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Utah's new testing system is just a year old, but at least one state lawmaker is ready to throw it out.
The failures of the test, according to Draper Republican Sen. Howard Stephenson, constitute "child abuse" and "educational malpractice."
Over the weekend, Stephenson called for an end to SAGE testing on his weekly "Red Meat Radio" program. He repeated that call again Monday on Utah's Capitol Hill.
"The current SAGE test must be suspended immediately," he said. "Our children are basically being used as beta testers for a test that is not ready for primetime."
SAGE, an acronym for the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence, is a computer-based test that adapts to the ability level of individual children.
At the insistence of Utah lawmakers, including Stephenson, state education managers spent roughly $40 million and several years developing a Utah-specific test, which was taken by students for the first time last spring.
While state education leaders say they're pleased with the initial results of the assessment, teachers and school administrators have complained of software glitches and insufficient resources and preparation.
With annual testing required by both state and federal law, Stephenson suggested that SAGE be replaced with the Northwest Evaluators Association testing system, a computer-based test aligned with the Common Core educational standards that Utah shares with most states.
Stephenson said the Northwest test would not be a permanent solution, but could serve as a placeholder while lawmakers and the state school board look at other options.
"It may be part of a long-term solution, but I don't know that it is," he said.
Stephenson was initially joined on his radio program by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan.
But on Monday, Osmond took a lighter tone, saying he would like the state school board to revisit the issue of appropriate testing, but he would not be sponsoring legislation or issuing a mandate to halt the SAGE test.
He said parents, teachers and policymakers benefit from a measurement of students' academic progress. But the burden placed on schools by SAGE, which ties up computer labs for weeks out of the year and consumes instructional time, needs to be addressed.
"We recommended a possible alternative solution," he said. "But at the end of the day, we're calling on the state board of education to relook at the issue and we recommend that they come up with a different approach if they can, or fix the one they've got."
But Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, president of the Utah Education Association, said the issues surrounding SAGE would not be solved by replacing it with a different test.
"It doesn't matter whether we're using SAGE or a different vendor," she said. "You're still tying up computer labs for weeks on end."
She said educators are worried about testing but not in the way that lawmakers are debating. The concern, she said, is the reliance on a single assessment for accountability measures like school grading and teacher salaries, which places a heavy burden on test performance.
"What we don't need is a different assessment," she said. "What we need to do is put a pause button on all the legislation and misuse of testing."
The state school board released a statement Monday acknowledging concerns related to the implementation of SAGE. The statement said board members would be reviewing the test and that input from the public and lawmakers is welcome.
Meanwhile, the board confirmed that SAGE testing will continue this spring.
Lee Davidson contributed to this story.