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What did Utah kids think of new state tests?
Education » Some say wording of SAGE questions was poor; others like old multiple choice format.

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"Our goal was to really do those higher-order thinking skills and the response I got from kids, it really did accomplish that," Park said.

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Confusing writing? » Many students also criticized how the test was written. "They worded the questions really weirdly," said Kayla Hepner, who will be a senior at Olympus.

Dallin Bettilyon, who will be a junior at Olympus, had similar thoughts. "It was very confusing," he said. "The questions were worded poorly."

Isaac Nielson, who will be a junior at Cottonwood High, said, "The wording on some of the questions just didn’t work."

Park said it appears some students were confused about what they were supposed to do on certain questions. State officials will look into that as they analyze the tests this summer, she said.

If they find, for example, that almost all students got a certain question wrong, they could opt not to count that question. On the other hand, if they find all students answered a particular question correctly, they might also decide to throw that question out, assuming it was too easy.

‘A really different experience’ » Other students slammed SAGE for testing them on things they say they never learned in class. The tests are based on new Common Core State Standards — academic standards adopted by Utah and most other states in an attempt to better prepare kids for college and careers.

"I feel like a lot of the subjects on the tests were things we never covered," said Carly Roloff, who will be a senior at Olympus.

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Park acknowledged that some schools had to start testing earlier because they had limited access to computers. She noted that schools didn’t get any additional state money for computers this legislative session.

Park also said training will continue for teachers on how to teach the new standards.

Some students, however, simply felt the test was stacked against them.

Whitney Lowther, who was a Copper Hills Middle School ninth-grader this last school year, said the rumor among students was that SAGE "was made for you to fail."

While the tests weren’t designed to fail everyone, there’s no doubt, Park said, that SAGE was more difficult than CRTs.

Park said it’s entirely possible that the state as a whole will see lower scores on SAGE than it did on CRTs once the results are released in the fall. In future years, students will see their test results immediately after taking SAGE.

Park and JoEllen Shaeffer, assessment director at the State Office of Education, said SAGE wasn’t designed to be the type of assessment in which students could nail every question.

"It’s a really different experience for kids who have been used to walking in and acing the test," Shaeffer said.

Perhaps Olympus High junior Anna Pinnock summed it up best when she said this first year was somewhat hit-or-miss.

"It’s new and a good idea," Pinnock said, "but I feel like all the kinks haven’t been worked out."

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