Update on Utah education bills:
The short version and the good news must come first: HB 164 (a bill about no more opting out of SAGE tests) did not pass. HB 264 (a bill about common sex ed) did not pass.
Yesterday at the Capitol, the legislative education hearing was cram-packed with standing room only, and an overflow room was available for attendees. I’m so glad that so many came.
One of the first bills, HB201 –that would remove the Common Core SAGE test from being tied to teacher evaluations, a common sense bill– was clearly popular. Three “Teachers of the Year” spoke in favor of it. They said that it’s not fair to punish a teacher if a student rebels against a test and doesn’t do his/her best work. Some said that the test itself was not valid.
When the committee chair asked if anyone in the audience wanted to speak against it, parent Jared Carman volunteered, saying that while he definitely agrees with the idea behind the bill, he disagrees with the bigger picture. Carman pointed out that since, later in this same meeting, this committee would discuss whether to tie student passing or failing of a course to Common Core SAGE testing, the logic was flawed. If it’s unfair to base a teacher’s grade on this unreliable and unvalidated test, why is it not unfair to base a child’s grade on it?
Amen, Mr. Carman.
Next up was HB 164, the opt out-or-no-opt-out bill. Sponsor Kraig Powell summarized the three versions of the bill– not in the way I would have– but he did say that there were three different doors and that the committee could choose which door to open. True. They were each different, but each called 164. Someone on the committee pointed out that this is not a game show!
Someone else pointed out that the third substitute bill was only posted online a few minutes before the hearing, making it unfair to expect a vote on it, without a reading and without giving notice for people to know about it and to come to the hearing to speak to its (very different) issues.
Still, Representative Powell hoped to pass the bill anyway, saying (amid wild, enthusiastic cheers from the audience) that it’s high time we get rid of the SAGE test altogether. For your information, he has always fought the pro-liberty, anti-common core crowd, so it was very, very odd to hear him say those words.
And I wasn’t cheering.
I asked to be allowed to give public comment on substitute 3, since I had read it while sitting in the hearing. (I had noticed that it was utterly, completely different from substitutes one and two. It was about “backpack” digital data on every child; it was about labeling schools as “turnaround” schools; it was about getting rid of SAGE testing while relying on embedded, curricular [stealth] assessment.) I didn’t get the opportunity to speak because the committee wisely decided not to hear testimony and not to vote on it, since there had been no time for reading and analysis by the committee.
So why wasn’t I cheering that we’d get rid of SAGE? Why would I want to testify against the bill that supposedly spelled the end of SAGE/Common Core testing? Simply this: substitute 3 of HB164 gets rid of SAGE, but it also gets rid of any possibility for a parent to opt a child out of testing. And it totally relies on common core and common, SLDS/CEDS, data.
HB 164 sub 3 relies on a digital “backpack,” which is like an ever deepening, longitudinal fingerprint, to assess children constantly. The child would provide an I.V. drip of continuous data to the State Longitudinal Database System, via stealth assessment, which has been set up to happen by several previous bills, including this one.
See lines 590-591: “Every school district and public school shall develop and integrate programs integrating technology into the curriculum, instruction, and student assessment.”
That matches, perfectly, ed committee member Marie Poulson’s task force and resolution of last year, which aimed to minimize the negative effects of excessive testing. It sounds so good.
Yet, there is something even more sinister than excessive testing, using experimental standards and psychometric analysis of student responses. That is: stealth assessment; that means, using continuous assessment that is embedded in the curriculum so that no parent can opt a child out of the test– BECAUSE THE TEST NEVER ENDS.
I am not against integrating technology into learning. There is nothing wrong with technology; it’s a blessing! But there is something wrong with not applying basic principles of liberty and consent to the technology being used by children. There is something wrong with forcing students to be monitored all of the time, in all of their assignments, and then to be judged thereby.
Dr. Gary Thompson has been warning us for years that the trendy notion of stealth, or embedded, assessment, would show up here; it has. Jakell Sullivan has been warning us for years that SAGE was a red herring, or not the real point; the real point was controlling the data via the SLDS longitudinal database system; that’s in HB 164 sub 3, too.
So, despite the cheers of the audience members yesterday, when Representative Powell said, “SAGE needs to go!” I am certain sure that Powell has no intention of allowing any sort of parental opt out of testing. He simply sees that assessment can go underground, far out of the view of parents or teachers, in the form of stealth assessment: “integrating technology [common core standards-based technologies, and SLDS/CEDS data mining] into the curriculum, instruction, and assessment“.
The question at the core of this issue is: Which is worse– saving children from the wasteful, stressful, data-robbing SAGE tests now, while making their tests stealthy and continuous, with no parental opt out available, or: sticking with statewide SAGE, where at least those who are aware and informed, can opt out?
Both are bad, but one is clearly worse, in terms of parental judgment, control and liberty. But embedded assessment is what Poulson and Powell and the whole educational establishment appear to be favoring. Embedded tests certainly get rid of whiny parents and rebellious kids aiming to wreck their test scores with careless bubbling in of answers. But at what cost?!
(Please contact your legislators and tell them that you are opposed to stealth assessment and digital “backpacks” on children. This will show up in many bills, now and next year.)
The third bill from yesterday’s hearing that I want to review is Rep. King’s Comprehensive Sexuality Bill, HB 264. The committee allowed public comment, but only a very few people were given time. One of the first commenters arguing against passing the bill said that Rep. King’s opening line was false. (King had said that there was “misinformation” on the internet that said that this bill had something to do with Common Core.) The commenter said that Rep. King might not be aware of the national, common standards for sexuality education, but the promoters of the common standards sure are aware of Rep. King; just today, SIECUS had posted an article about Rep. King’s Utah bill promoting their standards.
I looked at that article. It was far more revealing about what the bill aimed to do than its testifiers seemed to be: “House Minority leader Rep. Brian S. King (D-Salt Lake City) is leading efforts to change Utah’s sex ed law… Utah’s current law, passed in 1988, mandates medically-accurate sex education classes in schools but requires the stressing of abstinence-only instruction. The law stipulates that health education teachers cannot discuss intercourse nor positively discuss homosexuality…. This bill removes the instruction prohibitions on homosexuality, sexual intercourse and contraceptive devices”.
Most of the testifiers for the bill who stood to speak overtly appeared to be LGTB, a point that stood out to me. It was not mentioned by the newspapers today, of course. But think about it. If the bill was just about giving additional, medically accurate knowledge, and not about altering “values, attitudes and beliefs” as the national sexuality standards movement requires; if there was no LGTB agenda being pushed on the children through HB 246, why were all the LGTB activists there to testify for it? Since when do they go out of their way to testify in hearings for the cause of “medically accurate knowledge”?
I am not hostile toward gays. Live and let live. But I am opposed to the LGTB agenda being pushed in public arenas as if it were the new, national religion. I am opposed to the minimizing of truth about what that lifestyles’ consequences are. The national common sexuality standards do push that lifestyle and political agenda on children, while calling it education. Altering beliefs is not what reproductive health classes are supposed to be for. Altering beliefs and attitudes is the job of the family and the church.
HB 264 did not pass.
The last update that I want to share is about HB 91, Hillyard and Eliason’s bill to change the power levers of the state school board. I am concerned about the apparent power grab that the state school board is taking in this bill:
“The board may delegate the board’s statutory duties and responsibilities to board employees.”
This is bad because we, the people, cannot elect or fire employees as we can elect and fire the board.
85 (ii) temporarily or permanently withhold state funds from the education entity;
86 (iii) require the education entity to pay a penalty;
This is bad because it overreaches into the localities, pushing the state board’s will onto the local boards, which is not in harmony with the constitution.
There are also audits of localities, new rules about how a local entity interacts with a third party, and other seeming power grabs that need attention from local boards and liberty-minded representatives. We don’t want to recreate the nightmare of the beastly federal Department of Education within our state, by allowing the State Department of Education to micromanage the localities, using money and unfire-ability as leverage.
Please continue to email, text, call or write to your representatives.
They need to hear what your thoughts and feelings are. Silence is acquiescence.