Opting out of tests

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.

USOE Opt Out Policy 2-2-15-2


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:

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

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.


16 thoughts on “Opting out of tests”

  1. Can anyone show me the law that states we have to allow our children to take these tests? If not, all this legislation seems unnecessary. If you can, then it directly contradicts the code that’s referenced above, 62A-4a-201, specifically (1) (d-e). This road is going to get bumpy. I’m buckled up.

  2. I homeschool my children but this year I chose to go through Harmony. I have opted my children out of SAGE but Provo school district, whom Harmony operates through sent me back their form saying that my children are not opted out if I do not send in their form. So far I have just let my form stand and consider that enough.
    As for Harmony, I continue to get emails from them. To me they seem to be trying to bully parents into allowing their students to take SAGE as it affects their standing. I specifically asked if my children had to take SAGE before signing up with Harmony. I was told no. Weekly I am getting emails such as:

    “Thank you for selecting Harmony curriculum in conjunction with Provo eSchool as part of your student’s educational plan.

    As the writing portion of the SAGE test is scheduled to begin the first part of February, we wanted to remind you that when you signed your school’s registration paperwork and received Harmony curriculum, you committed to participate in state testing. Choosing not to test could damage our relationships with our partner schools and impede our ability to continue offering curriculum to families in the future.”

    I just wanted to encourage other Harmony parents, don’t give into the bullying. Harmony can’t make you sign your children up for SAGE.

  3. Just got back from getting hassled at the Jr High. I emailed in the UACC form, signed and scanned, and they told my son that I had until 4pm today to come in and sign the district form, or he would be tested, regardless of my email.
    When I got there, both the counselling office secretary and the counsellor tried to get me to sign their form, saying that the district will ONLY aacept their form. I’d like to note, that I think the folks at the school are good people and that they just simply don’t know any better. I told them that I’d already been through this with the elementary school, and that state law requires that they take my form.
    Next I was put on the phone with Troy Boeling from the Nebo School District, who ALSO tried to tell me that the district will ONLY accept their form, and that they’re only legally required to my kids out of CERTAIN testing. When I told HIM that state law requires that they take my form, he said that he’d better put me through to the district’s legal department.
    Mr. Peterson in Legal said “Let me guess, you disagree with the district’s form, and so you don’t want to sign it.” Then he said that the district has created their own form, because most of the forms “floating around out there on the internet” don’t accurately reflect state law, and so they’ve done us the favor or doing the legal legwork and making a form that is legally accurate. He also said that he would instruct the school to take my form, with the understanding that they didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was in it, and that they’d be sending be a letter about what exactly it would apply to, or not.

  4. My school is telling me that I can only opt out of the final SAGE test, not the practice SAGE tests. This seems weing. What law(s) can I use to back up my right to opt out of all SAGE tests including practice?
    I don’t want the profiling data collected, period.

    1. The law you can use is the “fundamental liberty interest” law. The schools are there to support you, not have you support them. Watch the 3.5 minute video by Tienken on this post and you’ll see those “formative” tests are exactly what you just said…practice for the SAGE. That means they are meaningless for you child who won’t be taking the test.

  5. The administrator that is over the SAGE testing at my son’s high school is well aware of the law and the ability and right for students to opt out. Earlier this week, my son was in a room with students taking the SAGE test and another student asked my son why he wasn’t taking the test. He responded that he opted out and the administrator, who was also in the room, quickly responded “you HAVE to take the test, it’s required by the state”. The other student then asked “then how did that kid opt out?”. The administrator answered, “I don’t know”. It was the same adminstator who just a few days before approached me and asked if I was opting my kids out again as I had the previous year and asked me to send her an email to confirm it once more. This administrator knows very well the answer to that students question but refused to tell him the truth. It is so discouraging to watch first hand how administrators are not letting kids and parents know what their legal rights are, even when directly asked. A flat out lie. How can we trust these people?
    PS – my son told the other student later how he too could opt out.

    1. Unfortunately we can’t trust them. As parents we have to reassert ourselves as the ultimate authority over our children.

  6. Using the “Fundamental Learning Interest” law, can a parent opt out of any and all tests?
    Also, are you and your colleagues being loud enough that you will get the legislature to order
    a stop to the testing on all levels? As a teacher, I am thoroughly disgusted that we are required
    to give all of these assessments to our students. IS THERE NO HOPE OUT THERE? HOW CAN WE

  7. My child is now being “forced” to take an alternate test on computer for opting out of SAGE. He’s not sure what the test is from but it’s some computer essay test (not Utah Write). They say it’s an alternate assignment for not get “participation points” for doing SAGE. They are telling him he must do this other one for participation points. Can they give participation points for SAGE or dock points for not doing SAGE ?????

  8. I opted my kids out of SAGE testing, but the principals are saying that I can’t opt them out of SAGE Interim quarterly testing. What should I do?

    I believe their legal position is that I can’t opt out since the interim tests are not state mandated. What do I do? All of the same things we dislike or fear about yearly SAGE testing will be true of SAGE interim testing, but I can’t do anything about it. If I keep them out of school that day, they’ll give them the test the next day. If I refuse to let them take it, the kids will get bad grades in those classes. Same if I tell them to take the test but just sit there or give random answers.

    1. Dave, the replies posted above also apply to your issue as well. Threaten a law suit (they hate those words) and Insist to be escalated to the school’s legal team.

      When you think about it, if the child is forced to “take” the test… Use logic against them. For instance, I instructed my child to fail the test if they force him. These tests do NOT count on their grade. They are only evaluations. If they threaten loss of participation points, then ask them how a failed 0% score will effect the school? Is that what they want? With this logic, I have never had to speak with the legal team. They do resist, but quickly relent when I use this and remain adamant.

      Remember, they KNOW they have been told a lie and are forced to tell you this or lose their job. Flat out telling them that they know the truth is VERY effective.

  9. My high school son just brought home a class disclosure for his math class. In it the teacher had them write that the SAGE testing would count towards their final grade. I do not like common core; however, I do not know enough about it to go into battle, and it is just not my nature to do so, either. I have been debating about whether or not to opt my five children out of these tests, but I have felt some pressure from the schools that it would affect the schools poorly and that “there is certainly nothing wrong with these wonderful tests.” It is only rumors that I am hearing about! I also have a son who is in resources… I, especially, don’t want him to go through this testing. If a student can opt out without any repercussions, how can this teacher tell them that it is counted towards their final grade? I sent a note back to the teacher on that form, asking him the same question. I hope to hear back from him… I have been afraid of opting them out, just because I don’t want my kids to think I am bailing them out of hard work, nor do I want any trouble from teachers for them, but I am ready for answers now. Something is not making sense, and I wish that I knew more about it. I only know that something does not feel right about it at all…. Any info you have would be greatly appreciated.

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