SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's new computer adaptive testing system is set to generate as much as $5.4 million for the state through a licensing agreement with Florida approved Friday by the State Board of Education.
The test, commonly referred to as SAGE testing, is currently being used in schools for the first time and was developed specifically for Utah to align with the Common Core State Standards, a series of national academic benchmarks adopted voluntarily by all but six states.
But Florida officials have requested the use of Utah's test materials for one year while educators there continue work on their own state-specific assessment.
"Florida is developing their own assessment so this is just to get them started," Associate State Superintendent Judy Park said.
The board also gave approval to the State Office of Education to pursue similar licensing agreements in the future.
Park said funds from the licensing agreement will be used primarily to generate additional test materials and expand the bank of questions in Utah's SAGE system.
Some test materials will also need to be replaced, Park said, due to intentional release for practice materials or in the event that a question is compromised, such as a recent incident where a Utah student took photos of a testing screen and posted the images to anti-Common Core websites.
Park said the material shared by the student will have to be eliminated from SAGE testing and the cost of replacing a single test question, she said, is between $5,000 and $10,000.
More than 11,000 individual questions have been developed for SAGE. Park said that while officials have not yet determined a target number for assessment materials, the state will need to develop "a whole lot more" questions for the testing system.
"With a larger bank (of questions), that means that if a question is compromised you already have other items to fill in the hole," she said.
Utah's SAGE testing has generated vocal criticism largely due to its perceived connection to the Common Core, which is seen by some as a federal takeover of education despite being developed by a consortium of state leaders.
The test has also generated angst due to its unfamiliar 21st-century format, which requires computers in place of a paper and pencil and which adjusts in difficulty based on correct and incorrect answers, resulting in a unique set of questions for each individual student.
Those concerns have led to an increase in the number of parents refusing to let their students participate in year-end testing. The State School Board recently revised its policy on test participation, allowing parents to opt-out their students from SAGE testing without penalizing a school or teachers under state accountability systems, such as school grading.
Federal accountability reports continue to require that 95 percent of a student body be tested each year in core subjects, meaning that students who opt-out could potentially hurt Utah's performance when compared with other states.
Park said the amount of money Utah receives from Florida will depend on the total number of items licensed and students who participate in the testing. At this point no other states have expressed interest in licensing Utah's test questions.
She also said that education officials are pleased with the first wave of adaptive testing.
"We're very pleased with this initial roll-out," Park said. "It's gone much smoother and much better than we anticipated."
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