Utah school offers iPad raffle to students that take SAGE test

ipadI received this email yesterday from Dr. Jonathan Caldwell regarding something happening at Minersville School in the Beaver County School District. Similar events are occurring around the country with various prizes or treats.

“It was brought to my attention that the children at my son’s school who take the SAGE test are being included in a drawing for an ipad, while those who have opted out, are not being included. I spoke to the principal and it was confirmed. The purpose was originally to try and motivate the kids to do well on the test. They had decided to do this months ago before the thought of ever having parents opt-out and now are scrambling to figure out how to handle this. I am confident that other schools may be doing the same. In fact I saw the article about the kids in New York getting ice cream for taking the test and those not taking it did not get to participate. I am all for incentives and ways to motivate kids to care, however I am deeply disturbed by this level of discrimination and separation. I disagree with punishing the kids for a decision that the parents made just as much as I am against punishing the school or teachers for the same decision that the parents made to opt out. I am disappointed in parents who refuse to educate themselves because they are more concerned with how this will reflect upon the school or the teachers. I DO think my sons school is great. It is consistently one of the top schools in the state. The administrators and teachers are amazing. It is unfortunate that this situation puts them in a position to where their hands are tied behind their back, required to teach a certain way or have their jobs on the line. Teachers become teachers out of a passion and desire to inspire kids but this is truly taking the “Teaching to Inspire” out of school teaching and making them “Teach to Test”. Just thought I’d bring this to your attention. Dr. Caldwell”

In a follow up email, Dr. Caldwell stated:

“You may also be interested in this: Last week I asked my son if he was the only one in his class opting out and he said, ‘No’.  I asked him how he knew there were others and he said, ‘Because all of the kids not taking the SAGE test are sitting on the back row.’ Wow!!! Just another way to isolate, single out and draw attention to these students. I think they are trying to do some damage control as one of the other parents approached the principal about it today and was told that they are ‘pulling the other kids out of the drawing whom they have “Caught” not trying on the test’. (wow, that even sounds worse doesn’t it?)”


13 thoughts on “Utah school offers iPad raffle to students that take SAGE test”

  1. Dr. Caldwell,

    Thanks for bringing this information forward. I am glad that other parents are educating themselves and opting out of the tests. As time goes on, I think others will realize what is really happening. I recently moved from Minersville to Cache Valley and have not had my children complain of being singled out or receiving negative consequences because I opted them out of SAGE testing. I am sorry that it is happening in Minersville.

  2. All this information is wrong! The part about all Dr. Caldwell’s son sitting in back is just sheer luck. It’s not because they are trying to draw attention to them and make them look like fools not taking the test. It’s just the luck of the draw. My son’s school is also rewarding kids who take the test, and not rewarding the other’s who didn’t. The school is just rewarding those who did take the test and are trying to help their school’s average score. Also, the Sage test does not go against your grade. It might affect you in the future at sometime, but not now. The only thing it goes against is the school’s average test scores. After all, you guys are only looking at one side of the story. And who know’s if this information is true. Dr. Caldwell’s son is probably in 3rd grade or something. Who know’s if he is getting correct information. Plus, it’s the parents choice if they chose to opt out their kid. It’s not discrimination or separation, it’s just rewarding the kids who try, and those who don’t, well, that’s just affecting their school.

    1. Hi Bob, there are a number of things going on around the state that are troubling. Check out this story from a mom.
      “…my daughter’s teacher told her that if she did not take the SAGE test then she would make her take “an extra hard custom made test” instead of the SAGE. She also said that if she took the SAGE it would not be part of her grade but the “extra hard custom made test” would be part of her grade. My daughter has worked very hard to keep straight A’s and is worried that the teacher will purposely write a test that she won’t be able to pass and it will destroy her A average. If this is not bullying and intimidation…I don’t know what is!!”

    2. Bob,
      Is it sheer luck that all of the kids that opted out in Dr. Caldwell’s sons class are now sitting on the back row?

  3. Making a mountain out of a mole hill. Exactly what is wrong with society today. Make your stance by opting out, but to whine about not having a chance to win the i-pad is ludicrous.

    1. Perhaps you missed the point. This parent doesn’t care about the iPad, the problem here is that the school is making kids feel bad who opt out by creating an incentive for people to take the test.

      1. The i-pad was an incentive for the kids to work hard and this was told to the kids several weeks before any one opted out of the test. The school is not making the kids feel bad. There was definately no discrimination. Life is about choices make your choice and deal with the consequences. Kids didn’t test so they are not eligible to win the i-pad that was promised to those who took the test way before any one opted out.

  4. The i-pad was an incentive to work hard in preparing for and taking the test, not to get kids to take the test. The whole controversy centers on the i-pad and the parents against the common core. They have used their dislike of the common core to turn nothing into something. There was no discrimination no singleing of kids out. Minersville is a small town and parents where calling around talking about whether to opt kids out. Everyone knows each other and what is going on. To play the discrimination card and throw Minersville Elementary and its Principal and teachers under the bus to further the agenda of Utahns Against Common Core is the real issue. Educators who are trying to make a difference now become the enemy. I guess welcome to society today.
    For the record I could care less about the common core I am not for it or against it.

    1. Did you mistype something? You seem to be making my point. You said “The i-pad was an incentive to work hard in preparing for and taking the test, not to get kids to take the test,” yet the kids who worked hard and didn’t take the test can’t participate in the raffle.

      Who is discriminating? That’s kind of off the wall I think. The only people discriminating seem to be the administrators who aren’t letting kids who worked hard but got opted out participate in the raffle.

  5. I agree with Cory Hollingshead it is a reward for those who take the test and actually try and I think this Nortan guy needs his head screwed on tighter!!

  6. Warning!!! Novel Ahead –

    I decided to take a little bit of time to address some of the comments made in regards to the posting of my letter about the incentive program at our local school. I admit that regardless of what I say, it will most likely not change the opinion or mind of those who have commented. Inasmuch as this has always been for me a quest to remain true to the principal at hand, I cannot sit silent and not stand up for exact principles that I have taken the time to learn and understand and attempt to defend on behalf of those who cannot or will not do it for themselves.
    I assume, in end we will have to agree to disagree on this subject but maybe, just maybe someone may actually take the time to educate themselves on these principles and see what it has taken a while for me to finally “wake up” and understand.
    I want to give credit where credit is due. A few weeks ago, Todd McFarlane of Kanosh, Utah told about the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau. He was ultimately fined and jailed for his disobedience to a principle that in good faith he could not support. When a friend came to visit him in jail and asked him why he would put his life and freedom on the line to defend a principle, he replied, “I think the real question should be why aren’t you in here with me?”

    In regards to that idea, a few very important questions arise in this situation:
    1) People ask me why I am opting my sons out of SAGE testing; my response is “Why aren’t you?”
    2) People want to know why I am willing to sacrifice my name, reputation, and friendships in my small town with people I have to see at the park, stores and church on this issue. My response is “Why aren’t you willing to do the same.”
    3) Now people want to chastise me for defending my son (and others) from discriminating/punishing them for a decision that I, the parent made and that my son had no control over. As I see it, this example teaches them and all students at the school that it is okay to separate, isolate and exclude others who have different views. My response to them is, “Why aren’t you willing to defend and denounce any kind of exclusionary practices from entering the school?”

    I would like to clarify a few things before I address specific comments. I understand the intent of the raffle. I sat and had the administrator explain the history of, purpose of and intent of the raffle. I totally understand that the intent was to motivate and not discriminate. Once again, I understand!!! Unfortunately, sometimes the intent of an action causes collateral consequences that at the time the intent was established were unforeseen. I agree that we all, including myself, make decisions at times with one intent but in end may offend or have effects we could not see at the time.

    The intent was said to motivate, a collateral result was that it separated, isolated and excluded kids that work and worked just as hard as any other student in school (including preparing for SAGE testing, although not actually taking it).

    So let me address specifically a few individuals who have commented on this position. I am going to strongly try and avoid any personal character attacks as I wish a few of you had done as well. You have your right to your opinions and I don’t expect you to all agree with my decision to make this information known. I will however, tell you that decision was not made lightly. It came after a great deal of contemplation regarding the consequences of such information especially in a town this size and one that has so many ties to the school for means of financial support in their homes.

    Deyette: Thank you for your comments. I am sad that you moved away but also extremely glad that you have taken the time to educate yourself and make an educated decision on behalf of your children. I am also glad that this type of an issue is not present in your school.

    Bob: Statement: You are all wrong! Answer: Amazing, you don’t even live here, were never present in the conversations I had with the teachers and principal, so I am amazed you would have such a bold opening statement. Unless you have firsthand knowledge of the events that have taken place, how can you know if it is wrong? Statement: The part about all Dr. Caldwell’s son sitting in back is just sheer luck. It’s not because they are trying to draw attention to them and make them look like fools not taking the test. It’s just the luck of the draw. Answer: Whether trying or not, that is exactly what happened. Just as Jared mentioned below, how amazing and consequential is it that the 5-6 kids in that class who have opted out all end up on the back row together! Statement: My son’s school is also rewarding kids who take the test, and not rewarding the other’s who didn’t. Answer: Shame on them for teaching the same principle of exclusion to the kids in your school. Statement: The school is just rewarding those who did take the test and are trying to help their school’s average score. Answer: So what you are saying is that the image of the school, average of the school, perception of the school supersedes the importance of keeping kids from being shamed for not participating. Statement: Also, the Sage test does not go against your grade. It might affect you in the future at some time, but not now. The only thing it goes against is the school’s average test scores. After all, you guys are only looking at one side of the story. Answer: Maybe so, sure wish I could get more people to look at it from my side of the story, step into my shoes, what if this was your child who was being isolated for a decision that YOU made. Statement: And who knows if this information is true. Dr. Caldwell’s son is probably in 3rd grade or something. Who knows if he is getting correct information. Answer: WOW!!! What are you implying? I don’t know you so I will assume you are just making assumptions, however let me clue you into just a few of my life experiences a bit. I spent a portion of my life serving this country. I am not able to go into all the details of my role for security purposes but I have worked in some of the most dangerous situations in the world, starred habitual liars and terrorists in the face, been in the line of fire to perform my job as a battlefield interrogator with the most tactical special operations teams in the world. Not only do I have specific training in truth telling, evasion tactics and kinesis/non-verbal communication, I believe I was born with a keen sense of discernment. And although I don’t believe my kids are always truthful, if there was ever a person qualified to discern otherwise, I have the credentials to do so! I have checked and re-checked the information from several sources regarding my claims. I am confident my son told it how it was. statement: Plus, it’s the parents’ choice if they chose to opt out their kid. Answer: Indeed it was, so why not punish me instead of my 9 year old! Statement: It’s not discrimination or separation, it’s just rewarding the kids who try, and those who don’t, well, that’s just affecting their school. Answer: Have you ever looked up the definition of discrimination? I am sure this is partly why this is such a heated debate, because of the choice of words. (Meriam Webster Dictionary Definition of “Discrimination”: the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.) Sounds pretty spot on to me.

    Jared: Indeed Bob’s perception of this being sheer luck is amazing! I think I should start bringing my son to game night with us, I could use some of his amazing sheer luck.

    Cory: I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinions. I totally understand the vested interest you have in this specific situation. I had the same conversation with both my son’s teacher and the principal several times. Both times, they completely acknowledged my sentiments correct. See, I am not anti-teacher, anti-principal or anti-Minersville school. In fact, on the contrary I am willing to put my name, reputation, career, and neighborhood relationships on the line ON BEHALF OF the teachers, educators and administrators because I understand that they cannot do so. I have had many more teachers and the like thank me for my willingness to say the things they only wish they could. Unfortunately, their jobs are at risk if they open their mouths and speak about how they feel on these topics. Indeed there are many teachers all over who are making the decision (after educating themselves) that they have the moral responsibility to stand up against principles that they believe are not in the best interest of their students or children. In so doing, they realize they are risking their jobs, salaries and future in education. But they understand the bigger picture and are willing to take that risk. For the rest, who have not come to that decision to speak up, they rely on the rest of us who are willing to risk our livelihoods and speak out against such things like common core, SAGE testing and what “I” perceive as discrimination and exclusion.

    I speak out for the teachers who got into teaching because they wanted to affect the lives of these children but find their hands tied behind their back because of the almighty dollar. I speak out for the teachers who’s passion it was to inspire kids to learn not require them to do so. I speak out for the teachers who are forced to use a curriculum that makes no sense at times and puts teachers jobs on the line based on the performance of the students on these tests. Teachers are now required to teach to “pass the test” not to learn the information. All of these points were brought up to the teacher and administrator to which they both AGREED with me that this is how it has changed. So for them, I speak out and say the things they aren’t able to say. Luckily, just as many thank me for my actions as have ostracized me for the same.

    I draw your attention to my original letter, it was never about the ipad. We already have more digital devices in our home than I even want. Even if he was given the opportunity to be involved and had won, I am positive we would have given it to someone in far greater need of it that us. What you perceive to be “Whining” is an unfortunate perception on your part and clearly an emotional knee jerk reaction.

    You mention this school is not making the kids feel bad. While I acknowledge again that this may not have been the original intent of the raffle, evidently, if my son and others made a point to come home and comment to their parents about it, it certainly had some sort of an impact on them.

    I am not sure how the period of time the raffle was suggested being before kids were opted out was intended to imply. It SHOULDN”T matter if the incentive was offered 1 year or 1 day before the test as long as the same effort to exclude/punish some based completely on their parents decision.

    As for consequences to every decision, indeed a principle we are all taught and understand. After 40 years of life and an incredible amount of life experience, you’re preaching to the choir on this one. However, in regards to this controversy being about the ipad, you are right in that it but it was fueled when it became a lesson in exclusion. I don’t expect you to truly understand this from my perspective but if you’re able to imagine for just a moment if it was you and your child in this situation, knowing you, you’d go to the mats to defend your child from the same and shame on you if you wouldn’t.

    As for it being an agenda for those against common core, let me clarify a few things that weren’t made clear in the original letter. On the day I chose to walk in and opt my son out, I cordially sat with the principal to express my concerns. She was very understanding. I told her I was very disappointed that (not just locally but everywhere) schools seem to specifically avoiding educating parents on their ability and choices regarding this testing. I told her I had it in mind to go on a campaign against this type of non-information. However, I told her that I would just keep it to myself. I told her that this was the end of my desire to stand up to a principle and she could expect me to drop it at that point. It wasn’t until I was informed of the segregation of opt-out students in the classroom and the exclusion in the raffle that I felt I needed to get involved.

    I am sure that the method I chose to deal with this is one that many won’t agree with, especially in a small town like ours, but I had to weigh the issues. If I had spoken in generalities, like, well there is a school in a town in southern Utah excluding kids that opted out, it would never get the attention needed to maybe ensure this doesn’t go on elsewhere. I know many don’t agree with me but I felt it had to be dealt with in specifics rather than generalities.

    I know this is personal because it affects this small town and what appears to one as throwing a town and its educators “Under the Bus” is in actuality as mentioned before, now being thanked over and over by other educators who can’t speak out for themselves. No, surely the educators in our town haven’t specifically asked for me to make this stand but I hope, once they educate themselves, realize how common core binds them, limits them and removes the true reason they chose this profession, they too might be grateful that I am willing to stick my neck out when nobody else does.

    You mention people calling all over town to discuss opting out. Indeed this has gone on however many times after they have been given information on where to learn and educate themselves, they simply reply, “Well, this is going to hurt our school” and then never proceed to gain the understanding after all, for fear that if they learn something they don’t like, they’ll have the moral obligation to change. (Notwithstanding the law recently passed prevents this from this happening)

    Quote: Sitting on the fence: The position you adopt when you fear making mistakes by committing to decisions!

    Lastly, I am making an assumption and so I apologize if I am making it incorrectly. Based on your last statement about not being FOR or AGAINST common core seems to express that you haven’t actually taken the time to understand it yourself. Once again, maybe I am wrong but it seems to me that if you and others actually educated themselves on the issues (both sides as I have done) that you would ultimately come to a decision to Stand for Something. In this day and age, with the way things are ever changing and in completely my opinion, it’s time for the “fence sitters” to decide where they are going to Stand. If you educate yourself and truly feel it’s in your best interest and the interest of your kids to support these types of issues and events, at least then you will have made an educated decision.

    Jon Doe: I am sorry that you feel that disclosing your identity would change my opinion of you but if you truly know anything about me, you’ll know that’s not how I roll. Thank you for your opinion however. Hopefully you read this whole novel to understand my point of view but more importantly, I hope you’ll do make it a point to educate yourself on these issues completely.

    Closing Remarks: I appreciate all of your comments and perspectives. My intent was never to hurt anyone just as I am sure the intent of the school was not to do the same. Evidently in both situations, intent doesn’t always foretell the consequences of that intent. Hopefully you can forgive me if I have personally offended you in the process of standing up for principles and defending my child.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.