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Meeting with lawmakers, educators planned for parents reviewing new tests

Published: Friday, Oct. 4 2013 4:48 p.m. MDT

In response to concerns of biases related to the Common Core State Standards, a committee of parents will be allowed to review testing materials and discuss them with lawmakers and state education officials.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Parents who review the state's new adaptive testing questions will still be under a gag order, but they'll be given an opportunity to voice concerns with state education officials and lawmakers.

Associate State Superintendent Judy Park told members of the State School Board on Friday that the State Office of Education was moving forward with a policymaker debrief session for parents selected for the statewide adaptive testing review committee.

"We would like to provide an opportunity for those parents to be able to talk to you as board members and talk to legislators," Park said. "It’s an opportunity for them to be able to share with elected officials how they’re feeling about the items and about the process."

The creation of a review committee was mandated by the Legislature due to angst over the Common Core State Standards and concerns that new tests structured for the standards could include biases that are objectionable to Utah families.

For the same reason, the Legislature directed the State Office of Education to contract with a test provider to create a unique Utah test rather than using the national adaptive tests designed for the 46 states that have adopted the Common Core.

"Every item will be reviewed by at least one parent," Park said of the new adaptive test, which automatically adjusts its difficulty based on the correct and incorrect answers of a student.

Despite the state having a unique test, concerns of biased material have persisted, including criticism that members of the review committee would be asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Education officials maintain that parents who have seen the test questions can not be allowed to discuss specifics, since that could lead to information being leaked to students.

To address those concerns, Park said parents on the reviewing committee will be free to share their concerns with invited lawmakers and members of the State School Board during the debrief session. But the result will be gag orders being issued to a greater number of people, she said.

"Everyone participating in that debrief session will have to sign a nondisclosure agreement," Park said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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