This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Fine. Let Utah's SAGE testing go.
Grant Gov. Gary Herbert's point that the political fuss over SAGE and the Utah version of Common Core standards is so unending (partly due to a failure of leadership by the governor and others) that it's just not worth it. That both should be abandoned.
There's a very simple, virtually free, test already out there. The state doesn't have to invent or administer it.
Students don't have the choice of opting out, or the opportunity to show their disdain by marking answers on a bubble sheet to form a dirty word.
Teachers don't have to worry about being held accountable for the performance of over-crowded classrooms full of technology-addled kids.
Parents don't have to worry about their child's data being swept up by a national educational-industrial complex. Not, at least, any more than it already is.
Just check the U.S. Census data on the wealth and racial breakdown of every neighborhood. And focus all our political and financial firepower on the areas with high concentrations of poverty and/or minorities.
As recently visualized by The Upshot, the Big Data arm of The New York Times, research from across the nation is clear that the educational performance of each school tracks so closely with household wealth and ethnic distribution that any further testing is all but redundant.
It's not just that the students in rich census tracts perform better than those in poor ones, with kids from wealthier neighborhoods reading four grade levels higher than kids from less affluent ones. Even in cities with flatter economic situations, white students do better sometimes a lot better than blacks and Hispanics.
Experts deduce that low-income households just cannot be expected to provide the same levels of emotional, nutritional and intellectual support that comes naturally to their better-fixed neighbors.
There is also reason to believe to fear that way too many children of color are expected to fail, aren't routed into Advanced Placement or other challenging courses and are led off in handcuffs for doing the same things that only get the white kids held in from recess.
In Utah, for example, blacks are 1 percent of the total child population but 23 percent of the population in juvenile detention or correctional facilities.
That frightening figure comes from a new report from the advocacy group Voices for Utah Children. That group also notes that, while the Utah Legislature has made some efforts to match more young people with health coverage and expressed official concern about the school-to-prison pipeline, efforts to make more extensive improvement in the juvenile justice system, to expand all-day Kindergarten and to offer a Utah version of the Earned Income Tax Credit all fell short in the last session.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to fight poverty by improving the schools. Except for the hard and stubborn evidence that such an approach may be exactly backward.