Standardized tests would impact Utah students’ grades, advancement under proposed bill

Posted at 10:23 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 00:34:55-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- SAGE, Utah's standardized test, is sparking more concern as a proposed bill is making its way through this legislative session.

HB0164 makes amendments to state standardized testing that would make it so test results could impact grades and also determine if a student moves to the next grade. It also puts restrictions on what parents can opt children out of, and it also allows educators to provide incentives for students taking the test.

"I feel like it's unfair. It's unfair to students, and it's unfair to teachers," said Heather Gardner, a mother of five, who opposes the proposed changes.

"Parents have the primary right and responsibility for the education, care and custody of their children, and the state should be secondary in that role, and I feel like this bill is essentially reversing that," Gardner said.

Gardner started homeschooling her kids this year largely due to concerns about the standardized tests. Now, she said she's worried how this proposed bill will affect teachers, parents and, more importantly, students.

"As it stands right now they could prevent a student from moving on to the next grade and dock points for not participating in the portal or taking the test," Gardner said.

The bill reads in part: "Assessments may be considered in determining a students academic grade or whether a student may advance to the next grade level."

But that's an amendment the bill's chief sponsor, Representative Kraig Powell, says teachers are asking for.

"It's simply telling the student, 'If you do well on this test that you're going to get a good grade.' I think that's normal practices," Powell said.

The bill would also amend provisions related to a parents or guardians' right to excuse a student from taking certain assessments.

"The problem is 90-95 percent are taking the test, and what we don't want to do is have the small portion of parents who opt out of the test prevent the students from taking the test, from actually learning and mastering the material," Powell said.

Powell says it would mean parents can opt children out of the end of year test, but not out of all SAGE preparations done on the computer.

But Gardner argues that's not up to lawmakers to decide.

"This is a parents right to opt their student out of testing, so what you're doing is pitting students against teachers and parents," Gardner said.

The bill is likely to go to the education committee in the next couple weeks.

You can read the full bill by clicking here.