Opting out of SAGE test is on the rise

Impact on schools and teachers raises troubling questions

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  • JWB Kaysville, UT
    May 12, 2016 11:28 a.m.

    The Legislators in this State of Utah have always had a divide with the State Office of Education and School Teachers, including the UEA. This has been a disservice for our children and their teachers. A good teacher does not focus on himself or herself. Teachers in Utah have been some of the most dedicated to their vocation of focusing on the needs of the students. They give their all to the students and very few are self-promoting or looking at their self-interest. Teaching at any level in the public school system is not a lucrative profession. Even with a large number students, our teachers look for ways to understand backgrounds, interests, talents and the needs of the students they teach and their parents the teachers deal with. With large classroom sizes, these teachers ask questions and listen carefully and observe what their students say and do in different situations. The Common Core State of Utah Initiative and SAGE testing help teachers and administrators know more about the teaching and needs of students.

    The Legislature and Office of Education will use that information so they better understand students they teach and the better they can help improve lives.

  • UtahBlueDevil Lehi Ut & Durham, NC
    May 12, 2016 8:09 a.m.

    @2nephi32 - You question is a reasonable one, but the reality is you don't need to see the question, nor the answer to understand if a student has a problem inverting their b's and d's. Nor do you need to see the answer to know if a test shows a student has a problem with a particular math concept, if they repeatedly fail to solve a series of equations.

    I do get that it would be nice to have the answers - and questions. And yet for decades we have had placement test like the ACT and SAT that we don't get the specifics back to avoid future cheating - that we accept. This is a common method used for all standardized testing.

    What needs to be balanced though is the weight these test have. For example I have a son who is a great test taker. Because of this he is lazy in the class room. Likewise there are kids who do well on class work, and their tests don't reflect their knowledge levels. The weight these test have does need to be visited. They don't show a complete picture.

  • 2nephi32 SANDY, UT
    May 11, 2016 10:29 p.m.

    "While the new format is intended to give teachers a more detailed picture of student performance". I just spoke with my daughter's teacher who informed me that they (the teachers) NEVER see the actual questions and answers on this test. How are they supposed to help a child in need when the only information they have is a test score?

  • birder Salt Lake City, UT
    May 11, 2016 7:22 p.m.

    Re: The grade inflation comment:
    Some grade inflation takes place because parents force the hand of the teachers and insist that their little darling get a higher grade than deserved. Administrators don't generally back the teacher, and it's not worth the fight. The teacher loses anyway.

    Back to the topic: Testing is necessary, but the SAGE is too much and too hard, especially for special ed, ELL, and support class kids who should automatically be opted out. For these kids, the test is utter frustration. They can't even read the questions. Some can be read to them. It is years above their academic level.

    Why not volunteer the adults making up these policies for a PhD level exam in nuclear physics when they haven't even taken 8th grade physical science?

  • UtahBlueDevil Lehi Ut & Durham, NC
    May 11, 2016 5:57 p.m.

    I see so much misinformation here. Comments as "The writing portion is graded now by a computer, which, of course, grades by length of the essay as a whole and by looking for specific or large words" shows the author has no conception of the text analytics capability available today. I have no way knowing how Utah implemented the test, but yes, a computer can score spelling, grammar usage, vocabulary level, sentence structure... it is done every day on the web, and is how things like google and siri know what your are looking for.

    Then you have the blame the teacher thing again with "You admit that your top students should be getting lower grades, and that the bottom students should be failing." Redshirt forgot to blame the union too. The reality is the only reason a teacher would care about how your kid did would be because of the school grades the state and feds hand out. Both of these programs (no child left behind) placed large emphasis on school improvement based on test score results. Teacher have no other motivation to help johnny/jannie get a grade they don't deserve. It profits them nothing.

  • UtahBlueDevil Lehi Ut & Durham, NC
    May 11, 2016 5:48 p.m.

    "The ever increasing number of people on welfare, food stamps, and foreclosures, is evidence these standardized tests have not improved education"

    Worf.... really? These tests haven't been around long enough to have been any factor in these people's position in life. I think you are really connecting dots that have no correlation to each other. To your comments, can we point to anything that proves we are ahead in the world..... yes. Most technology and innovation still comes from these shores. This is not by accident. Overt programs like STEM empower kids to succeed later in life. Now if kids/parents choose to under achieve and not take advantage of the opportunities presented them.... you don't get ride of the testing the points out their deficiencies. At the end of the day regardless of the game - it is up to the kids to perform.

    That said, I don't have a clue about SAGE. Since my kids are not educated in Utah, yet, I have no way to measure it against what other states are doing. I personally hate testing. But to try to come up with some kind of subjective measure for teachers to use... unworkable.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 11, 2016 5:34 p.m.


    How has standardized testing improved education?

    Are students better educated today, than the 1950's?

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    May 11, 2016 5:31 p.m.

    To Nathan Andelin:

    re: "When political movements on a national scale conspire with state governments to dictate standards and tests..."

    Everything is not a grand conspiracy. And there are economies of scale to developing curriculum, creating and publishing texts (physical or digital), and developing tests, etc. Also, comparability across states is not only desirable, but critical. Some education unions want apples-to-oranges comparisons everywhere so they cannot be held accountable.

    I think the fringe far-right has hijacked the education discussion to the point of doing incredible harm. For core elementary and secondary school subjects, having baseline standards for curriculum OUTCOMES is a no-brainer. And taking advantages of economies of scale can drive costs dramatically lower.

    Math is math, and English is English. Utah would benefit from banding with others who want high achievement standards to develop curriculum guidelines, as well as texts and assessment materials. We would also benefit from having comparable assessments so we can see how we and others are doing (demographically adjusted of course).

    We need to get the fear-mongering and boogeymen out of the discussion, and start having a rational conversation.

  • Nathan Andelin West Jordan, UT
    May 11, 2016 4:43 p.m.

    When political movements on a national scale conspire with state governments to dictate standards and tests, that leads to a homogenization/nationalism of education, monopolies in providers of learning materials and fewer choices.

    An open market with a level playing field ensures a wider selection of curriculum, learning materials, and tests which are in alignment with competing standards.

  • metisophia Ogden, UT
    May 11, 2016 4:18 p.m.

    I guess I need someone to show me the proper way to interpret SAGE results. I see the numbers as meaningless. The writing portion is graded now by a computer, which, of course, grades by length of the essay as a whole and by looking for specific or large words. Now that makes for some great writing.
    Kids are given a score for language, but I have no idea how the test assesses that topic. 10 questions on usage? I am, unfortunately, merely a teacher, one who cannot be trusted to fairly judge how any of my students are performing on the tasks I give them -- which tasks may clearly not be rigorous enough, you know.

    SAGE is an expensive boondoggle meant to line the pockets of people not involved in the everyday effort of teaching and guiding our children to be great people who think for themselves.

    I would urge every single parent in the state to opt their children out of taking any of the SAGE.

    May 11, 2016 2:19 p.m.

    Instead of everyone complaining about SAGE, tell me what is going to replace it? Offer a solution! Testing is far from perfect, but learning and progress needs to be measured.

    If you can't measure what you are doing, then you can't tell what things work and what doesn't!

    BTW, I asked my 6th grader and she has spent 7 hours so far on taking the SAGE tests. The only reason she has spent so many hours is twice the computer she was using wouldn't work.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    May 11, 2016 1:43 p.m.


    I am a high school teacher. The SAGE is a disaster. My own children spend their time Taking AP and CE classes. The only wasted energy in their experience is the SAGE.

  • CJHR Springville, UT
    May 11, 2016 1:28 p.m.

    Continued from above...
    Yes, assessment is time consuming and can create stress. Things of high worth are often time consuming and stressful. Let's pitch in and support our teachers and schools rather than constantly beating them down. As for students, my kids love testing because they love the challenge. Try building a positive culture in your own home, and save the wasted energy of criticizing necessary aspects of education. Most of you are grossly uninformed.

  • CJHR Springville, UT
    May 11, 2016 1:27 p.m.

    The SAGE test has its limitations, but for the most part is a necessary part to a high functioning educational system. We don't have other assessments that compare in the areas of reliability, validity, alignment to the standards/benchmarks, and data output. For those out there fighting assessment, you really don't have a grasp on modern educational concepts. Please explain to me how students, teachers, schools, and parents can gain information about their respective performance without a "standardized" test. Don't tell me that teachers can do that in their classrooms. With 2 credits of Statistics 101, you'd understand that creating something reliable and consistent is not realistic for teachers already tasked with developing high quality lesson plans, communicating with parents, collaborating with colleagues, providing feedback to students, grading student work, tracking student progress, etc. Continued below...

  • Miss Bay Hyrum, UT
    May 11, 2016 1:22 p.m.

    One of many reasons that I support Common Core is that there are curriculum materials available! In fact, there are actually choices of different materials that teach the same standards. For at least the thirty years in Utah before Common Core, it was impossible to purchase text books and other materials that matched our core standards. We had "uniquely Utah" standards, and since we are a small state as far as student population goes, we had to purchase texts that were printed to match the California standards, or the New York, Texas, Florida, or Pennsylvania standards. Then we were constantly trying to create materials that would fill in the blanks. It is such a great step forward to have standards that are consistent with those in other states and to have available quality instructional materials.

  • Husker1 Northern Utah County, UT
    May 11, 2016 1:00 p.m.


    There is nothing wrong with standardized testing. However, the results of any test are only valid if students take the test seriously and try their best. The length of the test is also a problem. The media center (computer lab) at the high school where I teach is off limits for a month so testing can be completed. No other classes can use the computers during this time. That's way too long.

    Also, comparing schools "back east" to schools in Utah is apples and oranges. Utah's spending per pupil is the lowest in the nation and always will be. Large family sizes hurt even more. Spending per pupil among east coast schools is among the highest in the nation. Money doesn't buy a quality education but it sure helps when districts want to retain quality teachers and provide little things like text books for every student. Utah is what it is.

  • Nathan Andelin West Jordan, UT
    May 11, 2016 12:32 p.m.

    I made no suggestion that educators should work for free in my observation that Common Core and SAGE are commercial activities. Thanks for the feedback.

    My point is that societies expect competition and choices with respect to commercial activities; not mandates from governments influenced by those having national interests.

    That leads to my next question. Do those who support Common Core and SAGE have interests in homogenized education nationally?

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    May 11, 2016 12:01 p.m.

    To "jp3" FYI, in Utah most students take the ACT, not the SAT.

    As for the SAGE testing, you do realize that it wouldn't be necessary if teachers were not involved in grade inflation. You admit that your top students should be getting lower grades, and that the bottom students should be failing. Teachers created the mess, now we have the government coming in to try and fix it.

    Now, you want us to believe that SAGE testing actually does any good? You do realize that parents have to fight to see the results. If the results were so important, why are they not sent directly to the parents?

  • JMHO Southern, UT
    May 11, 2016 11:58 a.m.

    To all those who opt out their kids because they think the school resources are being wasted during SAGE testing are not critical thinkers. The school will tie up the computer labs as long as the test is given, it doesn't matter if your particular student does not take it. You are really tying up more resources since the school needs to track, attend to updating lists, attend to opting the students out on the statewide system, etc.

    Since all of this media blitz about SAGE, many more students are opting out. What that means is many students took one test, maybe two, and then found out about opting out and skipped the third test.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    May 11, 2016 11:54 a.m.


    One problem is that students are not held accountable for the scores. Those scores can't even be made part of the grade. Nor are the alternative assignments given to students who opt out.

    The tests demonstrate nothing. We could predict the SAGE results by looking at ACT scores. All parents should opt their students out of these silly tests as a message to the legislature: Fund education adequately. Stop mandating silly (and expensive) tests which do no real benefit.

  • Utah Teacher Orem, UT
    May 11, 2016 11:48 a.m.

    There are so many ways SAGE could be used to improve education. If, when the test ended, we could actually go over the questions with our students, that would be a great learning tool. Instead, I never even get to see the test or the questions before or after the test. The teacher is supposed to teach the core curriculum but the SAGE test often strays from that, especially in science.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    May 11, 2016 11:23 a.m.

    To Chancey:

    re: "Interesting that those opting out are the parents of the brightest children, and that is making the data collected worthless."

    This is just patently false. Our children and all of their friends that I know of are taking the test, and these are some of the very best students in the state. Our two oldest children graduated #1 and #3 from one of the largest/better high schools in the state, and their younger siblings are similarly good students. Based on ACT scores, these are top 1% students. Parents of good students know that benchmarking and assessment are critical to understanding where a child is performing. Fighting against assessment is fighting against quality education.

    It's sad that so many are convinced that having curriculum standards and assessments is somehow a bad thing (usually couched as big, bad government taking away local control - with overtones of greedy big business self-interest). Based on what I have seen since we moved to Utah, local control hasn't done that much good for students. I have heard from mmany good teachers at our schools that Common Core English and Math dramatically improved the curriculum. Maybe the professionals get it.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    May 11, 2016 11:11 a.m.

    To Nathan Andelin:

    re: "For those who advocate for Common Core and SAGE, I'd like to know how many of you make money off it? Paid for writing SAGE questions? A job in assessments? A job in the State Office of Education?"

    Answer: My only interest is as a parent of children in Utah public schools. Neither I nor any of my friends or relatives benefit in any way, directly or indirectly, from Common Core or Sage spending. My only interest is in a great education system in Utah for my children, and someday my grandchildren.

    We moved here from back east where the schools were MUCH better. And I was shocked at the mediocrity in Utah schools, and our neighborhood schools are some of the best in the state. Teachers, parents and students all expect less of the education system and what our children should be learning in school here. We don't even have text books for all of the core subjects here! And that includes math! And science!

    Until Utahns realize that they have a mediocre education system, it will not improve.

  • Miss Bay Hyrum, UT
    May 11, 2016 10:05 a.m.

    I have never given an Iowa Basic Skills Test that was done in one day...and I've given a lot of them.

  • Johnny Triumph American Fork, UT
    May 11, 2016 9:57 a.m.

    Why are we scared all of a sudden by standardized testing? Adults should be encouraging children to work hard and do their best; when a child sees the adults arguing like this over whether or not to test or if a child is opted out of the tests all the child learns is that complaining will get me out of it and not doing my best won't matter at all. What happens when that child gets to college? What happens when that child faces tough situations in a career? No growth during the early ages only stifles potential later in life. Are teachers worried about test results impacting their careers?

    Certainly SAGE can improve, it's still very new. But listing its faults or quitting doesn't do anything to help the current situation. I'm trained as an educator but work in technology. It has been interesting to me to see different teachers work with my children...I appreciate those who push my kids vs those who don't. SAGE testing aims my children at better success through focused learning AND work!

  • Joe Schmoe Orem, UT
    May 11, 2016 9:36 a.m.

    I totally understand what the teacher means when she said that SAGE testing is taking 5 weeks. That doesn't mean the actual test takes 5 weeks but the administration of the test is taking that long. It is totally disruptive at the jr. high level. The test itself takes 3 class periods per subject. But the students that are absent are then called out of other classes to make up the test. The PA system is going off all day calling them down. The school computer carts are tied up because there aren't enough computers to go around. Sure there is plenty of teaching going on but during those 5 weeks SAGE is the focus. it isn't like the old days where we took the IOWA basic skills test and were done in one day.

  • Danny Chipman Lehi, UT
    May 11, 2016 9:17 a.m.

    "But more critical than the school grade is the opportunity for teachers to use the data to improve their instruction and conform to student needs, according to Perschon."

    The key word here is "conform", but not to student needs. Teachers have a hard time improving their instruction when tests like SAGE tie their hands and take up what might otherwise be useful teaching time.

    Also, the idea of grading schools by this one measure is ludicrous. Are we taking into account the backgrounds of students--family, behavioral and cognitive abilities, poverty, language barriers, whether they slept well and had breakfast, etc.? Those are very real issues teachers have to struggle with every day, and giving them and their school a bad grade by the same criteria as other schools that don't see those problems as much is hardly fair.

  • Miss Bay Hyrum, UT
    May 11, 2016 9:07 a.m.

    Yes, Nathan, there is a commercial involvement. Education itself is a commercial activity, as are all activities involved with running a civil society. Do you expect people to teach children, make paper, provide pencils, sweep the floors, and cook school lunch for just the joy of doing it? Do you attend to your employment responsibilities without expecting a pay check so you can support your family? Why would you expect people involved in education to do so?

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 11, 2016 9:03 a.m.

    Can anyone supply evidence that standardized testing has improved education?

    Has our economy strengthened with a more educated, and prepared work force?

    Has it been worth the time and effort? What are the results?

  • Nathan Andelin West Jordan, UT
    May 11, 2016 8:37 a.m.

    For those who advocate for Common Core and SAGE, I'd like to know how many of you make money off it? Paid for writing SAGE questions? A job in assessments? A job in the State Office of Education?

    Common Core and SAGE are commercial activities. The State Office of Education is making millions of dollars selling test questions to other states. It employs a bureaucracy in Utah.

    Common Core and SAGE are big business.

  • Miss Bay Hyrum, UT
    May 11, 2016 8:34 a.m.

    Cousineddy and cmsense: I agree with you totally. I have more than 30 years experience in the elementary classroom. A lot of people are making SAGE out to be some monster, ready to devour our children. So untrue. It takes a grand total of 6-8 hours, one hour at a time. This is hardly throwing away five weeks of instruction. And yes, that time we spend reviewing and prepping for the test, that is LEARNING time. The bar has been raised significantly by SAGE. The thing that just blows my mind is that we have been doing standardized testing for as long as I have been teaching. Why is there suddenly this drama about testing? Testing is a vital part of education. I'm frustrated that after 40 million dollars invested, not to mention the hours that have been invested by educators raising our own bar to meet the standards, it will now be thrown out. Next year or the year after, we'll have something new and we'll start all over. Ridiculous.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    May 11, 2016 8:32 a.m.

    Those who are fighting against benchmark testing are fighting against quality education. SAGE may not be the best test or means of testing our children's achievement level, but assessment is needed. Let me quote President Monson for those on the far-right fringe who may respect his opinion: "Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates."

    We need to know how our children and our education system are doing. Sabotaging this process only hurts our education system, and ultimately the children it serves.

  • Pingdizzle South Jordan, UT
    May 11, 2016 8:19 a.m.

    My students are taking the SAGE test right now. I don't have a problem with most of it and think an end of the year cumulative test is a good thing. What I have a problem with is that students are able to finish in 5 minutes and not take it serious. There are no repercussions for students that give no effort. Also, there are way too many parents/students opting out, which are usually the higher scoring students. Is this a true reflection of my class? Not even close. So what are we learning? What is the purpose if the data is not accurate?

    I wish we could go more towards an Iowa Basics or ACT style test. Give the same test to every sophomore/junior/senior in the country, regardless of what math class they are in. That would tell me a whole lot more as their teacher about how I'm doing than the current situation.

  • Cousineddy SLC, UT
    May 11, 2016 7:46 a.m.

    The SAGE test does many important things for students, parents, teachers, and schools. First and foremost, it sets the beginning bar of rigor for every LA, math, and science teacher in the state. I have taught for 27 years and I know first hand that there is a huge discrepancy between what one teacher feels is rigorous compared to another. With the SAGE test, every teacher now begins the year knowing first hand the level of rigor required to help students be college and career ready. Each teacher is somewhat forced to align their assignments and their formative assessments all throughout the year to that level of rigor. That alone has made a huge difference to the entire system. We always had shinning stars in our education field, but there weren't enough shinning stars to succeed with all students. SAGE has gone along way to hold all teachers to a high standard. I could give you a bunch more positive things that have come from the SAGE test, but I would run out of words.

  • cmsense Kaysville, UT
    May 11, 2016 7:04 a.m.

    Listening to the SAGE story last night its clear that a lot of students just aren't stessed out about SAGE and actually support it and think its a good idea.

    Its also clear a lot of teachers and people won't support any standardized test by any name. They don't want to come up with ways to improve it. The just want to kill it. According to other posters, the actual sage takes just 3-4 hours per subject. Prep for sage, that time I would call learning.

    Our kids are in the middle of SAGE. None are stressed out. Really at the end of the year its not like kids are pulling to do more homework. I'm pretty sure learning is slowing down a lot and a test this time of year helps the learning. For those kids who actually try and want to learn it is validation that the efforts they put in all year paid off. My kids have done well so far and as a parent I know that makes my wife feel better about all the effort she's put in with the kids all year long.

  • Chancey Sandy, UT
    May 11, 2016 5:51 a.m.

    Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Interesting that those opting out are the parents of the brightest children, and that is making the data collected worthless. This quiet protest by parents seems to very effective in getting something government is forcing upon us eliminated. Way to go.

  • Guam_Bomb BARRIGADA, GU
    May 11, 2016 12:15 a.m.

    I don't know about you, but I won't hire anyone claiming to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant that can't pass the standardized tests for their profession. I can sleep well knowing that my house wont collapse on me because the design was reviewed and approved by certified structural engineer who passed several tests to receive his certification.

    I want my kids to be tested. I want my kids to compete. I want to understand how my kids are performing academically so I can help them where they are falling short and steer them towards their strengths. I don't know of any other way to do that than by testing them. Maybe i'll ask my Indian doctor or his Filipino nurse what they think.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 10, 2016 11:34 p.m.

    The ever increasing number of people on welfare, food stamps, and foreclosures, is evidence these standardized tests have not improved education.

    We are increasing the number of foreigners, who are filling jobs in America. Another piece of evidence indicating poor education in our nation.

    Let's save some time and money, and rid ourselves of these worthless tests.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 10, 2016 10:11 p.m.

    jp3: It appears that many teachers would like to use those computer labs tied up for SAGE testing. And don't teachers assess their students all the time IN their classes? I mean just how much testing and assessing do our students need to be put through? Is there enough time to actually teach the curriculum? And jp3, we didn't have nearly the amount of testing as these students, and guess what, we survived just fine. Right?

  • jp3 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 10, 2016 8:57 p.m.

    As a teacher, I'll admit that there is rampant grade inflation out there--my 7th grade "A" students should be getting lower grades, and my "C" students should be failing. A test like this at the end of the year is beneficial to students and parents because it's an indicator of where they stand in relation to other students throughout the state instead of relying on artificially inflated grades.

    Do you really want to "opt out" of tests all through school, only to take the SAT, get a low score, and face the realization that you don't know how to take tests and that you weren't really as smart as you thought you were? Guess most people lack grit, determination, and any sort of pride--they take the easy way out and it costs them.

  • birder Salt Lake City, UT
    May 10, 2016 8:49 p.m.

    Even the young kids are getting fed up with the 5 weeks of testing. One of my 5th grade students asked, "What will happen if I don't really try on this test?"

    Even if SAGE goes away for the high school kids, what about the little kids? They don't need it either.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 10, 2016 8:45 p.m.

    Let's just pull the plug on these tests already. Any common sense out there?

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    May 10, 2016 7:50 p.m.


    I am a teacher and I do the same thing. All parents should opt all their children out. Have them read a good book instead.

  • slcman SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    May 10, 2016 6:56 p.m.

    I've been teaching high school in Utah for 14 years and I proudly opt both of my children out of SAGE testing every year. It's way too time consuming, monopolizes limited technological resources, and high school kids don't take it seriously. Hard to say anything good about it.

  • Utah Teacher Orem, UT
    May 10, 2016 6:39 p.m.

    We've now been SAGE testing for 5 weeks at the jr. high. I couldn't use the technology again this week because the kids needed it for testing. So 5 weeks of instruction have now been held hostage by the SAGE testing.


    Don't get me started about how bad the SAGE test is.

    Then we get the legislature that gives our school a "grade" based on the SAGE results. A test that they haven't properly funded. A test that parents see as a fiasco so they check their kids out of school.

    Well guess who is behind the whole school "grade" thing? Do a little research on it. You might be surprised but probably not. Just follow the money trail.