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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sixth graders at Fox Hollow Elementary School in Lehi take new computer adaptive SAGE tests on Friday, April 3. Some parents at the school in the Alpine District are having their children opt out, concerned about the content of the questions and other issues.
What did Utah kids think of new state tests?
Education » Some say wording of SAGE questions was poor; others like old multiple choice format.
First Published Jun 16 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 16 2014 11:00 am

Parents weighed in.

Teachers formed opinions.

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Politicians had their say.

But now that school’s out and end-of-year exams are over, what did kids think of the state’s new SAGE tests?

Some students liked the exams better than the old Criterion Referenced Tests (CRTs) — but many of those with whom The Salt Lake Tribune spoke panned the assessments.

"It didn’t really reflect how smart people are because it was just so confusing," said Abby Morgan, who will be a junior at Olympus High this fall. "Everyone did really bad on it, unless you got lucky."

Most Utah students sat for hours in front of computers during the last months of school, taking the new tests in math, language arts and science. Their scores will not be available until this fall.

Unlike the old tests, SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) exams are computer-adaptive, meaning they change in difficulty as students respond to questions. The idea behind the tests is to better pinpoint students’ strengths and weaknesses, allowing teachers to better focus their instruction.

Test results won’t affect students’ grades, but they will play into the grades their schools get from the state.

"I didn’t love it," said Jane Froerer, who will be a senior at Olympus High, "but it’s a test, so I’m not going to be the biggest fan of it."

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Beyond multiple choice » Unlike CRTs, the new tests are interactive. They’re not just multiple choice — something many students liked and others hated.

For example, a science question might ask students to manipulate a chart. In math, they might have to fill in the rest of an equation.

That interactivity was a hit with many students — and a bomb with others.

"It was a little more entertaining than the CRTs," said recent Cottonwood High graduate Theresa Nielson, who took the physics SAGE exam. "It was more hands-on."

Maddie Liddell, who will be a junior at Olympus High, said the format meant "you actually get to be creative when you do it."

The flip side, of course, was there was no easy way to guess on many questions.

"You had to know your stuff to get it right," said Gus Stevens, who will be a junior at Cottonwood High.

Kayla Williams, who was a ninth-grader at Herriman’s Copper Mountain Middle School this past school year, said the interactive questions were often difficult.

"Sometimes you had no idea what the equation was supposed to be," Williams said. "At least on multiple choice you have a better idea of what the answer is supposed to be."

Judy Park, state associate superintendent, said she’s heard similar feedback — some kids loved it while others missed the more straightforward ease of multiple choice.

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