Archive for the ‘protect children from bullying at any level’ Tag

Utah Schools to be Alarmingly Test-Centric under HB 118   3 comments

 

Dear Utah Senators,

Please vote no on HB118. The bill contains five big red flags.

1. The first one is a pawn-off, trading real educational experiences and fair grading, for participation in the big standardized test and an easy grade. That’s a shady trade.

See line 13: “allows at teacher to use a student’s score on certain assessments to improve a student’s academic grade”.

2. The second big red flag: equating test-taking for actual student competency toward college in a way that can allow students to never learn certain things (that aren’t on the federally aligned test).

Line 83 says that a teacher may use a student’s score on the high school test to improve the students academic grade OR to “demonstrate a student’s competency within a relevant course.”

Lines 142-145 say: “LEA shall allow a student to earn course credit toward high school graduation without completing a course in school by a) testing out of the course; or b) demonstrating competency in course standards.”

Since only 15 people in the state may view the test, most students, teachers, legislators and parents are blocked from seeing the test. How would academic competency and equality be verified? It won’t be. It’s false to say, without viewing and analyzing the two things being compared, that one thing (the standardized test) matches another (Utah-defined, teacher-defined, academic competency). Moreover, wherever Utah standards and teachers have tried to teach above and beyond Common Core standards, those differences may go away, since they can’t benefit, students taking these tests for their grades.

3. The third big red flag is the twisting of a good principle: parental accomodations for students’ best interests. The bill cites the good Utah code that “a student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role… has the right to reasonable academic accommodations”.

But it’s out of context. Test taking pressure has nothing to do with empowering parents. It is not a “reasonable academic accommodation” (regardless of whether it’s a parent’s or a teacher’s idea) to redefine what quality academics are; to trade teacher-created, meaningful and robust coursework for a passing score on a big, nationally standardized test. It simply is not reasonable.

I taught English for many years, in high schools and at Utah Valley University. I can imagine how many students would rather gamble on a big standardized test, than actually read novels, and actually write MLA-formatted essays and reports. This bill has the power to make a joke of legitimate educational expectations of teachers. Talk about dumbing down effects!

 

 

4. Fourth, there is the issue of opting out rights. Pressuring (or tempting) students and parents to quit opting out, incentivizing that temptation with the lure of an easier grade, will surely have the bill’s desired impact of reducing opt outs and will put the state in greater compliance with federal wishes– but the question is, at what cost ? Do we really want Utah to pressure and coerce people into opting in to something they have determined isn’t a valid measure of their child?

5. Fifth, the bill will alter Utah’s education culture, making it more and more test-centric. That move that has been shown in many places, outside the US and inside it, to drive up anxiety, depression, and suicide rates.

 

At what cost are we incentivizing and valuing the SAGE/RISE Common Core tests? How many students will opt in, and lose the opportunity to be held accountable for real academic experiences? How many parents and students will get into a family fight because the student wants the easier grade, but the parent does not feel right about opting in to the test?

How will watching HB 118 pass; seeing Utah bullying its own people into taking this test, then affect the federal confidence level that it can continue to enforce unconstitutional, federally-orginated change in Utah education? How many will suffer anguish due to the increasing high-stakes test pressure? How many suicides will be partially or completely resultant from the change that makes Utah increasingly test-centric in deciding how it values students?

Please vote no on HB 118.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Utah Senators:

Wayne Harper ,
Deidre Henderson ,
kcullimore@le.utah.gov,
lfillmore@le.utah.gov,
Daniel McCay ,
Daniel Thatcher ,
Jacob Anderegg ,
dhemmert@le.utah.gov,
Keith Grover ,
Curt Bramble ,
ssandall@le.utah.gov,
amillner@le.utah.gov,
Allen Christensen ,
gbuxton@le.utah.gov,
Jerry Stevenson ,
Stuart Adams ,
Todd Weiler ,
Ralph Okerlund ,
Lyle Hillyard ,
rwinterton@le.utah.gov,
David Hinkins ,
Evan Vickers ,
dipson@le.utah.gov

 – – – – – – –

This week, KUTV produced a short t.v. article about HB 118.  I happened to be interviewed as a mom in favor of retaining the right to opt out of the high stakes tests.  Here is that link.

https://kutv.com/news/local/90-million-in-federal-money-for-utah-schools-at-risk-from-standardized-test-opt-out-rates

 – – – – – – –

The title of KUTV’s article is false.  There is no risk of a 90 million dollar loss in funding if we don’t pass HB 118.

 

Alisa Ellis, a state school board representative, showed that the notion is false, and that Utah is at no risk of losing federal funding.  She wrote:

 

HB118 is sweeping through the legislative session based on a false premise.

There is a growing misconception that we need to incentivize students to take the end of year tests or we are at risk of losing federal $$. This is completely false.

Please take a moment and watch our board meeting from last October.

https://youtu.be/nSdQ0jkhiqc

It would be well worth your time to watch the entire segment but if you don’t have time here are a couple of places that are critical.

Beginning at 6:25-

As our opt-out rate increases above the 95% participation threshold, the federal government requires that we change our calculation. In our board meeting the Superintendent estimates about 5 schools would be affected in the state.

We would look at the lowest 5% performing schools in the state and then the change in calculation would only occur if any of those schools had more than 5% opt out.

It’s also important to note that we aren’t even required to send the calculations to the Federal government. We simply have to run a report and post it for public consumption.

Beginning at 17:50 –

I asked if our opt out numbers continue to climb if we are at risk for losing federal $$$. The answer was no.

Please reach out to the Senate Education committee and ask them to vote no on HB118.

Senator Henderson – dhenderson@le.utah.gov
Senator Davis – gdavis@le.utah.gov
Senator Fillmore – lfillmore@le.utah.gov
Senator Grover – keithgrover@le.utah.gov
Senator Hillyard – lhillyard@le.utah.gov
Senator Millner – amillner@le.utah.gov
Senator Reibe – kriebe@le.utah.gov
Senator Stevenson – jwstevenson@le.utah.gov

#UTPOL #NOHB118 

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USBA Joins USDOE in Trying to Take Away Families’ Freedom to #OPTOUT: Common Core RISE same as Common Core SAGE   8 comments

Educational freedom needs defending.  Children need defending.  Parental rights need defending.

As its new legislative priority, the USBA lobby has set this bullying doozy:  forcing all students to take the Common Core tests and getting rid of the parental legal power to opt a child out of taking the tests, for any reason.

The Lehi Free Press reported that USBA passed a motion: “…every student that receives the benefit of state-funded education should participate in state created end-of-year assessments…”  While students are taught not to bully others,  the state may set the example of bullying both students and parents with this new priority.

Meanwhile, the state is also trying to convince parents and teachers that the much-hated Common Core SAGE tests are gone, so we should have no reason to opt out; trust the new Common Core RISE tests, they say.

This USOE video promoting Utah’s new, Common Core RISE test, which will replace Utah’s Common Core SAGE test for most grades, can do nothing to appease unhappy parents and teachers, because RISE is so similar to SAGE.  The film praises the things it shared in common with the SAGE test.  And that is like praising the rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Watching the promo film, I felt sad as lovely teachers, with beautiful things to say, each avoided speaking directly about the dark issues of the Common Core tests. The  issues with SAGE testing that caused about 10% of all Utah parents to opt their children out of the tests, are STILL THERE in the test called RISE.

If you watch the film to the end and are still wondering, “What specifically are these interviewees praising?  And what’s improved with RISE over SAGE?!” — just go to the Utah State Office of Education’s “Frequently Asked Questions” link.  It confirms that there’s no real difference, despite what the film implies.

Wendy Hart of Utah’s largest school district, Alpine District, has said of RISE, “It’s like saying that the city got a new library– because they replaced the catalog software.  But the building, the books and the patrons are the same.”

State Board members, local board members, and Utah teachers who oppose RISE (as they opposed SAGE) were of course not invited to participate in the filming of this taxpayer funded, RISE-promo film.

The facts are that as with SAGE, with RISE:  parents are still not in the loop, the tests are still secretive, the tests are still not local, are not coming from teachers of these students; the tests are still founded on controversial Common Core standards, not local charter standards or Utah-built standards, and the tests are still collecting academic and nonacademic data to share with corporate, federal and state entities (not just with the  teachers, as the film implies).   https://www.schools.utah.gov/file/04be9c35-71ea-41e2-8a78-2dc39195ad6f

The initiative to try to get Utahns to embrace RISE illustrates the new bullying hierarchy: the federal government is strong-arming the state government via ESSA, and so the state now has decided to strong-arm parents, asking them to strong-arm the students.

The RISE test promo-film is step one toward forcing the kids.  But the story really began with federal ESSA.  For backstory, read Utah State School Board member Michelle Boulter’s article at her campaign website, and Autumn Cook’s article published by The Federalist.  The Federalist article by Autumn Cook details the federal mandating drive for tests, that may soon quash Utah’s rights to opt children out of tests for any reason.  She raises many interesting questions, including this one: “Utah’s hightest opt-out rates occur among economically advantaged, non-minority student populations with highly involved parents… so will this agreement direct Title 1 money away from schools with higher financial needs and toward well-to-do schools with high opt out rates?  And what form with federal remediation of non-compliant local schools take?”

At stake are the following freedoms:  academic freedom within Utah schools; the freedom for a parent to opt a student out of testing– for any reason; freedom for a school to follow its own, foundational education charter (rather than veering toward new, test-centric curriculum– to avoid being labeled a failing school) the freedom for a school not to pressure students and parents to take Common Core tests, the freedom for schools to actually be different from one another; the freedom for parents or elected representatives, not the federal government, to determine which schools “need” remediation.

Please write or call your school boards, state board members (at Board@schools.utah.gov) and legislators:  https://le.utah.gov  

Tell them that you expect them to protect children from bullying at any level, and that you expect them to defend academic freedom, school freedom, parental rights, and student’s rights.

 

 

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