K-12 Math and English Standards to Undergo Review

The Utah State Board of Education voted Friday to begin a review of English language arts and mathematics standards and move toward discontinuing SAGE testing in high schools.

With a 13-2 vote, State Board members will begin a “comprehensive review and update” of English language arts and mathematics standards at the elementary and secondary levels – contingent on receiving a one-time supplement from the Utah Legislature to cover the costs.

“Board Members look forward to working with teachers, parents, and administrators as we review our standards and hope to move beyond the controversy that surrounds the Common Core standards,” said Board Chair David Crandall.

The Standards and Assessment Committee was assigned the issue and will return to the full State Board will recommendations on timing and funding estimates.

The State Board also voted 11-4 to support the elimination of administering the SAGE test in ninth and 10th grades and replace it with the ACT. The ACT has been paid for and administered to all high school juniors in Utah for the past three years. SAGE was made optional for 11th-graders through a bill passed in this year’s legislative session. Further changes require legislative approval.

Members of the State Board have for months discussed removing or making SAGE, the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence, voluntary in high school grades.

The issue was assigned to the Board’s Accountability Task Force to study. Any final change would require legislative action before finalization. It will require changes in how state initiatives, including the School Grading Act and School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act, are calculated.

“Board members have long been concerned with the time spent on end-of-level testing in schools. However, we believe accurate and targeted assessment data remain key indicators of success, and our goal is to provide an appropriate balance within Utah classrooms,” said Vice Chair David Thomas.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called on the State Board last week to implement unique Utah standards and endorse a plan to eliminate SAGE in high school. On Friday, he visited the State Board meeting and participated in a robust, 90-minute discussion on both issues.

Academic standards are, by state statute, set by the State Board and include English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, driver’s education, fine arts, health and physical education, K-12 integrated core, world languages, and library media. The Board began adopting statewide standards in 1984. In 2010, the Board adopted English language arts and mathematics standards as developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. In 2013, the Board revised many of the standards and again this year voted to change K-6 mathematics standards.

SAGE was implemented in 2013-14 after the Utah Legislature voted in 2012 to establish a statewide computer-adaptive testing system. The assessment system, used for English language arts, mathematics, and science, was developed uniquely for Utah. Some of its items are now leased to five states.