, for 5 days, 3 times yearly. They might have to start “working to the test” but in the end it will all be worth it, I am sure they will immediately understand why this multi million dollar test is the only way to make them college and career ready. They will see how easy it is to judge their workday hours on a CAT exam, they can grade each employee and determine pay scales on their scores.
You were all a great bunch of parents and I urge you to each speak. Share your personal opinions with the parents, teachers and administrators in your communities, that is why you are there! Be honest with the USOE. Best part…..you don’t have to all have the same opinion!
But you do have the obligation to the people you represent to be their voice. Teachers and administrators cannot safely voice personal opinion. I have a lot of family members and loved ones working in Utah that need more parents to make a stand for education. Lucky for them there are some real smart, delightful people on the committee that will do just that!
Enjoy another round of tests!
Best to each of you!
Molly Foster
The emails:
————————————————
Ms. Park,
 
I am very disturbed at what you said in a recent letter sent to districts across the state:
 
“There are also concerns that the test questions contain inappropriate content of a social or political nature.  Every question on the SAGE assessment has been reviewed by the 15 member parent committee last fall.  Every parent on the panel (including the parents that do not support the common core) agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.”
 
I am on your 15 member parent committee and you know we agreed there were questions that were inappropriate.
 
It is unfortunate that I have to tell people that the USOE is not a trustworthy entity. I did not intend my participation that week to be a blanket validation for your political purposes.
 
Thank you.
 
Molly Foster
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From Utah State Office of Education’s Dr. Judy Park to Molly Foster:
Molly, I am so sorry that you misunderstood my comments.  I am regularly receiving concerns that the questions have inappropriate language and are pushing a social agenda.  When we held the parent debrief panel the last day of the parent committee review, when asked if the test questions had inappropriate words or pushed a social agenda (I don’t remember exactly how it was worded), all 15 parents responded that the questions did not.  There is no doubt that there were many questions that were flagged by the parent committee.  I have freely shared the information you received from John Jesse that showed the number of items that were flagged by the parent committee and the resolution of those items.  I am also in the process of preparing the items that were dropped from the test due to the input from the parent committee, for public release.  I think it will be very helpful for any interested persons to see the actual items that have been eliminated.  I have tried in all of my comments about the parent committee (written or verbal) to honor the great work of the committee and appropriately portray the views and opinions that were shared.  I will try to be much more specific in the future to hopefully prevent misunderstanding.
Thanks
Judy W. Park, Ed.D.
Utah State Office of Education
Associate Superintendent
Student Services and Federal Programs
———————————————————
Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.
– Leo Tolstoy

One response to “First Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out

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  1. I am one of the parents on the review committee and one of only two males.

    I was asked to review the SAGE assessment, look for any errors, look for anything that might be offensive or biased. That was my charge and really the charge of the entire committee.

    After reviewing SAGE I came out of it feeling like we were treated very well. I also felt like by reviewing it, finding the very few issues that we found, and receiving assurances that the assessment would be adjusted that we had approved of the questions that were on the assessment. This doesn’t mean that any or all of us approve of standardized testing.

    I am not pro state wide standardized testing in general. It is not a form of testing that really helps us to improve teaching in the classroom. Formative assessment that is created at the teacher PLC level does help to improve teaching practice and has been shown to raise overall achievement. Standardized testing is completely different. Standardized testing does not use the same language as the curriculum being taught in schools because curriculum creation and purchase is a district level decision. High stakes or State wide standardized tests are controlled at the State level. If we truly want to know how our kids are doing we should allow our teachers to teach, formatively assess and then rely on the assessments that our children are all going to take anyway… The ACT. Each district should be able to choose the standardized test they use and how it is applied. What I want to know is which standards have my children mastered and which ones they have not. I want to know what I can do as a parent to help my children achieve more. What do I need to do to help my children think on their feet, be more entrepreneurial in their studies, figure things out that they do not know etc?

    My children all took the SAGE test last year and each one did very well. When asking my child’s elementary teacher why she thought he did so well on SAGE while most others did not she said that he is good at figuring things out without the need to be shown. Cheers to my wife!

    I have no concerns with the content on the test. I have no concerns with data sharing and feel that this is folklore perpetuated by some with their own personal agendas that says the federal government is spying on our kids… Hogwash.

    The educators at the Utah State Office of Education are well meaning, well educated, have no personal agenda and in my opinion only have the best in mind for our Utah children. I love our public education system in Utah. I love our teachers and administrators. I love my opportunity to be on community councils and help to improve achievement in Utah schools. I love being an entrepreneur and business man.

    We need to take what we have with the SAGE test and make it better or drop it and turn it over to the local districts and service centers to measure achievement in our local school districts.

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