I received an email yesterday from someone sharing her 17 year old nephew’s experience in taking the SAGE test. Not only are SAGE tests poorly designed, but as has been reported, presentation of material is one-sided which opens up the possibility of pushing an agenda (which we already know is at work through the origins of Common Core).
“I tried to give the SAGE test a chance. It was just going to be another test that I have to take. But after taking most of the English section, I’m realizing how little thought was put into its development. They take a completely wrong approach to testing, and the software is terrible. The essays essentially say, “Read the passages, then write an argumentative essay on the history of dirt. Make sure to include the opposition.” The questions are boring, irrelevant to the context, and many are unnecessarily difficult. The passages are poorly written, and are way too long for the time given to take the test. They don’t need to be as long as they are to test the abilities that they’re assessing. What really kills me is the “listening” questions, which talk in monotone voices that are set in random situations, and don’t supply much relevant information. The questions barely relate to the audio, and some make you infer data from charts that barely have anything to do with the audio. You still have to pay attention to the audio, however, because there are a couple fact questions, like “Which of the following approaches did the teacher use with the student?” (which sounds more like teaching theory than an English question). The audio starts immediately, and doesn’t give a chance to read the questions without stopping the audio. Without stopping it, you have to listen with no clue what to look for and then try to remember what you heard, try to listen and read the questions at the same time, or re-listen. Stopping the audio makes you re-listen to the entire thing, even though there’s no time to listen in the first place. My list of unimpressive observations goes on and on. And I’m pretty sure SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) just added the “Excellence” to the name so it wouldn’t be SAG. The whole thing is just made up of unthought-through, irrelevant components, and is an inefficient waste of time.”
When asked if any of the questions seemed political, he replied:
“The essays seemed geared toward our demographic, making some of us argue the importance of sleep habits, etc., however I haven’t encountered anything really political. Yet. The test isn’t the same for everyone, however, so it’s possible others have had political questions/essays. And the essays are very one-sided. While you’re technically allowed to argue either side, they only supply information promoting one side, and you’re only allowed to reference information from the supplied passages.”
Another student on the same feed posted this:
“When I took this test I had to write an argumentative essay on what the government should fund: scientific exploration of bees or gardening and farming education. That, in my opinion is a super lame choice. I was also really frustrated that I couldn’t do tabs, to keep my thoughts organized I had to do 2 spaces instead and who knows if they’ll take points off for that or not. Is that grammatically correct? Before I took the test, I asked my teacher what this test has to do with anything and apparently if I fail, I still move on to the next grade; if I fail, nobody cares. If I fail my grade still stays the same. My teacher, like most teachers, graded for participation and the outline of the essay. I was also really confused on the essay question when it said “use 30 minutes to read the passages and write an essay on it” and by the time I was done reading the passages, 20(ish) minutes passed. This left 10 minutes to plan and write the essay(not that the time was enforced anyway). What? Really? I was just confused…”
A parent posted this in the Utahns Against Common Core Facebook group (join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/utahnsagainstcommoncore/). She got off the phone with a friend whose 11th grade daughter took the SAGE test yesterday and said one of her essay questions in the exam was:
“How are books bad and why should we focus more on video games because you can control them unlike books? Books discriminate against those who cannot read well and they dictate what you should think.”
Lets see, what’s the purpose of this question? Are you going to argue against the statement given to you? Or are you going to play along and write what the SAGE folks have given you? What’s going to be recorded in this child’s P20W database that SAGE tests provide behavioral data for?
A couple years of these tests and the government will know exactly who the resistor’s and the sheep are. It’s no wonder they don’t want parents and teachers to see these exams. Nothing should be in-between the tester and the testee to introduce a bias against the questions being presented. They need that behavioral data.
Another parent posted:
“A Davis County mother told me her 4th grader has been practicing in class and each prompt gives them three “facts” that they then have to write a 5 paragraph essay on. One prompt was about the Flu off 1918 and these were its facts (with my paraphrasing): 1. Many people died from the flu of 1918 2. The flu virus can mutate 3. It is important that I get the flu vaccine Basically, it was two facts and one opinion. Not trying to start a debate about flu shots , but should #3 really be a “fact”?”
Another parent posted a couple links to ACT website. The first link describes how ACT Explore is being replaced by ACT Aspire.
“In April 2014, ACT will launch our new student readiness assessment system—ACT Aspire™—the first computer-based, longitudinal assessment system that connects student growth and progress from the elementary grades through high school in the context of college and career readiness.”
“To meet this challenge, ACT is developing ACT Aspire—the first digital, longitudinal assessment system to fully connect student performance from elementary grades through high school. ACT Aspire will provide educators and parents with the insights they need to help students get and stay on track by better connecting assessment to teaching and learning.
ACT Aspire will include summative assessments that measure how much students have learned over time, as well as aligned classroom-based assessments that help educators better understand students’ learning needs in individual classes throughout the school year. The aligned assessments will inform teachers about students’ progress toward specific learning standards, so they can better tailor their instruction and resources to help students learn.
ACT research shows the direct link between early assessment and intervention and the improved likelihood of students succeeding in school and reaching their college and career goals. ACT Aspire will help educators identify foundational skill deficiencies earlier, which will provide the opportunity to quickly address weaknesses and build on strengths.”
Why is there such an alignment of standards, testing, curriculum, and intervention taking place? [Get out your tin-foil hat and put it on…] Can you imagine an essay question on evolution where it is presented a fact that man evolved from pond scum and asked students to write an essay taking that single-sided point of view? What if a child resists and states a belief in God? Will there eventually be an intervention to help children not believe in God and “fairy tales” and straighten them out? Presenting one sided arguments and having children write from that perspective does NOT lead to critical thinking skills. It’s the exact opposite. It is indoctrinating and stupifying (to borrow a term from Harry Potter).
Homeschooling and private schools that do not receive state or federal money and don’t participate in Common Core, are your only safe havens. But even with that, most colleges require students take the ACT or SAT in order to get in. There are a number of colleges that don’t require those things, and even BYU has let students in without those tests.
The first step for safety is opting your children completely out of all computer adaptive tests including practice tests. Get off them now. If your charter school has a contract you signed, get out of the charter school. They are worried about their school’s grade from the state more than what is wrong with the system. If you can’t do it this year, do it next. Move toward homeschooling if you can. It’s easier than you think and there are some great programs available online that are totally independent of Common Core.
SAGE tests affect grades 3 and up. AIR that provides this test, is a behavioral testing company. They are not an academic testing company. They are trained psychologists looking for behavioral information in the midst of academics.
Some districts are pressuring parents to not pull their children out.
I’ve had a couple emails asking about Dr. Menlove’s letter he said he would write, regarding opting out. He emailed me yesterday and he’s waiting to see if the governor signs SB 122 on parental rights which includes the opt-out for parents. IF YOU HAVEN’T CALLED THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE YET, DO IT IMMEDIATELY. IF HE DOESN’T SIGN THIS BILL IT SIGNIFICANTLY HURTS THE ABILITY OF PARENTS TO OPT-OUT. Call 801-538-1000 between 8 and 5.
This is Dr. Menlove’s full reply. Again, call the governor to sign SB 122. Then go to the April 4th state board meeting and tell them you want schools and teachers to have no penalty for parents that opt out.
Let me update you on my response to your request.
I prepared a document and shared it with State Board leadership as I previously indicated.
As the Legislative session came to an end, the State Board and USOE leadership identified bills passed by the 2014 Legislature that may be problematic to implement or create some other concern with State Board members. This list included S.B. 122. The concern with this legislation is section (9)(b) that basically says that opting-out by a student does not negatively impact school grading or employee evaluations. Our current policy on opting-out could negatively impact both school grading and teacher evaluations. As such it would be impossible to implement this new Code under our existing opt-out policies. In fact, I am not certain what policy we may adopt that would fully support this new section of the Code.
Last Friday the State Board met to consider possible action on this S.B 122 and a couple of other bills. The result of the discussion on this Bill was that the Board would revisit the USOE policy on opting-out. Yesterday State School Board leadership met to set the agenda for the State School Board meeting on April 4, 2014. It was determined that this item should be considered by the Board on April 4th. Whereas Board action on April 4th may alter the current opt-out policies, I have determined that it is best for me to wait until after the April 4th meeting to issue any statement.
I apologize for this unintended delay. I recognize that there continues to be confusion and inconsistency in information being shared about opting-out. However, for me to issue a statement now and then have to alter that after April 4th, in my opinion, would only add to the existing confusion.
I will issue a clarifying document ASAP following the April 4th State Board meeting.
After asking him to encourage the state board to decouple SAGE exams from school and teacher ratings, he replied:
State law requires that student achievement data be use for both school grading and teacher evaluations. As such, I do not see any way to decouple SAGE from these State law mandated activities. This is my major concern with how to implement these programs fairly while honoring the right of parents to opt-out. Although opting-out has the potential for impacting federal reporting and funding, my major concern is with grading schools and evaluating teachers as mandated in Utah Code.
I replied that “I’m certain there are alternatives like NAEP or the IOWA tests or the old California Achievement Tests we could use. The computer adaptive tests and SAGE in particular are a real problem for a lot of people.”
State Code 53A-1-603 requires the administration of criterion referenced tests or online computer adaptive tests and then goes on to allocate funding for computer adaptive tests and outlines how those tests are to be administered. I do not believe the State Board has the option of not administering computer adaptive tests.
To which I replied: “But under state law, parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the education of their children and if they choose to opt them out of tests, that is up to them. Schools are to play a secondary and supportive role. So regardless of SB 122, the state board should fully support the ability of a parent to opt their child out of tests. Parents are the consumers and have the authority and responsibility to determine what is in their child’s education interest.”
Under Common Core’s Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT), you will never know what indoctrination your children are being exposed to and neither will your children’s teachers. This video explains exactly why you MUST opt your child out of all computer adaptive tests or start homeschooling.
Hypothetically, what if you’re a teacher who holds a view that those above you don’t like? Maybe you’ve stirred the pot one too many times. What if someone has the power to dial up the difficulty on your students’ exam and make you look bad? What if you’re a student who answers a little too conservatively? Will you have something tied into your record that identifies you as a potential troublemaker in the future?
Superintendent Menlove has said in a House Education Committee meeting that all students may opt out of these tests. Go to this link, click HB 81’s audio under the player, and forward to the 29 minute mark and start listening.
In Utah, we have the SAGE assessments, administered by AIR. AIR does not specialize in academic testing. They are a behavioral testing company. If you are new to this issue, here are a few past articles to bring you up to speed.
Do you think we’re safe just because we live in “family friendly” Utah? Think again. Here’s a letter I got from a parent just a few days ago.
I am passing this on to you because I believe you can reach more people than I can. This morning my son was to take his 8th Grade writing assessment. Knowing that this would most likely be an assignment where he was asked to write about his opinion on something, I went down to the school and talked to the English teacher. She told me that in the past, the topics had been things like whether or not students should be allowed to wear hats at school or what their opinion was on school uniforms. Another asked an opinion about using paper or plastic shopping bags. However, she was not allowed to see the actual prompt before or after the assessment in past years or this year. She was nice, but unconcerned. After visiting a while, she was willing to let me be in the room and look over my son’s shoulder as the prompt appeared after log in. One look and I let her know that my son would not be participating in the assessment. She was polite and said that was fine. While not revealing the actual topic of the assessment, I will share that it very clearly asked for an opinion regarding the role of parents vs. the role of government and other organizations on a topic that I would say should most definitely fall under the parental realm. Heads up to parents of all 8th graders in the state of Utah!
(PhD in Instructional Psychology & Technology with emphasis in Educational Assessment)”
When I inquired further, this parent indicated this was a state-wide 8th grade writing assessment. It was the only question on this assessment. Her son informed her that another boy in his class didn’t participate for the same reason. He stepped out and called his mom to tell her what the prompt was and she told him not to participate.
I pressed this parent further to know the specific question and she responded:
“Should access to media be limited by parents, by the government, or by another organization?”
This is an opinion question given to 13-14 year olds. Most of them aren’t going to know of other organizations that they could write about as a viable option on a writing assignment, so the real choices for this writing assessment are parents or government putting restrictions on their media. This is Utah, and I’d like to believe that most children would write that it’s better for parents to put the restrictions on them, but there’s probably a lot of young teens who resent the restrictions parents put on them and probably a good number are going to write and speculate about how the government should be in charge of such matters. In reality, the only role the government has is ensuring the first amendment is protected.
I recommend you immediately opt your children out of all CAT’s using our opt-out form. Talk with your child about inappropriate questions that may minimize the role of parents. Look up your school district to see if it is opt-out friendly. So far only Nebo school district has displayed animosity toward families in rejecting the opt-out form. Alpine even went so far as to publish their own simple opt-out form for parents to use. A few charter schools have indicated they will also force children to take the test because the school is graded based on this test and charters live and die by enrollments. We need the state to change the way they grade schools so it does not include CAT’s. Look at our opt-0ut form though and you’ll realize you have a fundamental liberty interest in the education of your children so you hold the upper hand. Opt-out.
Last fall, the state allowed 15 parents to review 10,000 test questions. In one week. Hundreds of questions were flagged for concerns. The vast majority of those concerns were ignored. Parents really have no clue what their children are going to see on these tests. Only 15 people caught a very fast glimpse of them and none of them were trained psychologists looking for behavioral indicators.
I strongly encourage you to opt your child out of CAT’s. If you are in a school that requires them, expose your child to someone with a cold a few days prior to the tests. :)
Here is a chart and explanation by one of the 15 parent reviewers.
“All items flagged by the parent review panel, which were not removed will be presented to the parent review panel next summer for further review.”
Listed below is the numeric representation of the process:
Addendum by Alpine School District Board Member Wendy Hart
I believe that if you opt out, unless your school has a policy otherwise, it shouldn’t matter whether your kid is there or not on the day of the test.
The short answer is that ‘yes’, your student will be counted in the school and teacher grades as non-proficient. However, this is set by the State Board, and they have said if it affects the school and teacher grades because too many parents opt out, they would change it. It was news to me that it would be on the child’s permanent record, but I confirmed this evening that they are putting it in the computer system in ASD as such, again because of the State Board’s grading system. So, this is new (since my kids have no record of having tested the last two years and they were opted out, formally, both years). It goes to a bullying mentality from the State Board: parents have the right to opt out, but we’ll make it very, very difficult for them. (They can’t legally penalize the student for the parents’ choice, but they can make it seem very, very bad.)
If the parents and teachers were to push back, the State Board would change their policy. (They have already said they would, they just need more incentive from the people to do it prior to the tests.) It is unfair to punish the teachers for kids who don’t take the test. Please write to all the state board members and ask them to change their grading system. If enough people do this (and it might only take a hundred or so), and copy in the legislators, it will get changed. They are hoping to get enough parents to be scared that they won’t do it. After they have this system in place for a year or two, then they will change it to where the student’s grade is dependent on the test, as well.
I’m so sorry, and I completely understand that pressure. I am doing this with my kids because the whole thing enforces what the State Board wants at the expense of local schools and local parents. The only way to change it is for parents to reassert their natural rights. I wish teachers would push back, as well. It is most unfair to them. It wouldn’t take much for a large group of teachers and/or the UEA to stand for fairness in grading. There is no point to counting an opted out student as non-proficient other than to induce teachers to guilt parents into having their kids tested.
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!
Thank you Brian for shining the light on this insanity.