SALT LAKE CITY – Leave it to government bureaucrats to think that government transparency efforts should somehow be shrouded in secrecy.
That’s exactly what’s happening in Utah, where state education officials are asking members of a parent review committee tasked with scrutinizing the new Common Core-aligned standardized tests “to sign a nondisclosure agreement that could muzzle them from discussing the test questions with other parents,” reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
But some state lawmakers say the nondisclosure agreements will prevent committee members from making any public statements about what they discover through the review committee, thus undermining the purpose of the review committee.
The parent review committee is a creation of the state Legislature. The committee is meant to address Utah residents’ fears that the new Common Core math and English learning standards will advance a secular and left-wing political and cultural agenda.
The Utah Board of Education, however, worries that parents involved in the Common Core test review will publicly reveal test questions, which would compromise the integrity of the tests. That’s why they’re pushing the secrecy agreements.
Republican state Sen. Mark Madsen believes it’s oxymoronic to have a transparency group that’s sworn to secrecy, and he’s calling for the end of the nondisclosure requirement. While Madsen agrees that parents shouldn’t be allowed to reveal specific test questions, he believes the nondisclosure deals will effectively prevent all public discussion of the committee’s findings.
“We need to give these parents the freedom to speak about their experiences,” Madsen told the Tribune. “The parents are there representing all the parents of the state. … Transparency is always the better option.”
Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis agreed.
“Why wouldn’t you allow a process where (parents) could say, ‘This is the dumbest thing imaginable and this is why’?” Dabakis said.
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It’s unclear if Madsen and Dabakis will use legislation to address this concern, should state K-12 leaders keep the ridiculous policy in place.
State Schools Superintendent Martell Menlove “didn’t immediately suggest a way to reconcile the need to keep test questions in secret with the need for transparency,” the Tribune reports. “He had learned of Madsen’s concerns just hours earlier, he said.”
There’s still time to fix the nonsensical policy, as the parent review committee is still being formed.