You might have heard your students talking about taking the Core Test in their classes over the past few weeks.  School Districts in the State of Utah are required to administer CRT (Criterion Referenced Test) in math, language arts and science.  The CRT tests are administered to 3rd through 12th grades.  The CRT tests have been multiple choice assessments taken by the students on a computer.  With the changes at the Utah State Office of Education this will be the last year the students will take the traditional CRT test.  Next year, students will be tested on a new system with different types of assessments.  The new system is called SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence).  The new SAGE test will adapt questions to accommodate the student’s strengths and weaknesses.   For example, if a student selects the correct answer the test will then ask a more difficult question until the student tops out of their cognitive ability.  If a student misses a question, the next question will be easier.  The SAGE test will not be limited to multiple choice questions like the CRT test. SAGE will have the ability to provide questions that are interactive, ask for demonstration of an idea by highlighting, and drag and drop sentences from reading passages.    These types of assessments allow student to demonstrate what they know and not just guess by selecting A,B,C, or D. This type of testing is commonly referred to as “adaptive assessments”.  The SAGE adaptive assessment will allow students to be tested in fall, winter and spring.  With the assessments at the beginning of the year, it will be much easier to track a student’s growth or progress in that particular class.  SAGE will also allow formal assessments which is a term used for informal exercises.  With formal assessments, teachers will be able to assess students more frequently allowing the teacher to change their instruction to meet the student’s needs. Personally, I am looking forward to the changes in the assessment.  I think SAGE will allow the teachers to track the students progress more frequently which will allow feedback to occur throughout the year instead of a one shot test at the end of the of the school year.   My only concern with the new system is the cost associated with the new SAGE testing program. The State of Utah has committed to pay $39 million for the new testing program.  I understand the importance of testing to demonstrate competence and accountability but I sometimes wonder if $39 million could be spent in different areas to improve a student’s success.

–Superintendent Ben Dalton

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