My name is Molly Miller, 11th grade student of SUCCESS Academy and Dixie State University. I want to share with you a little of my experience. In recent years my mom has opted me out of SAGE testing. When I enter the testing center and begin my test, I start to get restless, I start to sweat and get very uncomfortable. Every noise in the room (such as a clock ticking, mouse clicking, or pencil tapping) is magnified in my head and easily distracts me when it otherwise wouldn’t. My attention span is immediately shortened and concentrating is very difficult. Concepts I’m familiar with and that I studied just before beginning the test have slipped my mind and now all I can think about is how long I’ll be grounded for when I bomb said test. Students who suffer from testing anxiety, like I do, experience all of this and more when taking any sort of test. When 35 students are tossed in a room together and tell us our entire future of educators can view this score, the feelings intensify. Even those who usually have no problem with tests start to feel anxious and unworthy of a good score.
This experience I related is just one of the numerous reasons that parents opt out of state standardized testing. Some parents are opposed to data mining and so they avoid state testing. Some parents choose to opt out because their child has special needs and the state requires the child to test on grade level, which is a guaranteed fail and it only damages the child’s self-esteem. Some children suffer from extreme test anxiety and perform badly on standardized test even though their GPA and school test scores show that they’re above average. There are many other reasons why parents choose to opt their children out of state testing. Liberty is our inalienable right.
We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these rights, is the right to choose what is good and right for our children. As of the 2014 Utah General Session, Senator Aaron Osmond passed a bill titled Parental Rights in Public Education (S.B. 122) to reinstate a parent’s authority in the public education system. I understand the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) is trying to pass a bill overruling that authority. The right to choose what is best for the child should be left in the hands of the parents. Parents know their kids as individuals. With few exceptions, parents or guardian knows their child better than an educator will ever know them.
The USBA is lobbying to remove this inalienable right or to amend it so the parent/guardian will no longer have the right to opt their child out of state testing. This goes against God and nature. It is my understanding that this proposed policy is in an effort to capitulate to the ESSA mandate that 95% of students take the state test. We must remind the Federal Department of Education that the State laws are supreme and that ESSA originally promised the states they could maintain local control. Remind the federal DOE that state laws are the higher law and there needs to be provisions to guarantee state rights and the rights of the parents who choose non-submission to their child’s needless stress that can be caused by a high-intensity test such as S.A.G.E./RISE.
We need to have alternatives for this situation. I propose a few alternatives to the current lobbyist idea of encouraging a federal rule and cowardly capitulation to federal demands. There are 2 very plausible and obtainable alternatives to surrendering to the Federal Government’s strong-arm intimidation:
- The first option is to not submit to the Federal bullying that’s going on- we simply refuse to agree to the federal government’s terms. This means Utah will not be eligible for the grant attached to this mandate of 95% opt-in rate. As it is such a small percentage of our educational budget (~2%), it should not matter. For example, budgets can be reallocated, or state surplus money can be used for the needs of Utah students.
– Personal example: I saw a new 60-inch screen TV installed in the lobby of my brother’s elementary school. It was being used to announce no school on Labor Day, an announcement also sent home in emails to parents, posted on the exterior billboard, and quite frankly, an obvious announcement that did not require an overpriced billboard in an inconspicuous location. This is a careless use of money, an overpriced billboard that will never benefit my brothers, or any of the students at this school. That money, and other silly costs could be reallocated to save Utah from capitulating to federal overreach.
- A second option is to start a dual-record keeping system. This is being done in other states such as Colorado & New York who are facing similar challenges. This bifurcated plan keeps 2 scoring systems. One for the state to review, and the 2nd is for reporting to the federal government to satisfy their requirements. This would allow for parents to retain their natural rights and can opt out as they see fit. Exploring this option, we can prevent federally mandated State standardized tests from getting in the way of parental rights, and keep the Federal Government’s overreaching tentacles out of Utah education. These are the plans submitted by CO & NY:
- If state school board members and lawmakers refuse to recognize parent’s inalienable rights, other capitulations may include: federal funding equal to the percent of students that take the test, have students take the test but the names of students are redacted so test data is utilized but the pressure is off for test result use in the future, or assign all students random numbers to use in the place of names. None of these are ideal, but they would allow 100% opt-in rates while protecting some of the opt-outers worries.
The first 2 alternatives are attainable and they both keep the federal rule away from the state level of education, which is the ideal. I plead that you, examine these alternatives and consider their appeal and benefits to parents, students, and educators throughout Utah. Write your state school board. firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatives such as these set a precedence to federal government that Utah does not rely solely on federal cash in order to be successful.
On behalf of Utah’s young people of all ages who rely on our legislatures & State School Board Members to fight for our rights on these important issues, I plead with you to encourage your representative to not to submit to those well-funded lobbyists whose current mission is to strip my parents of their rights. I ask you to please fight to protect the God-given rights of parents all over Utah.
High School Student
(House Distict 62 – Rep. Seegmiller)
For further review: The Parental Rights in Public Education bill, SB122 https://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/sb0122.html
Utah uses SAGE/RISE which monitors the student’s ability to progress with their cohort. The test does not affect the student’s overall grade; however, future educators and the Department of Education can see the scores and use it as reference at a later date.
Schools receiving federal funding are required to limit the opt out rate to no more than 5%. Otherwise, the federal government will withhold the grant money until schools comply with predetermined acceptable percentages.
Under the proposed plan, all students who opt out will receive a 0 on their SAGE/RISE test. The 0 will not affect their grade. It does however, show that these students didn’t progress or may have slid backwards over the given school year. This provides a disadvantage to those schools who have an increased opt-out rate. When five percent or more of students in a school opt out, the federal government assumes that the school isn’t performing suitably, ignoring the possibility that the data may be skewed by the SAGE/RISE scores of 0.