"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

SAGE State Tests FAQ

Updated: March 28, 2016

Form required for Opt Outs, created by the State Board of Education.

Utah Code 53A-15-1403:
(a)At the request of a student's parent or guardian, an LEA shall excuse a student from taking an assessment that:
(i)is federally mandated;

(ii)is mandated by the state under this title; or

(iii)requires the use of:
(A)a state assessment system; or

(B)software that is provided or paid for by the state.

(b)In accordance with Title 63G, Chapter 3, Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act, the State Board of Education shall make rules:
(i)to establish a statewide procedure for excusing a student under Subsection (9)(a) that:
(A)does not place an undue burden on a parent or guardian; and

(B)may be completed online; and

(ii)to prevent negative impact, to the extent authorized by state statute, to an LEA or an LEA's employees through school grading or employee evaluations due to a student not taking a test under Subsection (9)(a).

(c)An LEA:
(i)shall follow the procedures outlined in rules made by the State Board of Education under Subsection (9)(b) to excuse a student under Subsection (9)(a);

(ii)may not require procedures to excuse a student under Subsection (9)(a) in addition to the procedures outlined in rules made by the State Board of Education under Subsection (9)(b); and

(iii)may not reward a student for taking an assessment described in Subsection (9)(a).

(d)The State Board of Education shall:
(i)maintain and publish a list of state assessments, state assessment systems, and software that qualify under Subsection (9)(a); and

(ii)audit and verify an LEA's compliance with the requirements of this Subsection (9).

Utah Code 53A-1-602

[The State Board shall provide rules for administration of U-PASS aka SAGE]...

(f)providing that scores on the tests and assessments required under Subsection (2)(a) and Subsection (3) may not be considered in determining:

(i)a student's academic grade for the appropriate course; or

(ii)whether a student may advance to the next grade level.

Can I opt out of testing?  I was told that it was required that my student take the SAGE test.
The schools are legally required to administer the test (http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_061100.htm).  Parents are not legally required to have their kids take the test.  You only need to notify your school with the above form.

If I opt out, will my student receive a non-proficient score?
No.  The Utah State Office of Education was assigning the lowest possible score to students who opted out of testing in the past.  However, in April, 2014, a law was signed that prohibited this kind of action.  Students who are opted out are not counted for purposes of school grading or teacher evaluation.

Does opting out punish teachers or schools? Will the teacher lose his/her job?
No.  State Law does not allow teachers or schools to be penalized for children who are opted out.  Additionally, in the 2016 Legislative Session, HB201 was passed prohibiting SAGE scores from being used as part of the teacher's evaluation.  This law was just signed by the Governor. So, SAGE will no longer impact any teacher's evaluation.

Additionally, the State Board is to create rules "
(ii)to prevent negative impact, to the extent authorized by state statute, to an LEA or an LEA's employees through school grading or employee evaluations due to a student not taking a test under Subsection (9)(a)."

Can SAGE be used in place of a final exam or for part of my child's grade?
No. SAGE is prohibited by state law from being used for grading or for grade advancement. That means that SAGE cannot be used to get into an advanced course or for part of the course grade, for example.

Can students be rewarded for taking SAGE or punished for not taking SAGE?
No.  State Law prohibits students who take SAGE from being rewarded.  Conversely, that means that students who don't take SAGE can't be punished.  So, if a child who takes SAGE is told they don't have to take the final exam, that would be a reward and would not be allowed under current state law.

Can my child be graded on an alternate assignment given in place of SAGE?
SAGE cannot be used for grading under state law.  So, any alternate shouldn't be graded either.

Will my school lose funding if I opt out?
No.  Schools do not have any funding tied to the tests.  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its successor, the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA), require that 95% of all students and all subgroups, e.g. ELL, Special Ed, take the annual state tests. 

Under NCLB (2015-16 testing): If you fall below that participation rate, then the school will be labeled a failing school.  However, if your school is not a Title 1 school, then there are no penalties associated with that label.  Also, your school must fail for two years in a row, and then a Title 1 school will lose the flexibility of approximately 20% of their Title 1 funding, but they will not lose any funding.  A district or charter school can voluntarily choose to be a Title 1 school.  NCLB is a grant.  So, if you don't take the money, you don't incur any penalties.  Also, if your school is not considered a failing school currently, NCLB is only in effect until the fall, so it's no longer an issue.

Under ESSA (2016 -): The State Board must create a state plan that will be approved by the US Sec. of Education.  It must include 95% participation, but ESSA also says that ESSA is not allowed to circumvent any state with opt out provisions.  Not sure how that will be resolved, but we'll have to watch.

How do I opt out?  Do I have to sign the school's form or meet with someone?
Communicate with school about your wishes, in writing.  Fill out this form and email or bring to your child's school:
Ask the teacher(s) how they would like to handle it.  Be prepared to help your child's teacher make whatever accommodations he/she feels is necessary. 

How do I know what SAGE is measuring and if it's valid?
No one really knows.  There has been no independent validity study of SAGE.  We are taking it on faith that when SAGE says your child is proficient at writing or math for Grade 7, that AIR has, in fact, created a valid, reliable test to determine that.  It is also assuming that where the State Board arbitrarily set the proficiency scores is correct.  There is no evidence that SAGE is valid (measures what it says it measures), reliable (is consistent over time, so that the same student taking the same test within a certain period of time would get a similar result), or correlated with other metrics (a given score on the SAGE would indicate a particular correlation with a score on another test, like the SAT, for example).  Until this is done by an independent third party, we don't really know what SAGE is measuring.

Does SAGE test kids at their chronological age or their developmental age?
SAGE tests are given to kids based on their chronological age, with the exception of 1% of the most cognitively disabled students.  So, if a child is reading on a 4th grade level, but is chronologically in 6th grade, the child is given the 6th grade test.  The USOE says this is okay because the test is adaptive.  Unfortunately, the test only adapts within each grade-level.  So, there are no 4th grade standards/tests that are being tested on the 6th grade test.  I, personally, believe this is child abuse.  If your child is performing on a lower developmental age than their chronological age, it is IMPERATIVE that you opt your child out.  I have heard that teachers have been told they are not allowed to tell parents they can opt out.  So, please, opt your kids out if you think spending time on a test they can't hope to understand is harmful.

What is SAGE summative, interim and formative?
The SAGE testing system comprises three different kinds of testing: summative, interim, and formative.  Summative is the end-of-year test that is required.  Interim is basically the same test as the summative and is optional for schools and districts.  Teachers and parents cannot see the summative or interim test questions or the students' responses.  Teachers and parents can see the overall scores.  And teachers can see the scores on the specific objective/standards for each student.  The tests are scored in real-time.  Since we are past the first year of SAGE, all writing questions are scored by a computer, not by humans. 

The formative SAGE testing system (informative YouTube video here) allows teachers to create their own questions or to select questions from the SAGE databank of questions.  These questions can be used throughout the year for assignments, tests or both.  The teachers can see the individual student responses to these questions so that they can use them to help the student.  The data, including student responses, for all three kinds of SAGE testing is stored and maintained on the testing vendor's servers.  So, while it is true that the formative data isn't 'sent' anywhere, the tests exist and are being taken on the vendor's server.  So, the data privacy issues that exist with the other two types of SAGE tests, also exist with the formative SAGE tests. 

The parent panel didn't find any objectionable information, so what is everyone concerned about?
The parent panel did find problems: some with factual errors, wording/spelling issues, confusing questions, and some objectionable, subjective, or biased questions.  These questions were all flagged.  The majority of the flagged questions were left in the test to see how the students would handle them.

Weren't all the test questions created by Utah teachers?
No.  Some were.  Some weren't.  Test questions came from: CRT's, Utah teachers, purchased from other sources.   The parent panel was able to view whether or not the question came from Utah or from an outside vendor.  In fact, there was one provider of questions that was flagged quite often by the parent panel.  Since parents and teachers don't get to see the questions, we are taking it on faith that the 15-parent panel represented us well.

These questions test critical thinking and are much better than the CRT's, right?
This is a very subjective question.  Some people, when looking at the questions feel they test critical thinking.  When I look at the supposed critical-thinking questions, I see confusion and tricky wording, not necessarily greater difficulty.  In some cases, I don't think the question is actually testing, for example, division, as opposed to just counting.  I am not convinced that 'critical thinking' can be accurately assessed with a computer test, adaptive or otherwise.  I am also not convinced that everyone means the same thing when they say 'critical thinking'.  To me, it is a lot like the Emperor's New Clothes.  If I wonder if the test can assess critical thinking with a given question, then I must not have sufficient critical thinking to realize it.  Or, it could just be a convoluted question that doesn't test actual facts.  

With all these hoops and pressure, why do some parents want to opt out?  Why not just go along?
There are many reasons why parents would want to opt out.  Some of them are:
  • Data privacy isn't guaranteed.
  • Opposition to high-stakes testing.
  • Opposition to teacher/school grading, based on a single test
  • Inability to view test questions
  • Discomfort with the mission and contract of our test provider, American Institutes for Research
  • Concern of the possible use of behavioral indicators (not prohibited by the contract with AIR)
  • Concern that a teacher's professional judgment and interaction over 180 days in a classroom will be reduced to a single set of scores on a test that parents don't control
  • Reducing classroom instruction to teaching to the test, or ONLY to the standards.
  • Individual concerns: student IEP's, test anxiety, etc.
Just because a parent doesn't want their student to take the test doesn't mean that we, as a society, must agree with and approve of that parent's reasons.  State Code says: " Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent's children." It is your right and your responsibility to properly care for your child.  In a free country, that means you shouldn't need the State's or anyone else's permission to decide your child won't take a test.

AIR contract/proposal for SAGE testing with USOE: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BzUjUSlTes-4TmowNG1ESW1zeGs&usp=sharing