From: Alyson Williams
To: Brad Last, Lowry Snow, LaVar Christensen, Kim Coleman, Bruce Cutler, Steve Eliason, Justin Fawson, Francis Gibson, Eric Hutchings, David Lifferth, Daniel McCay, Carol Moss, mnoel, Marie Poulson,
Subject: HB164 & HB201 - From SAGE parent reviewer
Date: Tue Feb 16 01:35:38 MST 2016
Dear House Education Committee:

I was on the first 15 parent review panel for the SAGE assessment. I had issues with the assessment that were not satisfactorily addressed. I will not allow my children to log into the SAGE portal for any assessments. 

SAGE is not just and end-of-level assessment. Students log onto the system year round for formative and interim assessments as well. The changes made by HB64 would allow a student to opt out of the end-of-level test, but not the practice tests. This doesn't make sense. 

I saw Representative Powell on the news saying that the statute as written would allow students to avoid any test. This is not true. The statute only applies to statewide mandated assessments (SAGE) which clearly distinguishes them from assessments selected by individual teachers regardless of funding. 

Second, as a parent I already have the right to "opt out" of any curriculum, assessment etc. I disagree with. (Education policy in Utah is supposed to be " secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent." opt out statute wasn't written to grant parents an existing fundamental right, but to create safe harbor for schools and teachers who are under legislative mandate, to allow them to accommodate parents without penalty. (This legally allowed Alpine school district to exclude non-participants from averages affecting accountability, for example.)

The statute also allows for parents to opt out of educational software to which parents object. The issue for me and of many parents I know is one of unsecured and undisclosed student data collection by the third party vendor, which needs to be addressed separately. This issue will not be solved by mandating participation. 

If students grades are affected by the SAGE test, then the opt out provision that remains after HB64 is meaningless. Either students who opt out get free credit, have to complete an non-equivalent activity, or are penalized in their grade. 

The section on incentives is also problematic. The wording in existing statute was not random. It was designed to keep teachers from doing things like this true scenario where a teacher gave a pizza party for test takers while the two students whose parents opted them out were excluded and singled out in front of the class. 

Representative Poulson's HB201 is a better way to address the problem of teachers feeling like they need to resort to such unprofessional tactics to incentivize kids taking the test against their parent's wishes. It removes the SAGE scores from their professional evaluations as well. I support this measure.

Thank you for your service,

Alyson Williams
Spanish Fork, UT