"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SAGE tests: Will My Kid be Labeled 'Non-Proficient?'

The new state, end-of-the-year tests, called SAGE are starting in a week.  Parents have a lot of questions and concerns, and many parents want to opt their kids out.  "Can you opt your kid out?"  (Answer: Yes. For the opt out form from Alpine School District, click here.)

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.


  1. Do many of you fear retaliation in the way your student will be treated by staff after being an "opt out" kid?

  2. Yes! Am I the only one who has opted out her children? Today when I went into schools the secretary had no idea what the opt out form was.

  3. I took the opt out form to Saratoga shores elementary and principal won't sign it because there aren't "truths" in it and it isn't on alpine district letterhead. Is there anything we can do or do we just sign their basic opt out form that the principal doesn't have to sign? The high school signed it just fine.
    Thank you

    1. You just need to communicate your intentions to the teachers and administration. I just wrote my own letter. It doesn't need to be on district letterhead. If the principal won't sign it, that's fine. You just need to make sure your wishes are acknowledged, as per the testing.

    2. Our principal was kind and accommodating, but also didn't sign the form, but he gave a verbal consent for opting out and later my husband emailed him and got a confirmation as well.

  4. Secretaries did the same to me!

  5. I opted my children out of SAGE testing yesterday (they attend a charter school) and this morning sent an email to the Principal and the Chairman of the Board asking them to remove the non-proficient score they will get. This is the reply I got from the Librarian (who is apparently the Assessment Coordinator now too) that said this:

    At this time HB 122 is in direct violation with federal law through NCLB. We have not received word from the Utah State Board of Education as to how to proceed so we can not adjust any scores at this time. You are within your rights to opt out of this testing but until there is information or a change with federal law, your child will still receive a score of Proficiency 1 and the school report will reflect that score as well."

    If it's against the law... how is Alpine District doing it... and what can I say to my school to get them to change it?? Please help!!

    1. Alpine is in control of its own internal computer system. We use Skyward. We can input grades, student information, and testing information. Since the state sends the data to the district with the SAGE scores in them, the state maintains whatever it needs to maintain for both federal and state law. The individual schools and districts are not required to provide or maintain information for federal accountability, if I understand correctly.

      As such, local charter schools and districts can choose how they use, or don't use, this information provided from the state. Our discussion included comments about how assigning the 1 to follow the child, due to opting out of testing, held no educational value. So, there is no reason for our district to maintain this, internally.

      If your school is still keeping this information on the student's record, I would be curious to know why they feel they need it there. If it is federal law, then it needs to be cited.

      Also, interestingly, NCLB is written as a 'grant'. So states can apply for the NCLB 'grant'. As such, the 95% and the scores would not be considered federal law, so much as a qualifying condition for federal money.

      Finally, I have been told that SB122 violates state law, as well. I have been unable to find it. I have read through Utah Code 53A-1-401 -613. I haven't found it.

      If someone can find either the state or federal laws and the appropriate sections where SB122 violates either of those, please let me know. Thanks!

  6. Parents, please educate yourself a before reading and believing everything that is written in this blog. It is not yet the policy of ASD to delete your child's score of 1 on the SAGE test. Wendy is making promises that cannot be supported.

    According to the state the scores will remain on records and transcripts. And ASD has yet to determine whether scores will be taken from records.

    1. Yes, the scores will remain on the state's computer system. I said they would be stripped out BEFORE they were loaded into Alpine's computer system. I have tried to make it abundantly clear that the state will still use this information (incorrectly) to evaluate teachers and schools.

      However, the score will not follow your child from one teacher to the next within Alpine School District. And again, it isn't policy either. It was a promise made during a board study session (for which I have cited audio).

      I'm sorry you misunderstood. I have tried to make this as clear as possible. If you have suggestions as to how to better word this, I am open.

  7. I am wondering why my comment, that wasn't negative but honest, was not posted?

    1. The simple reason is that this blog is moderated. I do the moderation, myself, when I have time. I receive an email that a comment has been made. When I get around to checking the email, something that can take hours or days, I allow the comments to go through. I publish anything that isn't spam and that doesn't use foul language.

      I believe you honestly misread my blog post. I hope you re-read it, and listen to the audio links provided, for greater clarification.

  8. My son received a very large assignment for opting out of SAGE testing in English for 8th grade. For one class period "missed" he is to read a 45 page story from a school textbook and answer 25 questions. He is an A student. He worked on it all through class and is only about 1/2 done. He can't bring the book home because it is the school's. Is this allowable?

    1. I'm so sorry.

      I would contact the teacher directly. Since the SAGE scores can't be used for class grades this year, this assignment probably can't be graded either. (Could be a participation grade.)

      The idea of an alternate assignment is that it should be comparable in difficulty, effort, and point-value to the standard assignment. There are State Board rules about this, but I don't have the link off-hand.
      I would also look to see if there is any local school board policy on this subject. If not, I would contact your school board members and ask them to create one. If you can cite a policy that this violates, that is the easy answer. If not, just plead your case to the teacher and the principal.