SAGE gets renamed and Utah’s waiver denial

Utah’s state board has just awarded an $80 million contract over 10 years to Pearson and Questar Assessment Inc. to replace the SAGE test that has been used for the past few years. The new tests will be RISE for grades 3-8 and Utah Aspire Plus for grades 9-10.

News article here:

Those in attendance at this meeting report that this line in the KSL article is really key to this change.

“USBE officials say the new Aspire test is a hybrid between the current Utah Core test questions and the ACT.”

People in attendance at the meeting confirmed that the discussion seemed clear that current Utah Core test questions on SAGE (which the state spent millions creating) would be included in the new tests as part of the test bank.

Wendy Hart mentioned on Facebook that “the former Asst Supt of testing told school board members a few years ago that the main reason they were seriously considering replacing SAGE with Aspire was due to the name recognition of ACT and the hope that parents would find that less toxic than SAGE.”

Compounding this problem is the recent news that Utah’s application to receive a waiver for our high opt-out rate from SAGE has been denied by the feds. You can read the brief letter here:

USED Waiver Denial Letter

The letter specifically mentions Title 1 funds require states to hold “all students to the same State-determined challenging academic standards and annually measures whether students have learned the content those standards demand.” This is why a state standardized test is forced upon students and schools and administrators pressure parents to participate.

As previously pointed out, the amount of funds we get from the feds for Title 1 and special ed total $100 million. In exchange for that money (which they received from us in the first place) they hold our entire state education system hostage.

The letter closes with the need for Utah to “[incentivize] schools to encourage participation of their students in the assessments.”

What this means is over the next year, there may be a push to do away with parental opt-out rights and get parents comfortable with a new test name so they won’t opt out as they have been.

In public comments to the state board, Wendy Hart shared these excellent thoughts.

I am speaking on the denial of the ESSA waiver and ask you to defend Utah’s opt out provision.  The right of parents to direct their own child’s education is protected in Utah law.  But that right is not granted by the State of Utah.  It is merely protected by the laws of our state.  As such, those rights are not rights elected officials can choose to remove at the request of the US Government.

The 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  In a 1982, Utah Supreme Court ruling, Justice Dallin H. Oaks stated:  “The rights inherent in family relationships…are the most obvious examples of rights retained by the people.  They are “natural,” “intrinsic,” or “prior” in the sense that our Constitutions presuppose them..” Utah Code says: 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…

Our current opt out provision is consistent with natural rights and our state and federal constitutions.  We stand on solid, legal grounds.  ESSA is a voluntary grant program from the federal government.  They have no legal right to require parents to not opt their kids out of SAGE testing.  And the Department of Ed will never know, see, or care about the students who are harmed by this policy.  The State of Utah has the solemn DUTY to protect and preserve those parental rights.  And yet, at the point that the Feds offer money and ask us to circumvent those natural rights, should we go ahead and do so?  If ESSA were not a voluntary grant, but were instead legally binding on the state of Utah, it would be declared unconstitutional.  Instead, the US Department of Education can bribe Utahns to give up our state sovereignty and the natural rights of our citizens because they offer a caveat of money if we “choose” to comply. If we agree, we “choose” to remove some of the fundamental rights we each swore an oath to protect.

In that same ruling, Justice Oaks explains: “We conclude that the right of a parent not to be deprived of parental rights without a showing of unfitness, abandonment, or substantial neglect is …so basic to our constitutional order that it ranks among those rights referred to in …the [Utah and the] United States Constitution as being retained by the people.”

With a single vote by this body, in exchange for monetary compensation, parents throughout the state of Utah can be deprived of their parental rights without due process, without showing unfitness or substantial neglect.

We all know from past experience that the US Department of Ed is playing a game of political “chicken”.  They are hoping we will back down.  How can they justify penalizing the State of Utah because we are protecting parental rights and fulfilling our oaths to support the US Constitution and the unalienable rights it was designed to protect?  Please stand strong and tell the US Department of Education they must reconsider.  Inform them you are unable to violate the rights of the people you swore an oath to protect.

I strongly agree with Wendy’s statement.

A motion was made and passed at the state board to ask for a 1 year reprieve on the 95% of students must take the test rule. No idea how the feds will react, but Utah must preserve parental rights, and we must get the feds out of the education of our children.


4 thoughts on “SAGE gets renamed and Utah’s waiver denial”

  1. There are more authoritative sources for some of this information:

    The relevant line is “Also included in the RFP and future contract is a provision that all test questions used in the current statewide assessment, Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE), stay in Utah and be used
    in the new assessment under Questar. USBE also has the opportunity to work with Questar to develop additional test questions.”

  2. Nobody could have expressed the importance of the 10th Amendment better than Wendy Hart . Wish parents in every state had her insight. Thanks, Oak, for sharing her comments!

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