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It is SAGE season once again at Murray High

Samantha Watts, Staff Writer

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Spring is just around the corner, but for students in Utah, April means more than Spring Break and rainy weather. SAGE testing is bounding around the corner like a terrifying version of the Easter bunny.

For those not familiar with SAGE testing, it is a required state test given to students every year from the fourth grade until 11th. Students take a test in math, science, and twice in English-one is essay writing and the other is a combination of reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. The SAGE test is the Utah School Board’s method for assessing the Utah Core State Standards in each subject area.

Students can expect to take about a week (in English it is closer to 2) of class time for each test. That is two or three 90 minute class periods where no teaching, and subsequently no learning, takes place.

In the past, teachers have attempted to incentive students to do well on the SAGE test by having test scores count as an assignment and the resulting score would correlate to a grade in the class. This year however, due to recent legislation, it has been deemed unethical for teachers to use SAGE scores as grades, so teachers have one less carrot with which to motivate students.

As test scores no longer help or hurt grades, and seem to have no bearing on college acceptance or scholarships, many students and teachers are wondering what the point of all this testing really is.

“I feel like it doesn’t really benefit us,” says Bryn Gale, tenth grade, “because we don’t learn anything by doing it, we just take a test and it’s a waste of time.”

Certainly a test that consumes this much class time and cost millions of dollars to make must be mandatory, right? The answer, surprisingly is no. The test is not mandatory. Students can opt out of the test by filling out a form online. Teachers cannot mention this in class or provide this as an alternative or they risk disciplinary actions, up to and including termination.

And that’s not the only issue students seem to have with the test: “It makes me feel stupid, I hate it so much,” Emma Leppink, 11th grade, states. Students who tend to “get ones” on the one to four grading scale, as Emma claims she does, end up feeling inadequate based on their low test scores. In a recent survey an alarming number of students reported that these yearly tests cause anxiety and frustration. Some even said that after each testing session they feel mentally exhausted and struggle with other classes.

So if the test isn’t mandatory, it doesn’t go on a student’s grade, and doesn’t help get into college, one has to ask: what is the point? What is the test actually assessing? In a statement to The Spartan Sentinel, Ms. Mbaku, Assistant Principal at Murray High School,explained it this way, “The SAGE test is designed to be aligned with the Utah State Standards and to be reflective of what most educators believe that students should know and be able to do.  SAGE test scores are available to the public to see if their schools are meeting these expectations.” In other words, these scores help hold both schools and teachers accountable to the community for the learning that is going on in their school.

But there are many who question the validity of these scores as means to assess teachers or actual learning that takes place.

One teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, had this to say when asked about the importance of these yearly tests, “The SAGE test claims to measure learning but it counts every student the same, Assisted Education students and Honors, AP, and Concurrent Enrollment students. No one believes that these students are actually taught the same or that they learn the same. Tests like the SAGE test ignore those differences and [it’s] more like a poll or a survey than it is a measure of academic ability or achievement.”

But not everyone sees the SAGE testing as a bad thing. Ms. Mbaku recognizes that a test administered only once a year does not accurately reflect all that teachers do and everything a student has learned. In her statement she writes, “the SAGE test can be an effective tool that provides data for classroom teachers, that can be used to improve their instruction.” In other words, even though the testing doesn’t count on grades, teachers should be using that data to inform their curriculum and make changes to help struggling students.

There are also students who feel the test is beneficial and take it seriously to monitor their own growth or shortcomings. When asked if they felt the test was helpful, student Ashley Stout said, “I would say yes because you can see how you’re doing, what you’re learning.”

Another student, Victoria Meckham said, “SAGE testing is beneficial, because it tests the student’s capability, what he learned and what he didn’t learn throughout the whole year.” For these students and many others, the SAGE test is good thing because it shows progress from grade to grade.

SAGE testing is here and from all accounts, it is here to stay, whether students, teachers, or parents really believe in its efficacy or not. Spring Break will come to a close and students should come to school Monday, April 4th prepared to log in and begin another round of SAGE testing.




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MHS Student News
It is SAGE season once again at Murray High