"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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

New SAGE state test information

Tuesday, March 11 @ 4 - 5:30 pm at the District Office, 575 N. 100 E., American Fork!!!

We have new state tests, called SAGE.  The SAGE test is a computer-adaptive test, and this is the first year that it will be used to test all English, Math, and Science students from 3rd grade on up.

While I have many concerns about the data privacy and some aspects of computer-adaptive tests, I would highly recommend that every parent and taxpayer attend an information meeting on SAGE. The district will be holding these informational meetings at all the schools.  So, if you can't attend the one tomorrow, please call the schools nearest you and find the most convenient time to attend.  We will be posting the schedule on our website, and I will inform you as soon as I get the link.

A few things to take into consideration.

First, we are promised that this test will be measuring critical thinking.  I have a few thoughts on that point.  1) I have found that 'critical thinking' is a lot like 'hope and change', it can mean different things to different people. 2) In many discussions, it is presented as though critical thinking has not been taught in the past and is now, for the first time being taught and assessed in public schools.  3) In my opinion, as a computer programmer, I am unsure that a computer test could actually assess critical thinking.   4) What it does seem to mean is that testing fact and memorization isn't as important.  

Second, the test scores will be going down by almost 20%, it is predicted.  We are told this is due to the more rigorous curriculum (which the math, demonstrably, isn't) and more rigorous testing.  We are presenting this throughout the district so that parents are not alarmed when they receive the test scores.  My thoughts: 1) When you get a new test, the test scores always go down until the teachers learn how to teach to the test.  One teacher at a convention stated it takes about 3 years. 2) The test questions, from my observation, are more convoluted, not necessarily testing harder concepts, just worded strangely.  3) If you are homeschooling or using private school, so your kids aren't trained on this method of testing and answering questions, your kids will be at a disadvantage.  (The downside to this is the SAT is realigning to Common Core.  I assume that the SAT will look similar to some of these CCSS state tests--SAGE, SBAC, PARCC--which are testing process and communication over fact.) 

Finally, if you are opting your kids out of testing, like I am, I would still attend a meeting to find out what your tax dollars are paying for.  If you have questions on opting out, just let me know.  Here is a link to the district's opt out form. (https://docs.google.com/a/alpinedistrict.org/file/d/0B4LZ8teFSo0fcVBfei1tSGgwcDVjUWpKZTFQV0hXd1JxRjZz/edit?pli=1) Or you can simply write your own letter.  Please be away that everything is designed to make it difficult for you to want to opt out.   Know that the State Board of Education could change their teacher/school grading system to just simply not count those student who are opted out.  Instead, the teachers will be assessed as though the kids failed tests they never took.  I would encourage you to contact the State Board and ask them to change their grading system. 

I would also go to www.sageportal.org, login as guest, guest and take one or more of the practice tests.

See you Tuesday at 4pm!!