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Utah State School Board approves policies for opting students out of state-mandated tests

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Posted at 7:44 PM, Oct 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-09 21:44:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Members of the Utah State School Board gave a final vote Friday to approve policies for parents who want to opt their children out of state mandated testing.

Legislators passed two bills in the last session–one that allows parents to opt their children out of standardized tests and another that requires high school students to pass a civics test before they can graduate.

The civics exam is the same test immigrants are required to take when they become citizens. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-District 45, co-sponsored the bill.

“Nationwide surveys showed that only 20 percent of adults can name one right guaranteed under the First Amendment,” Elisaon said. “More students thought Larry, Curly and Moe were branches of government than the proper answer. They can name more judges on American Idol than they can on the Supreme Court.”

The state school board approved a policy that allows parents to opt their children out of standardized tests, but high school students who opt out of the civics test will not be able to graduate.

“It’s kind of a conundrum with that,” said Laura Belnap of the Utah State School Board. “Because they have to take the civics test to graduate, however, it’s also a state-mandated test, so they can opt out of it. And so if they can’t opt out of it, they can’t graduate.”

Eliason says students should be able to pass the exam, because the questions and answers are available online, and they can take the test as many times as they need to in order to pass it.

“There’s no tricks about this test, unlike standardized tests where it’s kept very secret and you’re not allowed to access the questions before or even after the test,” Elisason said.

Members of the state school board say parents who are concerned about their kids taking state-mandated tests should understand the role the play in helping a child succeed.

“Because as students take these assessments, the teachers can then come back to the parents and show them the results on the assessments and really target the weaknesses the students have or show where the student is achieving,” said Angie Stallings of the Utah State School Board. “And so it’s really a great tool for parents in addition to students.”

Currently, the opt out rate is 3 percent in Utah. Stallings says if too many students opt out, the state is at risk of losing funding.

“Our state receives about 100 million dollars under that program,” she said. “And if our opt-out rates increase, that could put that 100 million dollars in jeopardy.”

The school board said they would have forms parents can fill out if they want their child to opt out of an exam, and while they weren't available online Friday, they will be posted here once they are available. The civics test is also available online.