Category Archives: Assessments

School Board Member Recommends Opting Out of SAGE

Brian Halladay, a school board member in Alpine School District and one of the only people in the state to really dig into AIR and their SAGE test, shared the following with me and gave permission to post it.


The SAGE Test is an unreliable, unverified test that our children from 3rd-11th grade are taking not just once, but up to three times a year. These tests aren’t scored by their teachers, but rather by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). This company is the one of the world’s largest social and behavioral research organizations. Your child’s proficiency is being scored by a bunch of behavioral researchers. No teacher is scoring, or has the ability to score, an individual child’s SAGE test.

Your child is taking a test for 8 hours (4 hours for math and 4 hours for English) that their teacher can’t see the questions to. This test is designed to have your child fail. Gone are the days when a student could feel a sense of achievement for getting 100% on a test. This test is touted to be “rigorous.” If your child gets a correct answer the test will continue to ask harder and harder questions until they get it wrong (who knows if what is tested was actually taught in the classroom?) Put simply this means your child likely will come home grumpy, anxious, or depressed after they take this test. With over 50% non-proficiency this will affect more than half the students that take it.

The teacher is almost as much of a test victim as the child. Having no idea of the test questions, they are starting to be evaluated on a test they can’t see. I believe we’re starting to see this leading to more experienced teachers leaving, and an increase in teachers with little to no experience not knowing the pre-SAGE environment.

Points to consider:

  1. When did we allow testing to become more important than education?
  1. Your child’s data is subject to being shared with people and organizations without your consent. There is nothing that prohibits AIR or any its multiple organizations from accessing your child’s data. As long as AIR doesn’t make a profit from the data without the USOE’s consent, they can use it for anything they want.
  1. This test has no contractual provisions that prevent it from collecting BEHAVIORAL data. AIR has a long history of collecting behavioral data, and seeing they’re a behavioral research organization, don’t you think they will? (Just look up Project Talent).

Last year, two fellow board members and I wrote a letter to our State Superintendent asking him to address our concerns, of which we’ve had no response.

If your parental instinct is kicking in, I would ask that you at least consider opting your child out of taking this test. State law allows any parent to opt their child out. Even if you don’t decide to opt out, talk with your teacher, know when your child is taking this test, and make sure your decision is in the their best interest.

Is your school violating the law?

Has your school notified you of your parental rights?

If you have not been notified by your local school of your rights detailed below, ask the school why they are violating the law and ask your school board member to ensure all schools in your district are following the law. This statement is from SB 122 passed in 2014. It is state law.

47          53A-15-1502. Annual notice of parental rights.
48          An LEA shall annually notify a parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the LEA of
49      the parent’s or guardian’s rights as specified in this part.

What is specified in this part? OPTING OUT OF SAGE TESTS! (Among other things)

86      (9) (a) Upon the written request of a student’s parent or guardian, an LEA shall excuse
87      the student from taking a test that is administered statewide or the National Assessment of
88      Educational Progress.

If your school has not notified parents of this right, bring it to your principal’s and school board members’ attention.

Further, new state law passed this year 2015 (, line 92), and signed by the governor mandates that teachers may not incentivize/reward (line 238) or punish SAGE test participation or withdrawal through opting out, and may not use it in grading students (lines 90-93).

On April 10 “The Utah State Board of Education approved amendments to Rule R277-404 Requirement for Assessment of Student Achievement aimed at clarifying the rules and procedures for parents or guardians who wish to opt their public school students out of state tests. Parents or guardians will be asked to fill out an opt-out form at least one day before the test is to be administered.” (


“Parents may further exercise their inherent rights to exempt their children from a state administered assessment without further consequence by an LEA.” (pg 7)

“Upon exercising the right to exempt a child from a state administered assessment under this provision, an LEA may not impose an adverse consequence on a child as a result of the exercise of rights under this provision.” (pg 7)

UPDATE 4-28-15: 2014’s parental rights bill allows for opting out of SAGE. However, Senator Osmond has indicated that 2015’s bill doesn’t take technical effect until July which is after the school year ends. Therefore, teachers have a right to use SAGE in their end of year grading. However, for those who opt out, it appears there is nothing in the law that allows teachers to use an alternate test in your child’s grades. My previous line here about students taking an alternative test was triggered based on Judy Park’s statement at the bottom, but no alternative test is provided for in Utah law, and next year teachers cannot use this test in grades at all. So opting out should not impact your child, or cause your child to have to take an alternative test. See Wendy Hart’s comment below.

Senator Osmond wrote this email to someone explaining the situation.

“The law itself becomes effective on May 12 (or 60 days from the adjournment of the Legislature), but its implementation was always intended to begin in the next school year. Again, that was the intent. So, technically this is the reason for the confusion.

The bottom line is that the both the Legislature and the Utah Board of Education are communicating that the law is to be effective beginning the next school year. This means that teaches may tie SAGE results to grades for this year. But after this school year it will be against the law to do so.”

Wendy Hart, a board member in Alpine School District, posted this to Facebook:

There is no legal requirement from a state level for your child to take an alternative test. I have not heard of a ‘replacement’ test that one ‘orders’. So, this is a local school thing. If it is a local school thing, then there must be a board policy that was adopted in an open, public meeting that REQUIRES students to take this alternative and specifies where/how this is to take place. Otherwise, this is just an administrative-level decision and it does not hold any legal weight. If the teacher was willing to write his own test, then again, this is an administrative thing. Even though this is a charter school, their board meetings are still subject to Utah Open Meetings Laws. All agendas should be publicly available, all policies, all audio of all meetings. They would need to show me chapter and verse as to their authorization for this action. But that chapter and verse cannot, in any way, conflict with existing state law.”

Dr. Gary Thompson posted this on Facebook and I agree.

“Unless your kid is in grade 9-12, the effects of “grades” are not worth stressing over.

I mean really? So a 6th grade kid goes from a B to a C…or even a D because he does not take a test?

So what.

I’m sure Harvard won’t give a damn, and neither should you…especially when they are using it as a bullying tactic.

Call their bluff.

Pull your child.

Ask me how many times someone has asked me about even my GRADUATE school grades in the last 7 years since graduation.

Tell them you would be more than thrilled to have your child take the test..any test.. when they can produce validity reports for them.

Otherwise, let them know that you refuse to allow your child to be used as experimental fodder for a private testing company.

P.S. If they hand you something and say its a validity report, feel free to scan it and send it to me directly.

Several parents have sent me administration produced “validity” reports on the SAGE. Each and every one of them were AIR and/or USOE produced public relations essays.”

The truly aggravating thing is that we are asking 3rd graders and on up to sit for 2.5-3 hours at a time taking a year end test that will do NOTHING for learning. It’s grueling. I’m one of those accountants who took the CPA and CMA exam, both 16 hour exams, and each section was an endurance test along with the knowledge, and this was for someone in their 20’s, not 8 years old.

As per instructions from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park on 9-23-14 to all schools:

“3. When a … parent or guardian opts‐out of a state‐level test, no academic penalty shall result for the student. If teachers/schools use any of these tests for grading/promotion decisions, some alternative assessment will need to be provided…
5. Any student who is in school and not participating in testing should be engaged in a meaningful educational activity. Students not participating in any testing should not be singled out in any negative way nor should the student or the class be administratively punished in any way because a student opts out of testing…

This instruction should prevent teachers from giving unfair alternative assessments to students.

SAGE parent reviewer shares concerns

Alean Hunt is a member of the SAGE parent review committee. She is quoted by the USOE as one of the members of this committee that completely supported SAGE. In fact, the USOE uses this statement from her as evidence that none of the parent review committee saw any problems with the SAGE test. She is quoted in this USOE flier as saying, “I didn’t see any real social problems with the test or things that would be controversial. [We] all feel comfortable with the test.”

Of course we know that is inaccurate and that several of the parent review committee members have publicly expressed concerns (link 1, link 2) but that hasn’t stopped the USOE from plowing ahead and using this statement and implying that SAGE is a better mousetrap.

Well, Alean has had a change of heart about the test. This letter from her expresses her concerns.

To whom it may concern:

For the last two years I have served on the SAGE parent review panel.  I have been an outspoken, but concerned proponent of this assessment.  I do support higher standards for our students.  What I cannot and will not support are the following:

1:  High Stakes, End of Level testing being given to students in Feb, like is happening this year. The teachers and scores will be graded on this score, but the year isn’t over.

There are still three months left!

When I called the USOE last Thursday and asked what scores this years end of level writing test would be compared to, this was their response, “We don’t know. We might give the test in February again, or March or maybe October. We haven’t decided yet, it is still up for discussion..”

Okay, so you may or may not compare this years 1/2 taught end of level high stakes test to last years end of level test or to next years end of level test that could be given at 3 very different times on the instructional calendar??? Yes, thanks for clearing that up!

2:  IEP Accommodations are guaranteed by law! The USOE removes some of them during the testing of the SAGE for these students with special needs. And really why shouldn’t they? Just dealing with a disorder that qualifies you for an IEP such as autism, ADHD/ADD, anxiety, dyslexia, Aspergers, and processing disorders just to name a few are not difficult enough to navigate  every single day! Why on earth would people in charge of doing what is best for the student actually want to do just that and ensure their rights as protected by law?!

IEP’s are followed as written by the experts of those children! The psychologist, the principal, the Special Ed teacher, the Speech teacher, the other team leaders such as occupational therapists and of course, the parents.

Everyone who has ever been involved with an IEP knows we meet frequently to evaluate these accommodations and compare and contrast student performance with them and tweak as necessary to give them the best chance at success they have, what USOE is doing to this process is in direct conflict with this.

3:  I have had several opportunities to have face to face meetings with Glenna Gallow and others from USOE regarding the above mentioned items as well as the following two which are also related to special needs students. Every encounter I have had has left me with a sour taste in my mouth and the distinct feeling that these students do not matter.

First, SAGE scores will immediately appear on the screen at the end of the test with the exception of writing.  Eventually writing will be this way too.

I take issue with this because of privacy, students will look at the computer screens of others. Students will pressure others to tell them their score. Students will feel pressured to tell their score even if they don’t want to. What if a student does poorly, but he did his absolute best work? He sees his poor score and knows he has to do this again for 3 more assessments? How hard will he try?

I have absolutely no problem with administrators & teachers getting the scores immediately and releasing the scores to parents, but I do not see the benefit to the score appearing on the computer screen, visible to students.

When this problem was brought up numerous times to USOE I was told I was the only one who considered it a problem.  When my administrator/principal also expressed her frustration with it,(especially with regards to kids with special needs)she was told by a USOE staff member, “Those students are just going to have to get used to it.”

Second:  SAGE is a computer adaptive test.  This means that if a student answers a question correctly then the next question gets more difficult and vice versa also applies.  However, if the student is taking 4th grade math because of a learning disability, but is in the 5th grade that child will be tested on 5th grade math. The test will not adapt below grade level.  So this high stakes test that will impact school grading, future funding, & potentially merit pay for teachers is testing students on content they have not been taught because they are below grade level.

There is a federal statute that states we have to test kids at grade level, but it was before we had CAT testing and had the ability to actually test these special education students at their actual level.  I believe this could be fixed under our waiver but again, I cannot seem to get anyone at USOE to care to take action towards reforming this very broken system..

4: SAGE was supposed to have enough writing in it that it was figuratively going to replace the


Alean Hunt

Dr. Peg Luksik on Common Core Testing

Dr. Peg Luksik (bio below) gave this great presentation on Common Core assessments at an October 2014 conference.

39:15: “Common Core isn’t just flawed in what they teach our children; it’s flawed in how they test our children. It makes it so that the results can match what the Dept of Education wants them to match. If I can manipulate where you succeed and where you fail, I can be sure that you are going to go into the Workforce place that I have chosen for you. Common Core Assessment system allows that manipulation to occur.”

Dr. Peg Luksik is a Pennsylvania teacher with over 35 years of experience in both special education and elementary education. She has taught at every level from pre-school to college in regular classrooms, resource centers, self-contained special education classes, and in alternative educational settings. She has trained teachers in curriculum and classroom management, written and evaluated curricula, authored several books on education issues, and hosted a nationally syndicated television program dealing with education in America. She founded a program to assist low-income single mothers complete their educations which was recognized by President Reagan and named as a National Point of Light by President George Bush. Peg served as an advisor to President Reagan’s Commission on the Family and worked for the U.S. Department of Education, where her task was to review and evaluate education reform initiatives. Peg was a founding board member of the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. Most importantly, Peg and Jim, her husband of 35 years, have raised 6 wonderful children and are now proud grandparents.

Federal control of assessments

Early on in this fight we pointed out that the federal government was funding $350 million to 2 assessment/testing consortia, the SBAC, and PARCC. We said that since they are receiving federal funds, it would allow the feds to possibly receive information that they shouldn’t have access to. In Utah we fought to get us out of the SBAC for several reasons such as it being led by social justice advocate Linda-Darling Hammond. We didn’t want propagandizing math problems on tests, but we were ridiculed for suggesting such a silly thing because Utahns would never have that appear on materials our children receive.

<cough>Granite & Jordan school districts</cough>

Today we learn from the Missouri Education Watchdog website that this week the SBAC met with State Chiefs to discuss some financial issues. Odd that an entity that received so much money from the feds is having financial issues… ;)

Having identified financial problems at the SBAC, they have now determined to “identify areas of commonality with the other assessment consortia, PARCC, and see if the two groups can share a consultant on those common points. It is not a stretch to see that these two groups are probably going to have to combine in the future in order to remain sustainable. Then we will truly have national standards.” (link)

Missouri Education Watchdog is exactly right. Combining the 2 mega assessment consortia will result in a singular national exam that will be what nearly every teacher in the country teaches to. Consolidation will lead to a single curriculum and the rush to grade teachers based on their classroom performance will kill innovation as they all standardize to cover the same material on the same day for the same test.

When States do their RFP’s for assessments they should not accept any bid from SBAC or PARCC related entities and affiliates.


SBAC Cooperative Agreement Proves Nationalization

Here’s one comment that has been submitted to the USOE during this week’s comment period.

Click to open: SBAC Cooperative Agreement PDF

I was looking at the cooperative agreement of the SBAC which Washington is the “recipient” and Utah is considered a “sub-recipient” dated January 7th, 2011.  In this contract, ED represents the US Office of Education.  This contract from what I understand, is the agreement we have as a sub recipient with the federal government as we develop the assessments with the SBAC.

Is Common Core truly state led and do we have full control?  The federal government states clearly in this contract what we are required to do.  With this criteria, why did we sign such a contract and say we will have control?

On page 2 it states our responsibilities including we will have to give status updates, report our effort, deliver written reports and student data to the U.S. Dept of Education.

On page 3 it clearly states the “federal responsibilities”.

On page 9 it states: “the Grantee is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of grant and sub-recipient-supported tasks and activities. This includes: 1) The Grantee and its sub-recipients actively participating in all relevant convenings, communities of practice, trainings, or other activities that are organized or sponsored by the State or by ED. ”

On page 10 it states clearly our cooperation with the federal government: “This supplement is awarded to support the consortium and its participating States efforts successfully transition to common standards and assessments. ”  It also states, “The Grantee must provide timely and complete access to any and all data collected at the State level to ED.”

On page 7 it states the failure to comply clause, “Failure to comply with the content of this agreement may result in the Secretary imposing special conditions on the award pursuant to EDGAR §80.12 or taking other enforcement actions, including partly suspending or terminating the award, pursuant to EDGAR §80.43

Question: What are “the other enforcement actions” should we not be able to fulfill our part of the bargain? Will we have to pay back the amount utilized on our behalf to create CC if our efforts are not “good” enough?

Thank you for addressing my concerns.