1. THE TESTS HAVE NEVER BEEN VALIDATED. It is out of the norm for tests to be given to children that never have been validated in a formal, scientific, peer-reviewed way. Professor Tienken of Seton Hall University calls this “dataless decision making“. What does it mean to a mom or dad to hear that no validity report has ever been issued for the SAGE/Common Core tests? It means that the test is as likely to harm as to help any child.
We would not give our children unpiloted, experimental medicine; why would we give them unpiloted, experimental education? –And, did you know that Florida bought/rented the SAGE test from Utah, and now Florida points to Utah students as its guinea pigs? Where was Utah’s parental consent? Is it okay that the youngest, most helpless citizens are compulsory research subjects without the knowledge or consent of their parents?
2. THE STANDARDS (upon which the test is based) HAVE NEVER BEEN VALIDATED. Building a test on the sandy foundation of unvalidated standards –hoping but not having actual evidence on which to base that hope– that the standards are unquestionably legitimate, means that not only the test but the teaching that leads up to it, is experimental, not time-tested. The SAGE evaluates teachers and even grades schools (and will close them) based on test scores from this flawed-upon-flawed (not to mention unrepresentative/unconstitutional) system. Dr. Tienken reminds us that that making policy decisions in this baseless way is “educational malpractice.”
3. THE TESTS UNFAIRLY REDEFINE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE EDUCATED. The tests assume improper authority to enforce the common core and they thus cement this new definition of what education is. The redefining was not done by educators, but by businessmen, false philanthropists and politicians. The copyright on the standards for this test ensure that nobody gets any influence in what the standards will look like years from now, except those who hold copyright. Teachers are pressured, even against their professional judgment, to conform to test-centric standards and curriculum. Schools can get shut down, teachers can get rewarded, punished or fired, all based on the high stakes test.
4. THE TESTS ARE SECRETIVE. Parents and teachers may not see test questions, not even years after the test is over. Last year’s leaked screen shots of the test, taken by a student with her cell phone to show her mother, revealed an unpleasing agenda that asked students to question the value of reading (versus playing video games). The student who took the photos was told that she was a cheater, was threatened with expulsion; and the teacher who didn’t notice (or stop) the cell phone photography was threatened with job loss. Members of Utah’s 15-parent SAGE review committee have expressed grave concerns about the quality and content of SAGE, citing “grammar, typos, content, wrong answers, glitches, etc.,” but were never shown whether corrections were made to SAGE, prior to its hasty rollout.
5. TEST ITEM CREATION IS QUESTIONABLE. SAGE questions were written by two groups: a few hand picked Utah educators, and the psychometricians at the testing company, American Institutes for Research (AIR) which is not an academic organization but a behavioral research group. We don’t know why psychometricians were entrusted to write math and English questions. And we don’t know what the percentages are– how many SAGE questions come from educators, and how many from AIR’s psychometricians?
6. THE TEST DISREGARDS ETHICS CODES FOR BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH TESTING. As Dr. Gary Thompson has pointed out, behavioral tests are normally governed by strict codes of ethics and test-giving psychologists lose their licenses to practice if they veer from the codes of ethics.
The Utah State Office of Education claims tests do not collect psychological information, but it seems unreasonable to believe the claim.
- “Behavioral Indicators” is a phrase that’s been in Utah laws concerning student testing for years. It’s old news. Happily, last month, Sen. Aaron Osmond wrote a bill to remove that language. (Thank you, Senator Osmond.) Time will tell if the new law is respected or enforced.
- “Psychometric census” of Utah students was part of the agreement Utah made with the federal government when it applied for and received a grant to build a longitudinal database to federal specifications, (including federal and international interoperability specifications.) Utah promised in that grant contract to use its Student Strengths Inventory to collect noncognitive data.
- The test company, AIR, is a behavioral research company that creates behavioral assessments as its primary mission and focus.
- U.S. Dept of Education reports such as “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” promote collection of students’ psychological and belief-based data via tests, encouraging schools to use biometric data collection devices. I have not seen any of these devices being used in Utah schools, but neither have I seen any evidence that the legislature or our State School Board stand opposed to the Dept. of Education’s report or the advice it gives.
- The NCES, a federal agency, has a National Data Collection Model which it invites states to follow. Since Utah has no proper legal privacy protections in place, there is nothing stopping us from accepting the invitation to comply with the Model’s suggestions, which include hundreds of data points including intimate and even belief-based points: religious affiliation, nickname, voting status, bus stop times, birthdate, nonschool activities, etc.
7. UTAH’S NEW SCHOOL TURNAROUND LAW WILL SHUT DOWN SCHOOLS OR TAKE THEM OVER –USING SAGE AS JUSTIFICATION. The bell curve of school-grading uses SAGE as its school-measuring stick; when a certain number of schools (regardless of quality) are inevitably labeled “failing” because of their position on that bell curve, they will be turned over to the state, turned into a charter school, or closed. These events will alter lives, because of Utah’s belief in and reliance on the illegitimate SAGE test scores.
8. SAGE TESTS ARE GIVEN ALL YEAR LONG. These are not just end-of-year tests anymore. SAGE tests are summative, formative, interim, and practice (assignment based) tests. The summative (ending) test is given so early in the year that content has not been taught yet. But it gets tested anyway, and teachers/students/schools get negatively judged, anyway.
9. OPTING OUT IS ONE WAY TO PROTEST DATA MINING AND TO MINIMIZE IT. The State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) collects daily data on every school child without ever asking for parental consent. SLDS collects much more than test-gathered data. The government of Utah will not allow an SLDS opt out. And since SLDS does not have an opt out provision (while SAGE does) it makes sense to minimize the amount of data mining that’s being done on your child by not taking these tests.
10. OPTING OUT OF SAGE FIGHTS EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. The lack of transparency, of fairness, of any shared amendment process or true representation under Common Core and its testing system defies “consent of the governed,” a principle we learned in the Declaration of Independence. “It is the right [and responsibility] of the people to alter or abolish” governments [or educational programs] destructive of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness –or those that govern without the knowledge of, or consent of, the governed.
I believe that parents now have the right and responsibility to abolish SAGE testing, by refusing to participate.
Beware of Stealth Assessment as SAGE replacement
Please beware, however: The testing opt out movement has grown so huge (outside Utah) that some Utah legislators have decided to hop on the anti-testing bandwagon with an eye toward replacing SAGE with something from which public school parents can never, ever opt out (unless they home school or use private school). That’s called embedded testing, or stealth assessment.
Rep. Marie Poulson’s resolution to create a task force to study getting rid of SAGE and to replace it with embedded, or stealth assessments, passed in the Utah legislature this year. That means that it will most likely become law next year.
Opt out of SAGE this year; fight Stealth Assessment next year.
National News Update on Test Opt-Out Movement
provided by Fairtest.org
We’ve pulled together this special edition of our usually-weekly newsclips because of three huge stories that broke in the past several days.
– In New York, more than 173,000 students opted out of the first wave of state testing, at least tripling last year’s boycott level.
– In five states (Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota) computerized Common Core testing systems collapsed in a replay of the widespread technical problems which plagued Florida exams earlier this spring.
Both major developments further undermine the credibility of judgements about students, teachers and schools made on the basis of standardized exam results.
— And, in Washington DC, the U.S. Senate education committee responded to grassroots pressure for assessment reform by endorsing an overhaul of “No Child Left Behind,” which eliminates most federal sanctions for test scores. The bill does not go far enough to reversing test misuse and overuse, but it is a step in the right direction
Remember that these updates are posted online at: http://fairtest.org/news/other for your reference and for use in Facebook posts, Tweets, weblinks, etc.
U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Kill “No Child Left Behind,” But High-Stakes Testing Era is Far From Over
NCLB Reauthorization: A Chance to Right a Wrong That is Hurting Low-Income Children
California Large Urban School District Leadership Rebukes Standardized Testing Fixation
Colorado Computerized Testing Shut Down Statewide by “Technical Difficulties”
Florida Governor Signs Modest Testing Reductions into Law; Parents and Teachers Promise Escalating Pressure
Florida’s New Student Testing Law Should Have Gone Further
Georgia Judge Sentences Educators to Up to Seven Years in Prison for Test Cheating
Indiana Legislators Have Competing Views About Future of State Testing
Michigan Opt-Out Movement is Starting to Gain Steam
Minnesota Student Assessments Snarled by Computer Crash
Montana Cancels Smarter Balanced Testing Mandate After Computer Administration Woes
Nevada Common Core Testing Disrupted for Two Days by Computer Problems
New Jersey More than 15% of 11th Graders Skipped Standardized Test
New York Fed-up Parents Revolt Against Testing in Historic Fashion
Tens of Thousands Boycott New York State Exams, Raising Questions About Test-Based Evaluations
Track District-by-District Data Here:
North Dakota Testing Plagued by More Computer Glitches
Ohio Panelists Blast Testing at League of Women Voters Forum
Oklahoma Schools Struggling to Meet State Requirements for Test Monitors
Oregon House Passes Bill Making it Easier to Opt Out of Tests
Oregon District Considers Suspending Common Core Test
Pennsylvania Sees More Students Opting Out of Standardized Tests, Especially in Philadelphia
Lehigh Valley Opt-Outs on the Rise
Texas Parents Speak Out Against STAAR Exams
Texas Principal’s Firing May Stem From Testing Criticism
Vermont School Board Chair Explains Why State Voted to Suspend Use of Smarter Balanced Scores
Washington State Students Are Right to Fight Testing Requirements
Washington Board of Ed Wants to End Biology Exam That Blocks 2,000 From Graduating
West Virginia Common Core Testing Off to Rocky Start, “The Logistical Issues Are Terrible
Wisconsin Opt-Out Movement Gains Ground
Computerized Tests Face Major Technical Barriers
FairTest Chronology of High-Stakes Computer Test Failures