SAGE testing has become the new game for our teachers. They understand an emphasized importance on the test, so they play the game, and they play it well. This game only brings problems that go unaccounted for and create a world of educational issues that continue to go unresolved. The irony? This is a game that cannot ever be won.
The game begins when the SAGE test comes out. Math, English and science curriculums are then completely focused on the material the children will need to know to pass the test. The children are even told this is important information they will need to know for the test. Sorry, if the information isn’t on a test, it’s not important. Any other class is merely just for the fun of it anyway. Right?
Second, the children will spend the entire school year learning these SAGE test subjects in units. Each unit will have its own material completely devoted to what is on the SAGE test. You see, teachers want to make sure the children completely understand the material, so they can do well on this test. Each unit, particularly math, is taught in several different ways so that each child can hopefully understand at least one method. So, as long as the child is confused by the first few methods, that’s OK, all these different methods are confusing everyone. Let’s just hope they can be focused and attentive every day. Let’s hope they don’t get a cold or the flu, or have any personal issues they need to focus on that may distract them this year.
Third, the best part of the year, the student then get to practice taking the test. Yep, let’s stress them out some more, because enough emphasis hasn’t already been given to this ridiculously rigorous test! For those who don’t understand rigorous, this test doesn’t just ask what the answer to a question is. It wants to know how and why you got the answer. So, we let the children spend time learning how to take this test — on the computer. Oh, did I mention this test is on a computer? Try taking a math test on a computer sometime — oh what fun! That’s OK though, take a deep breath, most teachers understand the stress their students are experiencing, so they will show a movie, or institute a similar reward during school hours to reward the class with putting up with such nonsense.
Now comes the final phase of this year-long and most ludicrous game. Test time. The children are told to eat a good breakfast and get plenty of sleep. Let the stressful week-long testing sessions begin. The moment has come to record understanding of the past several months into just a few questions. Then comes the biggest moment of them all — the score comes out. Whoops! All the scores are “Below Efficiency,” what happened? Oh, the child has a low reading comprehension ability, and did not understand the questions actually being asked. So much for the math and science portions of the test. Apparently, English skills, like reading and understanding informational texts, are required before math and science tests can be even undertaken.
So, now parents end up with a stressed child, who received fairly good grades, who received a low score on some required SAGE test, who is in a daze from surviving several units completely geared around the SAGE test, who is wondering: was this school year actually worth my time? Does anyone else see a problem here?
Jennifer Hirschi is a mother who lives in Springville, Utah.