15 Parents, 40 Hours, and 10,000 Test Questions – Was It Good Enough? Will It Ever Be? [Utah Moms Care]

Testsheet

This session Rep. Kennedy has a bill, HB 81, which will allow any parent to review standardized test questions prior to the exams being administered under specific circumstances.  There is a lot of concern about this compromising the validity of the test, which would cost the state millions of dollars.  But Kennedy maintains that parental review can happen, and that it is needed to ease concerns about the tests containing any agenda.  In 2012 Rep. Hughes carried HB15, which created a 15 parent member committee which was appointed by the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and State Board of Education.  The committee spent one entire week (40+ hours) pouring over 10,000+ test questions and flagging any that they had concerns with for various reasons (for example: age appropriateness, clearness, cultural concerns, or any thing else).  Alean Hunt was one member of that committee.  I asked her to share her experience on that committee, as well as her thoughts on Kennedy’s bill, HB 81.


Post By: Alean Hunt

In November I had the opportunity to participate on the parent review panel for the Sage Formative Assessment.  I was one of 15 parents that was nominated by a USBE board member or legislator to serve for 40 hours reviewing as many test questions as I could in that time frame.  I was asked to commit for a 2 or 4 year term, I committed to a 4 year term.  

The object was to review as many questions as I could and if any seemed inappropriate in the wording, pictures, or seemed to slant a certain direction politically I could flag them for review and they would be extensively reviewed by the process that the USOE had in place  I took this responsibility seriously, and spent full days working each day.  The USOE staff had a phrase they kept repeating whenever a parent had a question.  They would respond, “Put it in the comments.” This would insure that the question was reviewed in the most fair manner and wasn’t left to the judgement of a singular parent or group of parent’s who got together and formed their own opinions.

I am a mother of 6 children, their strongest advocate and consider their teachers, and principals valuable partners in raising them, after all they spend the most time with my children. I have found that being actively engaged in their classroom has given me the most bang for my buck and has given us lifelong friends.

I left my family for a week to go to Salt Lake on the taxpayer’s dime and review test questions. I reviewed about 1300 items by the time I went back to the hotel on the last night.  I found the test to be engaging, interesting and informative.  I did not find a social agenda or bias in the questions I reviewed.  

The questions I flagged, were ones that had color, that could be difficult for color blind students to differentiate.  The 5 highlighted words in the ELA section I found confusing, and think it will be difficult for lower grades to use that drop down box and make a word choice based on it.  I have a tremor in my hand and noted there is little give when you have to draw a line of symmetry or a connect line, and wondered about special education students or kids who don’t have great hand control being able to navigate this.

My overall opinion is that the test is safe and agenda free.  

I had to sign a non disclosure agreement and have chosen my words very carefully, understanding that the integrity of the test would be compromised and thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars would go to waste if the parents on that committee violated that charge of confidentiality.
It is with that concern and understanding of the high stakes that the legislature has attached to the Sage test, ie. teacher merit pay, and school grading, that I cannot support HB81 in any way, shape or form.


This post originally appeared on Utah Moms Care and is reprinted here with Alean Hunt’s permission.

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