The biggest concern is: Will my kids be marked non-proficient, if they don't take the test?
Parents have a legal right to opt their kids out of taking the SAGE tests. The State Office of Education doesn't want you to do this. What they can do is coerce you into compliance by punishing your teachers and your schools (teacher and school grades are, wrongly, still affected), and threatening your student with a 'non-proficient status'. But, what does a 'non-proficient status' mean?
Alpine School District will REMOVE the non-proficient score for students who are opted out!The data Alpine School District receives back from the state, after the testing, will note that your student refused to test and the score on the SAGE tests will be a 1 (non-proficient) out of 4. David Smith, Director of Research & Evaluation, indicated our district has been stripping this non-proficient score out of all the data for those students who opt out of testing. This is done before it goes into Alpine's computer system, Skyward. (My kids have opted out the past two years and have nothing on their records for any of those tests. The tests, themselves, aren't even listed.) On March 11, 2014, David Smith promised that he would continue to strip that non-proficient information out for opted out students*. He asked me to remind him in the Fall, should this not occur. I promised I would.
Universities won't see this score. Subsequent teachers won't see this score. You and your kids will never see this score. It will not be used to grade your kid. So, while it was originally used to discourage teachers from having kids opt out of testing, it is now being used as a bullying tactic to force parents to comply with what the State Office of Education would like.
In contrast, Alpine School District recognizes a parents' fundamental right to direct their kids' eduction. Our district also acknowledges that assigning a 'non-proficient' score to a child based on a test they didn't take is ludicrous and does nothing positive for the education of that child. While, Alpine School District (but not all of its Board) encourages parents to have their kids take this test, the parents must make that decision, and we, as a district, respect and honor that right.**
If you are not in Alpine School District, talk to your school board and administrators. Ask them to strip the non-proficient status for students who are opted out. If your kid doesn't take the ACT, does the school still label them as a non-proficient on the ACT?
Then contact the State Board of Education (http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Board-Members.aspx), and ask them to change their grading system. They should not mark students as non-proficient who opt out and then use that number to incorrectly calculate the teachers' and schools' grades. It might not hurt to copy your legislators in, as well. It is not law that your student be marked non-proficient. It is the rule the State Board of Education has provided to the districts. They can change it if they want to. Let's ask them!
UPDATE: SB122 is waiting for the governor's signature. It will prevent the State Office from punishing teachers and schools for students who are opted out of statewide testing. Please ask the governor to sign SB122 right away!
For more Frequently Asked Questions on SAGE, click here.
*http://board.alpineschools.org/march-11-2014-board-meeting/ Click to the bottom under 'Additional Media', and listen to the Study Session audio. Start at 55 minutes. The promise is at 59 minutes. "If I forget, will you call me? I don't know any educator who says, 'This student doesn't know anything. He opted out of the test.'" "We have no data on that student"...Who thinks that 1 labels a child who opts out of the test?" 1:00: "We've told principals when this comes up. Well why? Those are the rules."
**After I wrote this, I re-read it, and I want to clarify that this is not an official Alpine School District statement. It is my personal assessment of my fellow board members, our administrators and our teachers.