Teacher helping girl in homework

SALT LAKE CITY — Minneapolis-based Questar Assessment Inc. has been selected as the state's new testing provider for grades three through eight, effectively ending Utah's ties to the firm that developed the current statewide Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence or SAGE.

The Utah State Board of Education will begin negotiations with Questar Assessment Inc. to develop new computer-adaptive tests for those Utah students under a contract worth nearly $30 million.

Four companies bid for the contract over the past year. The provider's assessments will be used beginning in the 2018-19 school year, according to an announcement Friday.

The selection of Questar Assessment Inc. was "in the best interests of both students and taxpayers in Utah," said State School Board member Terryl Warner, who served on the selection committee.

“As a selection committee, we vetted the companies through a fair and unbiased process. Much thought and discussion went into this decision," Warner said in a statement.

The contract will include testing for grades three through eight in English language arts and mathematics; grades four through eight in science; and writing tests for grades five and eight through the 2023-24 school. The contract may be extended by five years.

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Under the contract, all test questions used in SAGE tests stay in Utah and will be used in the new assessment developed by Questar. State education officials will have the opportunity to develop additional test questions under terms of the contract.

Since SAGE testing launched in 2013, growing numbers of parents have allowed their children to opt out of participating, which has skewed school accountability measures.

However, schools are not allowed to reward students for completing year-end tests nor can they be penalized for not participating.