Who sets state law? Well, if you work at the USOE and can get a favorable writeup from an assistant attorney general, then you just run with it and tells schools that’s the law to go by. Legislature, schmedislature.
The last few days have seen a number of crazy things happen so let me try to put things into one place as a reference for parents and legislators that you can share this with.
Parent Heather Gardner opted her children out of tests but the school apparently is relying on an opinion letter from Assistant A.G. Chris Lacombe (below) which the State Office of Education is touting, and forced her child to take a DIBELS test. Here is a quote from an interview Heather did with Libertas Institute. Emphasis mine.
“Last week our school sent us a certified letter informing us that if our children did not participate in some of the tests and computer programs we had opted out of, that we were not welcome on campus—and that if our children came to school, they would be assessed. We were informed we could homeschool and dual enroll our child for part of the day, but that our children would still be assessed, even in subject areas they were not enrolled in.
This past Friday, my 3rd grader came home and informed me that her teacher had pulled her aside, singling her out, and told her that she had to take the DIBELS reading exam. Her classmates had already taken it earlier in the week. She protested and said that her parents didn’t want her taking the test. She refused the teacher’s demand. The teacher overrode her objection, telling her that by law she had to take it.
So you have a 3rd grader—my young daughter—being forced by the school to take a test when her parents have sent in a legal opt out letter. That’s the situation we’ve been put in.”
It appears we need some criminal penalties and terminations attached to school teachers, principals, district officials, and state officials who mess with parental rights, because where there is no penalty for violating the law, there is no law. This teacher went so far over and above the spirit and letter of the law she should be terminated, and unfortunately, she’s not the only teacher. There are numerous stories from around the state of teachers who have cajoled, manipulated, and lied to students to get them to take SAGE and other tests.
SB 122 from last year lets parents opt out of SAGE and other tests. Here’s a link.
Here’s where the state is manipulating the law.
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.
Note the words “test that is administered statewide.” Judy Park and Jo Ellen Shaeffer at the Utah State Office of Education wrote up a policy paper to interpret the law and then went to Asst. A.G. Chris Lacombe for his approval. Their policy relies on the fact that some tests are optional for schools to choose to use and therefore not officially a “statewide” test.
The letter states that schools can require students to take SAGE interim tests (which are not required by state law), among other tests like DIBELS, ACCESS, UAA, and others.
Here is a copy of their policy letter.
Per STATE LAW, parents have a “FUNDAMENTAL LIBERTY INTEREST” IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN. The law further states that the role of schools is “SECONDARY AND SUPPORTIVE TO THE PRIMARY ROLE OF A PARENT.”
Per SB 122, AKA, THE LAW, parents have the right to opt their child out USING A DOCUMENT OF THEIR OWN CREATION. It’s THEIR WRITTEN REQUEST, not the school’s documentation.
From what I understand, schools in Alpine school district are now taking parents’ documents and stapling them to their own without requiring the parent to sign theirs. KUDOS TO ASD!
Another unfortunate event for one family was to have the school tell them they were dropping their child from honor’s classes because their child was opted out of SAGE tests. Schools MAY NOT drop your child from honors classes into regular classes because your child has opted out. In fact, the law says:
73 (6) (a) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s written request
74 to place a student in a specialized class or an advanced course.
Why on earth would opting out negate your ability to have your child in an A/P or honors class?
What’s the big deal about tests? Why is the state so hot to force kids into testing that doesn’t measure anything of value to the children?
Please remember this: Those are your children and these tests aren’t for them, they are compliance tests for the schools.
Why are SAGE tests particularly bad for Charter schools? Charters scored poorly on SAGE exams and in order to show better will have to change their more traditional approach to math instruction, to more constructivist fuzzy methods in order to raise their school grades. It’s a brilliant plan. The people who want curriculum a certain way get it by giving the school a grade and letting them follow the same dumb “I’ve got to get an A” mentality we make kids jump through. It’s taken me decades to understand some of this nonsense. Anyone who doesn’t should read John Taylor Gatto’s book:
If you don’t understand what the problem is with these tests, it covers a broad spectrum including behavior tracking (which the publisher of SAGE, A.I.R., specializes in), massive anxiety for students who see things they have never been taught, data collection and loss of privacy, and storage of personal information on computers elsewhere in the country.
This first video is a MUST watch. Mary Calamia, a licensed clinical social worker, testifies about the effects of computer adaptive tests just like SAGE that are being given all over the country to students and what it’s doing to those children.
“Standardized Testing is not Teaching” by Dr. Chris Tienken
Legislatively, Senator Aaron Osmond emailed me stating that these points will be addressed in legislation this session to help clarify the spirit and letter of of last year’s law.
1) A parent is not required to meet with district or school personnel to opt out of any state mandated testing
2) A parent is not required to sign a district or school form to opt out of any state mandated testing (only a written notice to the school from the parent is required).
3) The opt out applies to both formative and summative assessments. (and hopefully interim and anything else a parent deems right)
What to do now:
1) Opt your children out. You can use our form or write your own on a napkin. By law you just have to provide notice.
https://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/action-list/opt-out-forms/ (more resources and another video on this page)
2) Civil disobedience: pull your children out of school on test days. They are your kids. If the school doesn’t seem to want to honor your request, time to yank your kids out and be a parent with a spine.
3) Tell your legislators that you want penalties attached to the law that make it a criminal offense for any state worker to violate parental rights laws.