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SAGE testing survey: results and next steps

5/20/2014

UEA members who responded to a survey about their SAGE testing experiences are expressing frustration.

“Teachers and students seem to have a lot of anxiety about the testing,” wrote one respondent. “It takes so long that it has cut valuable instruction time,” said another. One teacher summed up technical frustrations by saying “I think it was rolled out before all the bugs were worked out.”

The UEA received more than 3,000 responses from members to its SAGE testing survey. “The large number of responses alone tells us there is a great deal of angst among teachers about the SAGE testing,” said UEA Director of Education Excellence Sara Jones.

A majority of respondents said they experienced technical problems, the most common being students kicked out of the system during the test, lack of computer practice time and the system crashing or freezing during administration (see graph). Nearly 80 percent also say they don’t feel the assessment accurately measured student performance.

The survey generated nearly 4,000 comments from teachers. According to Jones, some common themes in the comments included a high level of stress, anxiety and frustration seen among students; concern about over-testing and reduced instructional time; inadequate student technical skills; lack of practice time; and poor testing implementation.

At the 2014 UEA House of Delegates, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh shared results of the survey and told the delegates the UEA will be sharing their concerns with the State Office of Education.

“We will be meeting with USOE and will share our concerns about the test’s validity and reliability, communication, creating a feedback loop, technology and infrastructure problems, unique circumstances for special education, and improved testing protocols. We also intend to talk about over-testing,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh.

Utah schools began the process of administering the new tests this spring. Unique to Utah, the computer-adaptive tests are given to students based on their grade level and/or course. According to the Utah State Office of Education, SAGE is a system of assessments designed to measure student success and growth based on the Utah Core Standards.

 

Representative comments provided by UEA members who took the SAGE testing survey:

  • “The writing was a good idea, but the students had to spend way more time than is reasonable to complete it.”
  • “My teachers and faculty have never been so discouraged. This test has bred more feelings of apathy than I have ever seen.”
  • “I felt so badly for the majority of my students as they were testing. The tears and blank looks on the faces of those students that were giving it their best try, almost undid me!”
  • “I teach resource and my students were very frustrated. Much of the test was far above their capabilities.”
  • “Overall, not a bad test once the students understood what they were to do. I would like the instructions to be a little more clear in what the teacher can answer and what they can't.”
  • “The kids seem stressed out and frustrated.”
  • “It caused a great deal of stress to my students who felt they were prepared to take the Sage test, only to find out that there were questions on the test that were not a part of our core. Also, technical issues such as how to manipulate around questions was stressful.”
  • “(The testing) has moved the focus of the classroom from learning material to preparing and administering tests.”
  • “I love the SAGE test format. I've hated putting multiple guess tests in front of kids, and that's all that has been offered. This is a step in the right direction.”
  • “Overall, I like the new tests and look forward to seeing what the data shows. I believe the tests are much better written than the CRTs were.”
  • “I worry about the SAGE for ESL students and students with special needs. The length of the test, especially the writing portion, makes it challenging for these students.”
  • “The requirements do not seem age appropriate, and everything has become a reading test. Students who struggle with reading will have difficulty with all the tests, even though they may have considerable understanding of math and science.”
  • “I like the way it tests, but it is too long and too stressful for students.”

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