New Opt-Out Guiding Document

Opt out of common core tests

I was recently sent this document by a teacher who wanted to ensure the public received this information. It was expressed that the below document was recently sent to all LEA’s by Diana Suddreth at the Utah state office of education, regarding rules for handling assessment opt-outs at local schools. Coloration and markings below are from the document.

I am grateful the state office in conjunction with the state board has prepared this document. Hopefully this will clear up some issues parents have had in dealing with their local schools.


Guiding Document – Administration

On January 4, 2018 the Utah State Board of Education amended R277-404, which opened a 30-day public comment period on February 1, 2018. One of the amendment reads, “In accordance with Subsection 53G-15-1403(1)(a), an LEA shall reasonably accommodate 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.”

In addition to this change, several other requirements/restrictions related to the use of statewide assessment results are in Board rule or state statute. These include:

Utah Code 53E-4-303: (This law applies only to statewide assessments in grades 3-8, however R277-404-6(a)(i) prohibits the use of a statewide assessment score to determine the student’s academic grade, or a portion of the student’s academic grade in any grade.)

(4) A student’s score on the standards assessment adopted under Subsection (2) may not be considered in determining:

(a) the student’s academic grade for a course; or

(b) whether the student may advance to the next grade level.

In addition, Board Rule R277-404-7 states:

(3)(b) An LEA may not penalize a student who is exempted from a state required assessment

(8) An LEA may not reward a student for a student’s participation in or performance on a state required assessment (as amended)

Utah Code 53G-6-803 Parental right to academic accommodations includes the following statement: “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 to the parent or guardian. This statute also grants parents, among other rights, the “right to reasonable academic accommodations from the student’s LEA” and “shall allow a student to earn course credit towards high school graduation without completing a course in school by testing out of the course; or demonstrating competency in course standards.” It is in consideration of this statute that the USBE passed the amendment to R277-404.

How should teachers respond to the amendment to R277-404?

Teachers should consider how these changes can support the learning objectives for their students. In their considerations, teachers must not do the following:

a. Use a statewide assessment to reward or punish a student (R277-404-7(7).
b. Allow a statewide assessment score to have a negative impact on the student’s academic grade (R277-404-7(8).
c. Penalize a student for participating in the Parent Exclusion provision (R277-404-7(3)(b).
d. Independent of the parent or guardian, use the demonstrated proficiency of a student on a statewide assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course (r277-404-6(1)(c).

Teachers should also remember that R277-404 provides the following guidance related to Parental Exclusion from Testing. Schools and teachers must allow the following:

a. A parent the right to exempt their child from a state required assessment (R277-404-7(3)(a).
b. Accept the Parental Exclusion form provided by USBE or one created by the LEA (R277-404-7(4)(c).
c. May contact a parent to verify that the parent submitted the exclusion form (R277-404-7(5)(a).
d. Cannot require a parent to meet with a school official regarding their associated request (R277-404-7(5)(b).
e. Shall ensure a student that has been exempted from participating in the statewide assessment is provided an alternative learning experience (R277-404-5(9)
f. May allow an exempted student to be physically present in the room during test administration (R277-404-5(10).

(Click here to view Utah’s parental rights law passed in 2015)

38 thoughts on “New Opt-Out Guiding Document”

  1. How widespread is this information? Is the Utah ed dept taking affirmative steps so that parents (and students) know their rights? This could be directly to parents or by requiring districts or schools to inform parents. It could be by sending information home with the student (probably best), sending a letter (expensive), sending an email (but many parents won’t have email, particularly low-income families). They can and should also post to a website, but that is a passive not active informing.
    Please let us know what Utah is doing. FairTest is gathering this information from all states that have opt out laws, and will disseminate it. Send information to
    Monty Neill

    1. Schools are supposed to disseminate opt-out information to parents but they do it in the least obvious way possible. Usually a 6 point font at the bottom of a form sent home to parents with a vague reference to the code section. No help.

    2. I can tell you alpine school district hasn’t done anything. I asked the first time last year to our elementary receptionist to let me know how to opt out and she said she had no clue about it. She’d been there for years. Then in the next semester I asked her again and got “oh, is this firm what you are wanting?” It was right there on her desk for opting out of what used to be sage. I’m sure she was playing dumb the first time but I had to seek it out and learn about all this on my own from a personal interest in what my children are not and are learning that is disturbing and worrisome.

      1. One more thing to add to this- my fifth grader was opted out after the above mentioned incident and then told she had to sit and do more work instead. Then was told those taking the test would get a party. I promposent an email to her teachers and principal about the matter. They thankfully responded respectfully and corrected but it still continues subtly. A candy here an extra recess there etc…

      2. Lakeview Academy in Saratoga Springs actually provide you with an opt out form on request, so it’s not all of Alpine that is giving a hassle, and they are learning.

  2. My Junior High & High School children are being told if they don’t take Sage the teacher will give them a harder test that will count against their grade. My junior high child brought home a paper to be signed. If they opt out they will have to take end of year test that will count against their grade. If they take sage and get at least a 3 or 4 they will not have to take end of year test, that will count against grade. Is this legal? They attend Desert Hills middle & High School in Washington school district in St. George Utah

    1. No that is not legal. This document from the state clearly says that. I would print out these guidelines from the state office and take them to the school teacher and principal. If you need to, call the state superintendent Syd Dickson, or Diana Suddreth who sent this document to schools.

    2. The specific rule states grades 3-8 are fully exempt so I’m not 100% sure on the high schooler. They cannot give a harder test though. I would call Ms. Dickson at the state office and ask her to intervene. Also, your state school board member Michelle Boulter can be of assistance to you. Contact her and have her contact the school.

      1. I am in a similar situation. My 10th Grader at Lehi HS is being told that he will receive a harder test as an alternate assignment. Can the SAGE test or alternate assignment count as part of their grade? This wasn’t the case a few years ago but I haven’t kept up with changing legislation/rules. I’m tempted to tell him to simply take the SAGE test and do as badly as possible, but I don’t want to negatively affect his grade.

        1. An alternate assignment that is used in place of SAGE cannot be used toward the grade. That would be the same as penalizing the student who didn’t take SAGE or rewarding the kid who did. This has been a point of contention for several years. Please contact me at wendyhart[at] with the information about your 10th grader’s class, etc, and I’ll pass it along to the Superintendent. Your child shouldn’t have to take an unvalidated test against your wishes.

          1. Wendy, thank you for your support. I called and emailed the superintendant, the principal and my board member. Between them, I managed to get the situation cleared up. It concerns me, however, that we also had to deal with a similar issue with another child at the Middle School. In both instances, the school administration claim to have been clear with the teachers and yet these problems occur. In the case of our middle schooler, the entire English department created a scheme to incentivize the students to take the SAGE test and reward them for good results. It doesn’t seem like the message is getting through to the teachers.

        2. Utah Code 53A-15-1403 indicates that teachers may not reward or punish a student for being excluded from testing.
          Schools are required to provide an alternative learning experience for the student while the rest of the class takes
          the assessment.

          simply show the teacher this

    3. Yes, this is happening at many St. George schools. There is a group of parents who are drafting a letter to the school district superintendent. This letter will include the information above. We are working quickly on your behalf trying to mitigate any further issues. Desert Hills Middle School also has teachers making threats to students and we have heard many parents complaining about those threats. Hopefully our letter will eliminate those also. If you have students receiving those threats please send an email to

    4. Utah Code 53A-15-1403 indicates that teachers may not reward or punish a student for being excluded from testing.
      Schools are required to provide an alternative learning experience for the student while the rest of the class takes
      the assessment.

      1. It looks like they have removed the wording that says they may not punish a student for being excluded. The only wording in that section now is shown below.

        (iii) may not reward a student for taking an assessment described in Subsection (9)(a).

        We are facing huge issues with teachers who are punishing students in the Washington County School District. Basically if they “Opt-out” of SAGE, they are required to take an alternative test that is graded. I f they fail the alternative test or get a 1 or 2 on SAGE, then they are required to take an end of year final that is graded. The wording in the law above is also in conflict with the state school board rule R277-404. If a student takes SAGE and it is used to fulfill a requirement in a course, then they are being rewarded for taking SAGE. Just my take on it.

    5. This also happened to my child. She was made to feel bad that it would add extra work for her teacher to come up with a new test for her the only one opting out.

  3. I was just told I have to meet with the principal to opt my child out of SAGE testing. The above information states I should not have to do this. How should I proceed?

    1. Update. Our school principle will clear up the confusion. Both a teacher and front desk staff told us we have to meet with the principal. Very strange.

      1. I received a phone call from my child’s principal to try and talk me into not opting out. I was livid. He kept saying “are you sure?” Yes sir I am very sure!

  4. Thank you for posting this article Oak. Another year of SAGE testing and another year of fighting teachers on how they treat my kids. Just yesterday my son’s English teacher (Alpine District Middle School) told the class that if they get a good grade on SAGE testing, they can request it be used to improve their grades in the class. I was flabbergasted when my son told me this.

    Also just a clarification. Is it legit that they require my kids to take a written test instead of SAGE since they are opted out?

  5. I have had the same report from my 8th grader in the Jordan School District. I have been on the phone with the district assessment coordinator, the State School board Assessment coordinator and the principal at the school. It is very apparent after reading these comments that the communication and understanding of these policies are poor at best. I have a follow up call coming from my local school board rep tomorrow and plan on taking this information further. I understand the basic intent of the policy, but I fear for the unintended consequences of it because of all the confusion how quickly the information was disseminated and how it is being used in individual schools.

  6. My daughter’s Language Arts class at Herriman High School was told that they have to take the test and that opting out was not permitted in her class. I’ve tried to contact the teacher with no response. I have now left a message for the principal. Hopefully he will have an answer for this teacher’s announcement to her class.

      1. My son was told that those that do well on the SAGE will not have to take the FINAL. They will get to watch a fun movie while those that skipped the SAGE (my son) will have the final. This sounds like a punishment. c. Penalize a student for participating in the Parent Exclusion provision (R277-404-7(3)(b). If my son needs to take a test for his grade–everyone needs to take the same test, not be granted privilege for taking SAGE.

        1. Utah Code 53A-15-1403 indicates that teachers may not reward or punish a student for being excluded from testing.
          Schools are required to provide an alternative learning experience for the student while the rest of the class takes
          the assessment.

          show the teacher this

  7. My sophomore has a teacher who is telling the class that if they don’t take the SAGE, they will be required to take a different “final” test. My thought was just to check her out on the days they are taking the test but she said they will lose participation points. I guess everyone is required to take some sort of test?

    Teachers and administrators are getting more creative every year in figuring out how to force our kids to take tests!

    1. Utah Code 53A-15-1403 indicates that teachers may not reward or punish a student for being excluded from testing.
      Schools are required to provide an alternative learning experience for the student while the rest of the class takes
      the assessment.

      show the teacher this

  8. Is a student required to do an alternate assignment or test if they opt out of the Sage test and stay home during the test?

  9. My 9th grader goes toUCA online school. If I want her to not participate in the SAGE testing do I have to fill out the Opt Out Form and send it in? If so, where do I send it?

    1. yes you still have to fill out form, then scan it in and email/webmail it to your childs teacher. I did this the 2 yrs we did UCA

  10. I was told that if I opt out of the Rise test that my child would still have to take a test because everyone needed to be tested so they can calculate what they have learned and where they stand. So If I opt them out they have to take this test but the children taking the Rise test don’t have to do this test just the Rise test. Is this legal? And if I opt them out do they still have to take all of the practice tests?

  11. The Standard Test Administration and Testing Ethics Policy document (see Page 1, Purpose of Testing) refers to “locally collected data” to be used with test results to guide instructional planning. What is this locally collected data?

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