The AIR Stinks of SAGE

Brian Halladay, Alpine School District Board Member, sent out this email today alerting residents to a meeting next week in the school district. This should be sent to every legislator in the state so they understand what happens when the USOE tells them they are exiting their relationship with SBAC, but then writes an RFP (Request for Proposal) in such a way as to guarantee that only an SBAC related vendor will be selected. At the time we published that tidbit, we were criticized by numerous people at the state office and school board. Then Utah selected AIR and our state superintendent called them the “only organization currently delivering statewide, online adaptive tests approved for ESEA accountability.” Really? There were 13 applicants, and one already being used successfully in Utah. Check out what’s coming down the pike from AIR.

Next Thursday, April 11th, you are invited to participate in the SAGE assessment System presentation at 4pm at the Alpine School District Office Building.

SAGE is the acronym for the common core testing system that will be collecting data from our children.

I think it’s important for all of us to know before the meeting what SAGE is and it’s implications for our children, our privacy, and our school district.

Student Assessment for Growth and Excellence (“SAGE”) is being developed for Utah by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  SAGE is Utah’s comprehensive adaptive assessment system, or the testing mechanism that will replace the CRTs. It is designed to replace and expand UTIPS, and provides the test delivery and administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

So, who is AIR? AIR is not an academic assessment company – it is a behavioral research organization. AIR has been around for over 60 years. Their founder, John Flanagan, a psychologist, started AIR by developing the “critical incident technique” one of the most widely used behavioral methods that is even now used in assessment models today.

In 1960, AIR initiated “Project Talent,” a research project administered by John Flanagan and a group of other behavioral scientists involving 440,000 high school students, collecting information on “aptitudes, abilities, knowledge, interests, activities, and backgrounds” of each student. These questions included questions about “hobbies, organizational and club memberships, dating and work experiences. There were questions about students’ health and about their school and study habits. Students were asked about their fathers’ occupations, parents’ education, financial situations, etc.” One question asked was, “How many children do you expect to have after you marry?” and “How old were you when you first started dating?”

What is AIR doing today? AIR is currently working with multiple partners, including the Department of Education, United Nations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Open Society Institute (George Soros), to “conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.” AIR prides itself on its “long history of contributing to evidence-based social change.”

What does this mean for the Alpine School District, or even the State of Utah?  In 2012 USOE developed the USOE Technology Standards 2012. One of the standards is to have a network-enabled computing device capable of providing access to the school’s technology resources. A purpose of this is for the understanding “human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that AIR will be heavily involved with this.

AIR will be developing these assessments, which will include behavioral questions. It’s what they do. One of their primary objectives is to use this data not only in collaboration with other states in relation to common core, but also in collaboration with the United Nations.

With the recent amendments to the FERPA laws, the question becomes what will we as parents do right now to protect the privacy of our children?

Come to the meeting next Thursday at 4pm at the Alpine School District Office Building and get informed!

Brian Halladay

Thank you Brian for shining the light on this insanity.

Here is the schedule for all school districts in Utah for their AIR meetings.

22 Responses to The AIR Stinks of SAGE

  • Tracie says:

    I live in south Mississippi. I am doing EVERYTHING in MY power to get the word about Common Core out to everyone who will listen on my Facebook page. I have also written my Governor and Lt. Governor to sound the alarm about this cirrirulum and the danger it is to our children’s education. I am trying to get as much information as I can to back up what I am telling others. I know a LOT of teacher and educators, hopefully THEY will listen.

  • Jocelyn says:

    I want to get involved. What can I do? I try to warn my friends and neighbors, but they just think I’m criticizing their children’s schools, or that I’m just a little eccentric. I’m usually pretty good at promoting ideas and being a good talker in general. But I’m stuck here. How else can I get the word out? I used to be a teacher so that lends some credibility to my conversations. But in discussing this topic, I have to bring up subjects people usually have never heard of in the first place, such as George Soros and – dare I- Agenda 21.

    • Kristen Chevrier says:

      I wouldn’t start with the complicated stuff. I would start with local control over education. If we don’t like what the federal government is doing, who do we address our complaints to? We all know that nobody will listen and nothing will get fixed. Then I would probably talk about cost of implementation and about data tracking. As a former teacher you could also address the restraints on and data tracking of teachers.

      • Katherine Gerber says:

        Come to an Eagle Forum sponsored meeting if you can on common core in Payson Banquet Hall
        on Center street April 26 this FRIDAY. Lisa Cummins and Swasey, our
        House Rep Marc Roberts.

    • H Bashen says:

      I start out by asking people if they pay real estate taxes and if they say that they do I inform them that their taxes are being used to fund the curriculum of the schools and how much their taxes will go up with this implementation. Some people don’t care about education but most care about their money or lack thereof.

  • Jamie Hurd says:

    I attended an apparently mandatory meeting a couple weeks back at GTI where some one hundred teachers and supervisors, including the superintendent, were in attendance. A man presented the SAGE program to us and as he did so I ran some research on smartphone. I found a number of alarming things pertaining to SAGE, including that it’s designed by American Institutes for Research whose board members and CEOs include persons involved in at least a racialist approach to education, including a stated mission for helping the disadvantaged. Here are some results of my research:

    Leaders or CEOs of AIR include David Myers and Alan Krueger. If I have the same Krueger, Barack Obama appointed Krueger to the Department of Treasury (the department that recently granted Jay-Z and Beyonce’s suspicious trip to Cuba a green light; see also the connection there with Jada Pinkette who will shortly release a movie celebrating communist radicals in the U.S. in the 1960s) as an assistant, but Krueger’s work there focuses not on issues of money (treasury) but of researching connections between education and income levels. I found a David Myers who works as a sociology professor and researcher; that’s all I could find on him during my brief search. I found the names of at least two AIR and SAGE board of directors, Patricia Gurin of the University of Michigan and Lawrence D. Bobo of Harvard University. Furthermore, I learned that SAGE directs data collected from students to the Department of Education under the guise of assiting the “disadvantaged” (as stated in AIRs mission), specifically serving purposes of the No Child Left Behind initiative.

    Gurin specializes in women’s and blacks’ psychology and sociology. Bobo, a black scholar from Harvard, focuses research and instruction efforts on the “intersection of social inequality, politics, and race” (see Bobo’s page at http://scholar.harvard.edu/bobo/). If I were to summarize the meaning behind the facts listed above, and given the greater context of radicals’ connections to the Black Liberation front, I believe the intent of SAGE comes as an assault, albeit an apparently secretive one, against our liberty–and a racist one at that! SAGE, in conjunction with core curriculum initiatives, does not merely strip parents’ power to hold public officials accountable; strip parents and teachers of their influence over curriculum; nor merely subtly deprives students of rights against unlawful search and seizure as teachers transmit inordinate amounts of data on them to unseen, unrepresentative federal authorities (whether elected or not), but it does so under the guise of what J. Christian Adaams termed “racialist” policies.

    Apparently, Bill Ayers isn’t the only radical who feels that education is ground zero for political revolution (not to mention the treasonous subversion of American soveriegnty). Any fool with a head on his or her shoulders can safely deduce the ultimate aim behind these measures: A secretive power grab.

  • JDS says:

    “AIR will be developing these assessments, which will include behavioral questions. It’s what they do. One of their primary objectives is to use this data not only in collaboration with other states in relation to common core, but also in collaboration with the United Nations.
    With the recent amendments to the FERPA laws, the question becomes what will we as parents do right now to protect the privacy of our children?”

    This is a very speculative statement. I don’t get, at all, what the problem is with AIR. Is the problem with AIR that they might ask behavioral questions on student tests? Or is it that the tests will require a computer. I do not understand what the problem is with AIR based on the lengthy quote from Halladay.

    Please explain.

    I keep hearing that the CCSS is bad bad bad but it really strikes me as very partisan, even though this website keeps saying it isn’t partisan. I have yet to see some good points that don’t sound like xenophobic/fear mongering/conspiracy theory stuff. And I immediately discredit any points that smack of conspiracy theory.

    Thanks

    • Oak Norton says:

      Xenophobic? And you say YOU discredit people??? I’m taking a stab in the dark here that when you say partisan you mean right-wing tea-partiers. This site and the nationwide effort against Common Core has major involvement from all over the political spectrum. Even the World Socialist’s are against Common Core.
      You need to know that AIR is a behavioral testing company. Here’s a letter from another individual that explains it pretty well.
      http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/zinger-letter-to-state-school-board-members/
      Then here’s an article from Dr. Gary Thompson, a clinical psychologist and Democrat that campaigned for President Obama.
      http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dr-thompsons-letter-to-superintendent-menlove/

    • Dear Ms. ASD Teacher:

      I have a few questions that have yet to answered by anyone in the country. Perhaps today is my lucky day. :).

      1. Why is Utah utilizing an achievement test that has not undergone industry standard pilot testing? If you claim that this has been done, please direct me to where the results are.

      2. Assuming that no pilot or validation testing had been performed by the State or your District, then it is reasonable to assume that the tests you are giving your 8th grade students will be used to further develop the yet to be finished, and never before used on school aged children, computerized adaptive testing. As such, how can you justify subjecting your students to be used as experimental subjects by a private corporation without obtaining written informed consent from parents? As an aside, if my clinicians did the same thing in the private sector, they would be sued and would lose their license for extreme unethical behavior.

      3. As a member of the parent group that saw the test questions, can you please disclose what your opinion was regarding multiple validity issues as such may pertain to traditional groups over the last 40 years who have been abused by decisions made for them based on invalid, and discriminatory test items? When parents have these same questions for the private achievement tests given in our clinic, we can give them a weeks worth or validity testing studies to answer their questions. I am assuming that each and every one of the parents who gave Utah parents the “thumbs up” for these test have doctorates or masters degrees along the lines of some sort of psychometric training. I personally could care less WHAT is being tested, but I do want to know that whatever is being tested has gone through validation studies. This is the Trojan Horse that USOE, Martell Menlove, and Alpine District refuse to answer, and that our mainstream newspapers refuse to report on.

      4. Please explain your answer on how you can ethically justify subjecting students with disabilities to SAGE or the alternative MAP testing when hundreds of scholars and experts on the subject nationwide have provided research stating that these tests have no published validity information, no proof that such tests can provide valid instructional value to ground level teachers, and multiple reports and studies indicating that students can and have suffered significant emotional and psychological harm? I would prefer that you do not provide answers from sources that have any financial ties with USOE or governmental entities, or research “think tanks” and non profit groups that have a economic tie to the tests. That is fair, because if we relied on research of that kind in the private sector, we could and would be sued and striped of our license. Independent peer reviewed sources only.

      Until either you, USOE, or Martell or his replacement either provide the answers to the above questions (and many more), I will continue as a professional (not an activist) to encourage EVERY parent of the 72,000 kids in your District currently providing free research without informed consent for AIR, to withdraw their kids from testing in your District.

      Respectfully;

      Dr. Gary Thompson
      Director of Clinical Training & Advocacy
      Early Life Child Psychology

      P.S.

      I used my real name, I would appreciate that you provide yours also as a sign of respect, as well as validation. I have had to ensure hate mail, death threats and other “garbage” because of my choice to put my name along side of notes similar to this, but I do so because I am not ashamed to associate my name and reputation with valid, peer reviewed “truth”.

  • Cathy says:

    I went to my local school’s parent meeting on the SAGE program today. The pamphlet that they handed out states “SAGE is Utah’s Assessment System, Utah owns and controls this assessment. Developed by Utah for Utah” Isn’t this a flat out lie if AIR is behind it? How can they claim this. Can anyone please explain this to me. And yes the meeting was all sugar coated about how efficient and great the program is.

  • Brett says:

    The issue is not the fact that the tests are adaptive, the issue is the content of the questions and in what ways will the children’s responses be used (and by whom).

    This is from the UCAS (Utah County Academy of Sciences – a Charter School):
    “SAGE will be developed for Utah by the
    American Institutes for Research (AIR), a
    leading assessment provider with over 60
    years of experience in proficiency testing and
    adaptive accountability testing.”

    So it is done by AIR with input from someone (?) in Utah. How easy will it be for an organization with “60 years in testing” to convince the few people in Utah that AIR knows best.

    Another part of the UCAS brochure says:
    “Parent committees will have the option to
    review all assessment questions.”

    So certain parents on a “committee” will have the option to see all the questions. It would be worth looking into how to get on one of these parent committees. Are the committees at the state, school district, or school level?

    It seems you can see some sample tests here:
    http://sageportal.org/training-tests/

    The first question for Language has a story in it that has this at the bottom:
    “Written for the Utah State Office of Education”
    not “by” but “for” presumably by AIR.

  • asdteacher says:

    I am an English teacher in the Alpine School District, and I was on the board of teachers who volunteered to review the test questions back in October. I am also currently in the process of administering the SAGE test at the 8th grade level. I am writing here because I want to make myself available to answer questions about the SAGE tests specifically as I was one of the people who helped revise the questions. As has been noted by others, we were a small group (though not as small as some have suggested).

    If it matters to you, I am a republican, and I am not a member of any teacher unions. I, too, favor local over centralized power–particularly in education, and I have no other incentives to write this other than to clarify and explain the process of reviewing the SAGE test. Please understand that my expertise is with the questions and process, not with the people behind SAGE, AIR, or CCSS.

    Here is how the process to review the questions worked:
    Different groups of teachers volunteered to work on different sections of the test. All were invited, but there was limited space, so it was first come, first served. My my group of 10 or so read and revised all the writing prompts for grades 6-8. It took us three full days spending 15-30 minutes on each prompt and its related articles. I also spent a day working with listening passages and questions. Another teacher at my school spent an entire week with another group looking at the reading passages for 8th grade alone. There were many such groups–enough that all of the questions were reviewed extensively–not just by 15 people as has been suggested by some people.

    As we reviewed the questions, our goal was to make the passages grade-level appropriate, make the prompts as clear as possible, and make certain the passages addressed both sides of each issue fairly. We also looked at text difficulty and the content students would be learning in their other classes each year (EX: 8th grade = US History up to Civil War).

    Having now administered the first part of the test, I feel the prompts at the 8th grade level were reasonable. As my students took the test, I walked around and glanced over the prompts. I did not read them in deep detail, but what I saw seemed bland, to be frank. There were 6 or 7 prompts, and I liked some more than others. There were two I did not like because they were topics students didn’t care about. But that is to be expected. I have made hundreds of tests in the nine years I have taught, and it is difficult to anticipate how students will take them.

    I recognize that many people have issues with some of the most publicly decried prompt essays. Possibly the most public was the incident when a Utah parent posted screen shots of her daughter’s prompt on the Internet (http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/utah-high-school-student-captures-screen-shots-of-the-anti-book-common-core-test/). Because the integrity of that prompt was compromised, I will take a minute to summarize the comments you can read on the post. It comes down to 2 sides: either people believed that AIR was actively working to manipulate students against books, or they believed that AIR presented multiple biased essays to establish a counterpoint to one another so that students could frame their own opinions. The screen shot incident shows only one of the four prompts students were required to read–an essay on how video games are better than books.

    So how could the panels of parents and educators allow such a clearly biased essay to be used? The answer is balance. In life, we are rarely presented with objective opinions. People polarize on opposite sides of issues (politics, for example). When we go to vote, we are always bombarded by the most extreme opinions on either side. It is then up to us to form our opinions by weeding through the bias to establish truth. The panels allowed this kind of essay because it was balanced by essays that were just as fervent in favor of books (You can actually see the end of one pro-book paragraph in one screen shot). If we do not prepare students to dig through biased texts, how can we prepare them to take real positions in life? I will note that younger students were given less sensational, more objective prompt texts.

    I do not believe that the people of the CCSS, AIR, SAGE, or the Utah Department of Education dislike books. That does not make sense. Look to the Common Core for evidence. The requirements for literature have increased–not decreased. So why did AIR bother to bring up the issue? The answer is that books and video games are real issues to students. Both books and video games take a sizable amount of student time. This prompt gives students a chance to define and defend their own priorities. I see that as a win–as long as both sides are represented equally–which in this case they were.

    If there were 3 articles for each prompt and each grade was given 6 long prompts and 6 short (this is an approximation), and they are tested in writing grades 3-12, then there are over 324 possible essays students around Utah are reading. I am actually impressed that with so many one-sided essays, there haven’t been more that have sparked public debate.

    Please respond with any comments or questions you might have. I worry that the voices of those who were actually involved in the process are being drowned by speculation and supposition. If you have heard something, ask me, and I will do my best to give you an honest, unemotional answer. And please, let’s keep the discussion civil.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear asdteacher,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and very well stated post. I agree that the anti-core group has taken the whole books vs. video games prompt out of context.

      Unfortunately, in this age of information overload, we have a tendency to go with bite-sized bits with a slant that fits in nicely with our already made up minds. If only people took more time to dwell on the possibility of the other 4 prompts that you mentioned. By reacting so vehemently to incomplete information that was obtained unethically, I think we are probably inadvertently shielding students from critical thinking skills that the core is trying to promote in the first place.

      I am all for prompts that take middle schoolers out of their comfort zone and push them to think outside the box. They are better served by parents and teachers that guide them and help them with the process instead of those parents and teachers striving to put blinders against anything that challenges the student’s thinking. We are talking about middle schools students here, not elementary school students.

      I have heard many students say that the previous CRTs were too easy. Do we want them to keep taking tests at that level and then be blindsided by the real world when they get to college ?
      I have heard the same students say that the SAGE tests, while confusing at times, were challenging. If I was an average student ( which I was ), I would have jumped at the chance to take an easier test. But as a parent, I am glad my student is being challenged and I am hoping the state government will provide school boards and teachers with funds for tools and resources to teach the common core better. ( Instead of cutting instructional days as Utah chose to do )

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and perspectives as an English teacher and as a member of the question review panel.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear asdteacher,

      Thanks again for your post. Given the angst over common core and SAGE tests among many posting on this website, I was expecting many to post specific questions/comments in response to your comments, considering you have first hand experience with the issue.

      Sadly, there seems to be little interest in that. If more parents took the time to meet with their child’s teacher for a few minutes before taking the drastic step of opting out of tests based on rumors and mostly unfounded/ unsubstantiated fears, our students, teachers, neighborhoods and districts will be well served. I wish people remember that their child’s teacher is a member of their local community and take the time to talk to the teacher before informing themselves off of blogs and video clips that are available in abundance.

      • Amy says:

        Please don’t make the assumption that some of us have not done that very thing. I work very closely with my children’s teachers. I sat down with my principal as well before I made my decision. Many parents (not all) have done extensive research from many sources. You may not agree with my views or decisions, but please don’t assert that my concerns are not valid or that I was hastily persuaded by a few visits to a blog.

        • Anonymous says:

          Amy,

          It was not my intent to offend you. I am sure there are parents who spoke to the principal/ teacher before reaching their decision. My assertion stems from the observation that many posts on this site regarding their decision to opt out refer to information from blogs and video and very few mention a talk with a teacher or a principal other than asking for a form or handing in a form.

  • Carie Valentine says:

    Thank you for your assessment of the process. This is the most in depth explanation that has been provided to parents about the test question development and sadly it has to be from an anonymous source rather than the USOE to whom we look for answers. Thanks for your perspective. You sound like a very professional, seasoned teacher.
    I would like to respectfully say that you may be too close to this issue to see the perspective I do from my distance. I have a more bird’s eye view of the testing and have serious concerns about the innuendo that seems to be present in the “outed” test questions thus far. Where you see a topic close to a teen’s experience (in regards to the book/video game question) I see propaganda being touted as an educational experience. I understand the desire to relate to the ages being tested but why does education and truth have to pander to a teenage experience? Are we not to lift them above their immaturity and have them expound on principals of learning which supersede a matter such as determining the value of books vs video games? While topical it is hardly a debate and underlying whatever academic quality the assignment may have, it smacks of indoctrination.
    I must ask, are there really no other more meaningful issues to debate in an argumentation essay? These types of topics plant seeds into the minds of students. Particularly those whom already have a particular affinity for video games or those who dislike books. This may be seen as benign but the behavioral component of these tests is being overlooked at the expense of the academics of it. It is valuable as an educator to understand the influence the system and its players have on the minds of children (even 11th and 12th grade children). I know that most educators have a healthy respect for this power but these test questions leave me wondering how a clearly one-sided ideology is being overlooked in the evaluation of the questions. It is there and it is being used to test something beyond the lesson.
    This is where the concern and even panic comes from when parents become aware of the test questions and even lesson questions that have infiltrated the schools over the past few years. Some materials have been there for several years and we(parents) have been woefully negligent in our responsibilities with our involvement in our children’s education to notice. Some of it is recent and a result of the implementation of the new standards via curriculum choices available to teach from. If there can be a positive drawn from the implementation of the common core standards it is that parents are finally starting to pay attention rather than just sending our kids off each day with little thought about what is actually being taught at school.
    Again, I thank you for your insight. I hope I have provided a perspective that will clarify the position of so many parents railing against this comprehensive program change in the schools.

  • Casey says:

    You all realize that SAGE and Common Core are not the same thing, right? You all get them muddled together, but SAGE would be happening regardless of what our core is.

    Don’t believe the BS people are putting out there.

    • Oak Norton says:

      SAGE is not Common Core, but it’s the Utah Common Core aligned computer adaptive test. Saying we get them muddled together is incorrect. We do clearly understand what they are. However, our use of “SAGE Common Core tests” here and there may muddy the water for someone who hasn’t read enough of this site to know that we know what these components are.

    • Ben Tarkeshian says:

      SAGE would be happening regardless of what our core is

      (late post, but lest someone actually believe you)

      So, if SAGE “would be happening regardless” are you saying it effectively IS designed for a pre-planned global economy? It effectively IS taxpayer-funded corporate fascism?

      It effectively IS a power grab so businesses do not have to train their workforces (since the taxpayer will always pick up the bill, and train their workforce for them)?

      “College-readiness” and “workforce preparation” sounds just like a planned economy. Why are we diong this again? Seems like suicide.

      I would be very curious how “would be happening regardless” coincides with a free market.

      Seems to be the complete opposite. The name may have changed — so what? You know, it is the “People’s Republic of China” too.

      As George Carlin might say “I leave symbols for the symbol-minded.”

      Who cares what the name is? Tell us what it actually is. Workforce training on the taxpayer’s dime?

      A global economy, propped-up with U.S. taxpayer dollars?

      I do not necessarily agree with the “other side” but you are not exactly dispelling their claims here.

      “Would be happening anyway” does not quite sound like local control.

      Thank you.

      Why are we propping up communists?

      http://pando.com/2014/03/22/revealed-apple-and-googles-wage-fixing-cartel-involved-dozens-more-companies-over-one-million-employees/

      Again, doesn’t prove anything per se, but why exactly are we encouraging this behavior, giving them MORE fresh meat for the slaughter?

      It seems like we are committing suicide here.

      We were specifically warned “no entangling alliances” — it would seem things are snafu and fubar.

      What am I missing? Their is an article in the paper how SAGE is for “college readiness” and “career training” and “all grades will be based on SAGE scores” soon.

      The goal is “get the test scores up” which is great, but what does that have to do with education?

      Opportunity, is very different from fixed, pre-determined outcomes.

      Do schools without SAGE lose funding? Or if the scores are not high enough?

      From where I am sitting, it seems like the communists are wining.

      If SAGE fails, will the government step in and bail all the failures out anyways until it is a “success”?

      Is SAGE too “big to fail” that it “would be happening anyway”?

      Enlighten us, please!

      Not trying to be sarcastic or mean, but you are just not exactly convincing.

      Please, tell me everything I am wrong about.

  • Tara says:

    I have heard a lot of stuff about common core, AIR, and SAGE, and I must tell from experience. Since I’m a kid, many might dismiss what I write, but I read encyclopedias for fun, skipped middle school to come to high school, and I am very interested in politics and getting a good education. I have taken the sage tests for my grade LEVEL and I took another one again today. I was shocked at the questions, which were too stupid to believe. They were mostly opinionated questions and some basically stated that human agriculture (people growing plants) was harming the environment. I decided to think like I thought they wanted me to think, hoping for a question that would actually require more than a vocabulary above a seventh grade level. I didn’t even have to think, except about what I hoped the testers wanted to see, and I thought the way I have seen environmentalists think. It was a biology test. This is the beginning of the year. I ended up with proficiency level 4 out of 4, and it was all opinions except for some first grade level drag and drop questions.

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