Archive for October 2018

Show-Up Time: UT Public Hearing on Thursday– Concerning Test Opt-outs v. Course Requirements   2 comments

Your presence is requested at a special hearing this Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 5:00 to 6:30, in the Board Room at the State Office of Education, 250 E. 500 S., Salt Lake City.

Written comments may be submitted before close of business on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, here:  rule.comments@schools.utah.gov

If you wish to make public comment at the hearing, in person, that request must be made before the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 31, to lorraine.austin@schools.utah.gov

This special hearing is in response to three parent-teacher groups’s requests:

  • United States Parents Involved in Education
  • Return to Parental Rights
  • United Women’s Forum, Salt Lake County Chapter

Each of these groups will be speaking for ten minutes at the hearing.  Other parties will be permitted to speak as time allows, with priority given to those who make the request by email on the previous day (see above).

In September, Utah’s executive branch published the “Utah State Bulletin” which contains many new rules on a host of subjects.  Rule No. 43183, beginning on page 14, called R-277-404, is titled “Requirements for Assessments of Student Achievement”.

Under 6(c) the new language states that a school (aka LEA) “shall reasonably accomodate a parent’s or guardian’s request to allow a student’s demonstration of proficiency on a state required assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course.”

This language needs to be stricken from the rules.  The language subtly, yet dramatically elevates the status of the SAGE/RISE/Common Core tests, without merit, without valid reason, and with unethical, damaging future effects.

Prior to the new rule, SAGE/RISE was something from which many parents and students could, and did, opt out–  for a host of reasons.  (See Top Ten Reasons to Opt Out of Common Core/SAGE testing.  See also  The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.   In a nutshell, SAGE/RISE/CommonCore tests are: locally and nationally controversial, even teacher and parent-disapprovedCommon Core-based, dangerously flaweddid I mention controversial, secretive, unvalidated; even mining students’ non-academic data.).

Now, unless this rule’s language is stricken from the rules, here’s the new opt out scenario:  any requirement in a course could potentially be skipped, if a school decides to allow a SAGE/RISE/CommonCore test score to replace it, with parental approval.  So, the student who used to be opted out of the government test by his or her parent, will now be strongly tempted to persuade his or her parent to opt in.  “I don’t have time/don’t want to write my final paper.  I didn’t have time/don’t want to read the literature;  the school says I can skip this requirement if I take the SAGE/RISE/CommonCore test and if you sign this form.”  This may drive a wedge between a student and parent.  It can create a wedge between a student and hard course requirements.  It can damage a teacher’s professional judgment and his or her course-designing value.

If SAGE/RISE/CommonCore tests weren’t controversial, if they weren’t secretive, so that a teacher could actually correlate a course with this test, to see if it actually measured the thing that the new rule language implies that this test can adequately replace, that might almost make sense.

But the tests remain controversial, and they are secretive, and they cannot be correlated with the course offerings of any given class by virtue of that secrecy.

I taught high school English and English at UVU, for a combined total of about 9 years.  (I have also taught third grade.)  As an English teacher, I imagine how this rule would play out.  Think about it.

Good teachers tend to assign challenging, classic literature to be read, and challenging essays and reports to be written.  Often, final exams and writing assignments feel like burdens to students, but they are, in fact, blessings.  (How else will students know how to research, draft, write and edit a well-referenced, fully cited, MLA-formatted paper at the end of the class? Not from a government screen-based test.)  And would any student need to really know the literature to pass a government/CommonCore test?  No.  A student can just read little snippets on the test and bubble in the multiple-guess responses.

Students will not grow from burdens they can skip.  Do we really want to put into state law the option to “get your parents to request that the government test will fulfill the essay writing/literature final/ other requirement of the class” ?

The executive for Utah’s SAGE test (AIR VP Jon Cohen) stated that “when you’re using a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid, you are using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.” 3:07 in the video clip:

 

 

Please consider making time in your day to show up, or at least to send in written comment on this issue.

Rule 277-404 6c might seem like small, barely significant language, but its effects may prove to be huge.  Besides seeming seriously unethical, implicitly encouraging students to beg their way into an opt-in to Common Core-aligned testing, the effects may be very long-lasting and damaging to an individual child’s education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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