Seniors Must Take Sage Test This Year

Ethan Sutton, Staff Writer

If a film crew were to film students at Highland as if they were making a wildlife documentary during the announcement of the SAGE changes, it might like this:
Wild senior high school students gather around for their meetings called “class.” While sitting around doing what seniors do, the alpha of the population makes an announcement over some phonographic device that echoes throughout the entire structure which these wild students inhabit. Every creature listens. The words, “Seniors now must take the SAGE” brings a chill across the whole habitat. No one is safe. The animals start howling at the face of a new enemy. The ferocious hunter “SAGE” seeks revenge.
The Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence, also known as the SAGE test, is a test that was established in 2014 to replace the old CRT tests. Normally, it has been taken by grades three through 11, yet that policy changed this year.
Seniors are now asked to take SAGE, which has made many wonder the validity for such a mandate. Why would a test specifically designed for 3rd-11th graders now affect seniors? Is there no escape now from the test students tend to dread? Really, why do students dislike the test in the first place?
“I hope it burns in hell,” senior KJ Jackson said. Jackson’s sentiment is shared by many, mostly due to the increased rigor of the test compared to its predecessor, the CRT. When SAGE was first implemented in 2014, the average test scores compared to the CRT test dropped significantly. English language arts (ELA) class average pass rate dropped to 42 percent from 83 percent and the same happened to math, which dropped also to 42 percent from 79 percent. The test is supposed to be more intense in its structure, so people were not surprised that first year when the scores dropped significantly.
In 2017, the average pass or “proficiency” rate has not increased greatly since then. Utah stands at a 44 percent pass rate in language arts, with 46 percent in math and 48 percent in science. These numbers have not come close to being recovered to the old CRT proficiency rates. Highland is far below the average with 37 percent in math, 31 percent in ELA, and 28 percent in science.
All of those statistics were before the policy change to include seniors. And seniors, like others, are frustrated about the exam.
“It’s boring and pointless. It doesn’t affect anything, it’s just there to be there,” Highland student Javier Hernandez said.
Others don’t believe it helps in their education.
“It’s not really meant to see what we learn but what we can memorize,” Highland senior Aidan Campbell said.
Even Highland counselor Sierra Collins thinks it’s not the best assessment for students.
“I think the ACT is a much better test because it helps the students on a more personal level,” Collins said.
However, principal Chris Jenson states that there are benefits to having the SAGE test, with the biggest benefit being that it impacts the image of the school itself.
“Student’s don’t care because [SAGE] does not affect their transcripts like the ACT does, so people don’t care because it doesn’t affect their future,” Jenson said. “But [SAGE] matters because it represents the school. We have a C average–which I’m not losing sleep over–but it would be great if we had a higher average on SAGE. It would be nice to have every student say they go with rigorous education.”
One of SAGE’s purposes is to help benchmark schools in Utah to see where each school lies in each subject, and how to help the students for next year. Jenson believes that only freshmen and sophomores were going to take SAGE test this year as a “phase-out” effort, but the state is ordering all students to take the SAGE.
Even though the numbers are made public, Jenson does not believe the school should be looked at poorly because of low SAGE scores.
“Education isn’t all about testing,” Jenson said.
But for a few days in the spring, the school will be all about SAGE.