About Those Tests Florida Kids Take Next Week: Utah Republicans Want to Suspend and Replace Them

Florida children will begin taking new high-stakes test next week which were “rented” from Utah. But, Tallahassee, we have a problem. Apparently Utah doesn’t like the tests very much. Writes Katie McKellar from Deseret News in this KSL.com piece:

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah senators demanded on a local radio program Saturday morning that the State Board of Education suspend and replace the Utah SAGE Testing System.

Sens. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said the Utah SAGE Testing is frustrating to students, parents and educators and should be replaced with an “established, proven testing system, such as the Northwest Evaluators Association testing system until a more permanent solution can be developed,” according to a press release. There comments were made on the KKAT 860 AM Red Meat Radio program.

“Preparing for state-mandated SAGE testing consumes enormous amounts of instructional time and greatly limits access to computer labs for other learning purposes,” Osmond said. “The SAGE tool has also been plagued with technical challenges causing testing delays and outages. Out of respect for parents, students and teachers, it’s time to build a better path.”

SAGE, or student assessment of growth and excellence, is a computer-adaptive exam administered yearly to students in grades 3 through 11. It tests students on math, English language arts, writing and science.

The exam has been controversial because fewer than half of Utah students cleared the test’s new standard of proficiency in last year’s assessment. SAGE is aligned with the Common Core Standards, which raised the bar for the state’s student performance.

According to this February update from Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, Florida’s commitment is more than most people realize:

In information found on the Utah legislative website, it turns out that Florida will not just be renting questions for the American Institute for Research (AIR) Common Core test from that state for one year for $5.4 million, but that it will be for three years.  This will be at a cost of $16.2 million dollars on top of the $220 million over six years that Florida will spend on that test with AIR.

“The State of Florida has requested to use Utah’s SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) test questions for the next three years.  Florida is in the process of developing an online computer-adaptive assessment system similar to SAGE and will use Utah’s questions until their system is fully developed.  Utah and Florida are using the same contractor, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), to assist in the development of both systems.

Through the agreement, Utah will provide AIR with the rights to use the Utah owned questions in Florida.  Utah will receive $1.50 per student for each question used in Florida.  Based on current estimates, Utah may receive approximately $5.4 million a year, or $16.2 million over the three-year contract. In exchange for the right to use Utah’s questions, AIR will reduce its contract costs for the SAGE system.  This reduction in contract costs will result in higher nonlapsing balances in the Utah State Office of Education line item for the next three years.

The Utah State Board of Education presented details on this agreement to the Executive Appropriations Committee during its June 17, 2014 meeting. Additional information on this issue can be found in the brief titled “Leasing of SAGE Online Adaptive Test Questions.” 

A collision of Common Core and high-stakes testing in Florida is about to occur during the legislation session. While  state’s republican legislators are publicly waving the accountability blood shirt, they’re having second thoughts, too.

Even House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who drew applause at the February foundation meeting by vowing that “we will not retreat from accountability,” has said a review is warranted.

“I think there’s a balance, and I think this is an opportunity for us to find what that balance is,” he said.

Maybe Crisafulli is just defending the position that he and his colleagues have been right all along on testing, but just wrong on tests?

With Floridians only two springs removed from an epic FCAT meltdown, kids are about to take another test which is being rejected by the state they bought the dang things from. Guys like Crisafulli can never admit that teachers were right and that the problem might just be that such tests – no matter who creates them – were never intended to be used like this.







About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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