Posts Categorized: public school

The Evolution of Utah’s SAGE Opt Out Memo- Parsing Parental Rights

07 Mar, 2015 by in assessment, opt out, parents rights, public school, SAGE Leave a comment

I have watched since April 2014 how parental rights have been whittled away at the hands of the Utah State Office of Education and how our legislation has been parsed.  Exisiting code was re-interpreted against the intent of the legislation.

Can you spot the changes?

See the progression from law, to memos, to policy, and hopefully… if we express our concerns to our legislators, back to law again:

The legislative code

S.B. 122 Second Substitute Parental Rights in Public Education

86 (9) (a) Upon the written request of a student’s parent or guardian, an LEA shall excuse
87 the student from taking a test that is administered statewide or the National Assessment of
88 Educational Progress.
89 (b) The State Board of Education shall ensure through board rule that neither an LEA
90 nor its employees are negatively impacted through school grading or employee evaluation due
91 to a student not taking a test pursuant to Subsection (9)(a).

  Notice the wording “an LEA shall excuse
the student from taking a test that is administered statewide” 

The evolution of the USOE opt out memo

Memo version one

“Parents have the right to opt out of any testing required or facilitated through the USBE.”


-all SAGE tests









unnamed (3)

Opt Out Memo Version Two

Received in a certified letter from my charter school on official USOE letterhead

“Ambiguity exisits, as a result Chris Lacombe AAG is of the opinion

parents can not opt out of



and DWA.”

Superintendency—Opt-Out-memo (1)

SGAE memo 2



SAGE OPt Out Memo


Opting Out Memo Version Three

Came via GRAMA request, not released online to my knowledge

Parents may not opt out of 

-SAGE interim




Later an email was sent to LEA’s requesting they discard this memo then a new Feb 2, 2015 memo came out

“From: Shaeffer, Jo Ellen [] On Behalf Of Jensen, Tori
Sent: Monday, February 02, 2015 2:42 PM

Subject: Updated Opt Out Policy

Superintendents and Directors,

Attached is a revised Opt Out Policy Memo. We have received many questions and requests for clarification from the policy that you received last week and have adjusted the policy to clarify.
Please discard the previous Opt Out Policy Memo and use this version.


Judy W. Park, Ed.D.
Utah State Office of Education
Associate Superintendent
Student Services and Federal Programs”

SAGE memo 3 SAGE memo 3 p 2 SAGE memo 3 page 3 SAGE memo 3 page 4


Opting Out Memo Version 4

Received after my story broke via personal email from Chris LaCombe AAG.

This version is no longer posted on USOE’s website, but is the current memo being used by LEAs

Parents may not opt out of

-SAGE interim




-Formative or benchmark tests

SAGE memo four SAGE memo 4 p 2 SAGE memo four p 3

Superintendent Brad Smith clarified the state code and his intent to issue policy securing Parental Opt Out or “Safe Harbor” to parents in Utah during the February 2015 USBE meeting

“The most important legal policy, by constitution, and by what I consider to be natural rights, parents have the right to opt out of anything! They don’t need permission. They don’t need to fill out a form. They don’t need to seek someone else’s response. And, that’s an inherent and integral right of parents.”..“Sage is one of the tests in all of its components that was unambiguously covered by the safe harbor provisions of Section1403 9a…if there’s a question about SAGE, I believe there is unanimity and no ambiguity that SAGE is absolutely something that is subject to the safe harbor provisions of 1403-9a.”–State Superintendent Brad Smith

But then, he wrote a new policy, AGAIN changing parental opt out rights…

Utah State Board Opt out Policy being proposed as of March 6, 2015

Some of the changes under USBE’s new policy

– 5 day prior notice to LEA  from parent required

-state form required instead of just written statement

-annual notice by parents to LEA of opt out required

-SAGE formative and interim opt out not applicable

-there is still confusion between “state administered” and “state mandated”

Action: take a look at the new policy linked and see what wording you feel needs amending

Please send your input on this new policy and changes you would like made to the Utah State Board of Education and Superintendent Brad Smith. It is open for public commentary for 30 days and will go to a committee before its second reading before the board.

New Proposed Utah Parental Rights Legislation

This has passed unanimously in Senate Ed Committee, and is heading to House Ed committee Monday February 9, 2015 at 7:30 AM.

SB204 will replace SB122 – Senator is Aaron Osmond

202          (9) (a) Upon [the] receipt of a written [request] statement of a student’s parent or
203     guardian, an LEA shall excuse the student from taking [a test that is administered statewide or
204     the National Assessment of Educational Progress.]:
205          (i) any summative, interim, or formative test that was developed for, or provided by,
206     the state under this title; or
207          (ii) any test that is federally mandated or mandated by the state under this title.
208          (b) An LEA may not:
209          (i) require a meeting as a condition of excusing a student from taking a test described
210     in Subsection (9)(a); or
211          (ii) specify the form of a written statement under Subsection (9)(a).

212          (c) A written statement to an LEA to excuse a student from taking a test under

213     Subsection (9)(a) remains in effect across multiple school years until:
214          (i) further notice from the student’s parent or guardian; or
215          (ii) the student is no longer enrolled at the LEA.
216          (d) An LEA may not reward a student for taking a test described in Subsection (9)(a).
217          [(b)] (e) The State Board of Education shall ensure through board rule that neither an
218     LEA nor its employees are negatively impacted through school grading or employee evaluation
219     due to a student not taking a test pursuant to Subsection (9)(a).

Email your input and suggested amendments on this bill to Senator Osmond.

There are significant differences between the current proposed policy USBE and the above proposed legislation.

Remember: Utah Code 51 53A-15-1503. Parental right to academic accommodations.

52 (1) (a) A student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the
53 education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or
54 guardian.

Please defend your inherent rights.

Related posts




Why We Pulled Our Child and Began Dual Enrollment

03 Oct, 2014 by in dual enrollment, homeschooling, public school 9 comments


I was one of those moms who said I would never home school. I have five children, I’m not the most organized, and to be honest,  it always seemed like it was not an option. But this year something changed. My sixth-grader started to complain a couple weeks into school that the book she was reading was giving her nightmares. Her class, a level 2 novels course, was reading The Clay Marble by Minfong Ho aloud.

We began reading the goodreads and Amazon reviews, which mentioned the book was sad and depressing. I could not understand why school children would need to be reading about war-torn Cambodia. There is graphic violence as well as a public bathing scene with a 19 year old girl. Granted some of the hardest lessons are those you read in the pages of a book. Anyone who knows anything about me, knows that I love novels. But, when my daughter started experiencing PTSD-like symptoms from this particular novel, I knew we needed to ask the school for an alternative.

Only there was no alternative.

At first the teacher said she would be able to sit outside the classroom while the class was reading aloud– that only worked for a couple of days. Then her grade dropped from an A to a C as they started giving her zeros for every time she was in the hall. After several emails with administration it was determined that they would not offer an alternative book in school. The curriculum and the book had been Board approved and they saw no reason why the title should be abandoned or another one offered in its place.

So we decided as a family that we would check out my daughter during reading time and bring her home. The administration at our school wanted us to pick an approved book, print out study guide questions, correct them and return them to the school graded. I argued we as parents, under state law, are able to choose her curriculum while we are homeschooling. They argued we need to prove she is proficient. I argued the school give her a no-grade.

We had voiced our concerns as parents and now it was time to safeguard our child.

This began our journey that is called dual enrollment.

After two weeks of checking her out, I noticed she did not have a passion or enthusiasm for reading. She would only read one chapter at a time. I asked for clean, well liked titles for her age group and we went to the library. But still, the spark in her had gone out. She has grown up surrounded by books, with a full library and more coming in the mail every day. We go to the library often.

What causes a child to love or not love reading? Can school or assignments sometimes kill that spark?

I am trying a new approach this week, backing away from Newbery Award winners or the classics and letting her pick her own favorite book from the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

We have seen lots of smiles since beginning home school, and when her class had finished reading The Clay Marble, she did not want to return. She wants to continue homeschooling her novels class, lunch and recess.

So, here we are. This is a new journey. If we as parents won’t advocate for our children, and really dig into ask what they are learning at school, who will? Ask what books your children are reading, and pay attention to how they react.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help her discover books. I worry that this will not be our first run in with content or themes that are not “for our family.” But we will be in this together. Talking and working with them every step of the way.


What books did you love as a sixth grader?

How do you help your child truly enjoy reading?

Have you asked your children’s teachers what they will be reading this year?

Do you pre-read books?