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Lawmakers demand suspension of SAGE test

Students take a practice SAGE test at Polk Elementary School on April 17, 2014.
Students take a practice SAGE test at Polk Elementary School on April 17, 2014.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News archives

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah senators demanded on a local radio program Saturday morning that the State Board of Education suspend and replace the Utah SAGE Testing System.

Sens. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said the Utah SAGE Testing is frustrating to students, parents and educators and should be replaced with an “established, proven testing system, such as the Northwest Evaluators Association testing system until a more permanent solution can be developed,” according to a press release. Their comments were made on the KKAT 860 AM Red Meat Radio program.

"Preparing for state-mandated SAGE testing consumes enormous amounts of instructional time and greatly limits access to computer labs for other learning purposes,” Osmond said. “The SAGE tool has also been plagued with technical challenges causing testing delays and outages. Out of respect for parents, students and teachers, it's time to build a better path.”

SAGE, or student assessment of growth and excellence, is a computer-adaptive exam administered yearly to students in grades 3 through 11. It tests students on math, English language arts, writing and science.

The exam has been controversial because fewer than half of Utah students cleared the test’s new standard of proficiency in last year’s assessment. SAGE is aligned with the Common Core Standards, which raised the bar for the state’s student performance.

Additionally, many schools lack the technology infrastructure required to administer the exam at the end of the school year, so some students have had to take the test with several months of instruction still remaining in the school year.

Osmond said the Northwest Evaluators Association testing system is a “proven tool” to “empower” Utah schools and guide student learning. The NWEA is a “nationally normed test, with a currently functioning infrastructure that is used in many other states,” the press release states.

“A summative test, like SAGE, takes in a year's worth of learning at the very end and measures what you can remember,” said Stephenson. “It imposes an onerous burden on student and teacher alike. A formative test, like NWEA, develops competency along the way. Instead of a less-helpful post-course autopsy, let's move to a proven testing that helps teachers and students along the way."