Bill would let parents see kids’ test questions
Education • Proposal pits transparency against test integrity.
Published: February 11, 2014 06:53PM
Updated: February 11, 2014 08:41PM

Parents might soon be able to take a peek at questions on end-of-year state tests before their children take them if a bill that gained support Tuesday becomes law.

The House Education Committee voted 10-5 in favor of HB81, which would allow any Utah parent to review state-test questions. Parents would not be allowed to make copies of the questions or distribute them, but they would be allowed to take notes while looking over questions. They would also be allowed to discuss the content of questions with others but not the complete wording.

Bill sponsor Rep. Michael Kennedy, R-Alpine, said his bill is about transparency.

Opponents, however, worried that letting parents preview questions might compromise the integrity of the tests.

State Superintendent Martell Menlove noted that the results of the tests are used to make a number of decisions, such as the grades schools get.

“There is a high-stakes nature to what we’re doing, therefore it’s critical we maintain the integrity of what we’re doing,” Menlove said.

He also noted that a parent committee already reviews test questions, in addition to multiple committees of educators.

Once the bill hits the House floor, it’s likely lawmakers will attempt to add an amendment imposing a $1,000 penalty on parents who break the rules. But Menlove said the $1,000 penalty wouldn’t cover even half the cost of replacing a test item that had been compromised.

Sara Jones, with the Utah Education Association, also said the UEA is concerned about throwing the validity of state tests into question. She said not only are the tests high stakes for students, but also for teachers whose pay can be partly tied to test results.

Jared Carman, however, spoke in favor of the bill, saying parents can be trusted. Carman serves on the state instructional materials commission, but he spoke as a private citizen Tuesday.

“This is not about test integrity,” Carman said. “This is about a balance of power basically between the education office and parents.”

The bill now moves to the House floor.