Absolute (Education) Power, Corrupts Absolutely: An Open Letter To The Utah State Board of Education-Common Core Testing

(A hard copy of this letter was sent to every Board member today)

February 3, 2015

Dear Esteemed Members of the Utah State Board of Education:

I am writing on behalf of my child, similarly situated parents who have children in Utah public schools, and the hundreds of Utah parents who have graced the hallways of our clinic accompanied by children in crisis.

Specifically, I wish to urge the Board to publicly acknowledge that the February 2, 2015, memo sent to District Superintendents regarding testing opt out rights of parents, authored by USOE’s Judy Park and Jo Ellen Shaeffer, is an affront to parental rights in education afforded to us by God, as well as the Utah State Constitution.   (“Opting Out of State Testing 53A-15-1403 (9) http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/OptOutMemo.aspx).

Utilizing Assistant Attorney General’s Chris Lacomb’s creative interpretive opinion of 53A-15-1403 (09), USOE and Dr. Park destroyed the original legislative intent of the law by directing Utah Superintendents to follow the following guidelines:

1.  “Allow” parents to opt their children out of SAGE Summative Tests.

2.  “Allow” parents to opt their children out of UAA (Utah’s Alternative Assessment).

3.  Striped parents of the right to opt their children out of the following “tests”:

a.) SAGE Interim Tests

b.) DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills)

c). ACCESS (Assessing Comprehension in State to State)

d.) “Locally developed and/or administered Assessments (formative or benchmark).

Here is my formal response to some of the issues addressed above:

ISSUE :  SAGE Interim Tests and Formative Benchmark Assessments Require Prior Written Parental Consent, Which Requires an “Opt IN” Policy, As Opposed To The Current Unethical “Opt Out” Policy:

Utah Code 53A-13-302 states, in part:

“policies adopted by a school district or charter school under Section 53A-13-301 shall include prohibitions on the administration to a student of any psychological or psychiatric examination, test, or treatment, or any survey, analysis, or evaluation without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian”.

“…in which the purpose or evident intended effect is to cause the student to reveal information, whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning the student’s…

(b) mental or psychological problems;”

One stated purposes of the SAGE test (“Utah Performance Assessment System-UPASS”) outlined clearly by Utah Code HB0015 is to detect, find and evaluate behavioral constructs (e.g., “student behavior indicators”) “in assessing student performance” (http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/hbillenr/HB0015.htm).

Whereas the Board has yet to release industry standard validity studies on the Common Core SAGE test produced by the private entity American Institute of Research (AIR) (which would indicate the presence, or lack thereof, of measurement of our children’s “behavioral characteristics”), it would be reasonable to assume that this $39,000,000.00 test met the requirements of HB-15.

It is also reasonable to assume that measured “behavioral characteristics” of some Utah children on the SAGE test could be interpreted as psychological in nature.   Even a lay person can see that this clearly is the gathering of psychological constructs and data associated with the practice of clinical psychology.   As stated above in 53A-13-302, public school districts must abide by “prohibitions on the administration to a student of ANY psychological test” or “analysis without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian.”

In summary, USOE does not have the right to administer the SAGE Interim Test, (or have teachers utilize or construct formative or benchmark tests which MAY measure psychological constructs), without the express written consent and authorization of Utah student’s parents or legal guardians.

Dr. Park, USOE and local school districts no longer have the problem of parents “opting out” of Common Core tests, however, they now have the new, and Constitutionally supported, problem of getting parents to legally “opt IN” for the upcoming Spring SAGE Test.


Bluntly stated, USOE cannot legally and ethically administer this Spring’s SAGE Summative or Formative tests to any student in a public or charter school in Utah, until they have received signed permission from the students parents or legal guardians.  

As clearly stated in, and supported by Utah Code 62-A:

“It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their children.” (http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title62A/Chapter4a/62A-4a-S201.html)

Given the local, national, and peer reviewed research reports surrounding a statistically significant amount of children who have had reported adverse psychological reactions to Common Core experimental tests of achievement, it must be reasonable for members of this esteemed Board to assume that some parents may wish to “exercise primary control and care of their children” by choosing to NOT opt in to the test.

There is a video tape of me two years ago that went viral around the social media world, addressing this Board about the potential harms associated with high stakes, experimental testing on vulnerable populations.   Since then, I have made public multiple areas of ethical concerns related to USOE’s unethical handling of the SAGE Test, including my disgust over USOE’s blatant lies given to parents and education stakeholders in a 15 city presentation tour, regarding the very nature of the SAGE test itself.

I have made it clear to clients, parents and CEO’s of the child psychology clinic that I work for, that I will no longer engage educational advocacy activities against USOE.   I am simply a Doctor and father, not a lawmaker or politician.   This is where my passion lies.  This is what I am good at.

The responsibility to protect the sacred rights afforded to parents by God and by law, is in the hands of the this group of Board members; all of whom were duly elected, and took an oath to protect parents with children in public schools from those with differing agendas.  Your responsibility is outlined in our State’s Constitution:

“A governmental entity must support any actions or allegations made in opposition to the rights and desires of a parent regarding the parent’s children by sufficient evidence to satisfy a parent’s constitutional entitlement to heightened protection against government interference with the parent’s fundamental rights and liberty interests.”


I will close by leaving each and every one of you with just one question:

Who amongst you is going to rise and be a hero to the children of the State of Utah? 

“Parents are, and must always be, the resident experts of their own children.”

Best Regards;

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy Services
Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center

cc: Dr. Judy Park-Associate Superintendent, Student Services and Federal Programs

Published by

Dr. Gary Thompson

I am a "retired" Doctor of Clinical Psychology and Special Education Advocate. I currently provide education and Forensic Psychology consulting services for Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center, Inc, as well as their clients. In 2015-2016I will attempt to provide a educational framework for my own 4.5 year old daughter. Public school? Private school? Homeschool? Dual enrollment? It's one thing to provide education advice to the masses, but it is another ball game when it comes to ones own child. Join me via my (hopeful) triumphs and mistakes as I leave the professional setting, and embark on a journey with my child in a education world that has been in turmoil and controversy.

3 thoughts on “Absolute (Education) Power, Corrupts Absolutely: An Open Letter To The Utah State Board of Education-Common Core Testing”

  1. thank you for this; ”
    “policies adopted by a school district or charter school under Section 53A-13-301 shall include prohibitions on the administration to a student of any psychological or psychiatric examination, test, or treatment, or any survey, analysis, or evaluation without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian”. they are using sloppy questionnaires to measure “grit” and other personality variables. This is personality THEORY; it belongs in a lab not in the classrooms. 3.,000 children in Boston were assessed using these questionnaires and I call it malpractice; the report was funded by Gates and processed through the Fordham Institute with direct reporting to the NAEP Governing Board and I strongly object… That you Dr. Thompson for bringing this to the attention of professional educators and parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “When Agendas Trump Ethics/Science? Stick Happens”

    Corporate and political agendas do not mix well with ethics. We have lost the concept of “the best interest of the children” when it comes to education reform issues. Sad.


  3. Sorry for the “late” reply. You are so very correct, this is “sloppy” science. In private practice we use psychological questionaries as part of typical comprehensive child psychological evaluation (cognitive, emotional, achievement, neurological). However, there are differences between us and the “big school machine”. First off, the “results” are kept private. Last, but not least, we use these only as the “icing” on the proverbial evaluation cake. In other words, the entire weight of these subjective tools compromises of about 2% of the total data available to apply in our evaluations. Schools? They are using them like they are the “end-all-be-all” to discovering the mysteries inside of a child. This is not only sad, but very dangerous.


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