Legislative Letter: Using SAGE assessments as part of grading, promotion

In 2014, the Parental Rights in Education bill was passed and was updated in 2015.

The bill covers many areas, but one change between 2014-2015 is problematic for Utah teachers and administrators.

Utah Code Section 53A-1-603.4.f was altered as follows

90     (f) providing that scores on the tests and assessments required under Subsection (2)(a)
91     and Subsection (3) [shallmay not be considered in determining:
92     (i) a student’s academic grade for the appropriate course [and]; or

93     (ii) whether a student [shallmay advance to the next grade level.

The practical translation for educators is this: you can’t use SAGE Summative as part of students’ term 4/final grades.

Legislating that the results of SAGE Summative may not be considered in a student’s grade is an unnecessary intrusion into school and classroom management. In practice, this results in the SAGE Summative not being used as a the summative assessment for the class when it is appropriate to do so. For example, a Biology class could use SAGE Summative as a comprehensive final, as it covers the standards taught. Instead, students may be required to take a separate final exam within 1-2 weeks of taking the SAGE final exam.

As far as grade promotion being determined by standardized assessments, are there any Utah LEAs using them for that purpose? I am not aware of any. It would be more appropriate to say that students’ promotion may not solely be determined by a test, rather than mandating it not be used at all. As student non-promotion decisions are currently handled on a case-by-case basis, the legislature should not seek to limit the information parents and educators can use in reaching a decision.

Especially when there is concern about over-testing, we should be cautious in amending our education policy in ways that may require teachers to develop redundant assessments.

I’ve already emailed these thoughts to my legislators. I encourage you to communicate what you know and think as well.

Legislative Letter 1: SB 204 and grading policy

Looking at a new assessment? Ask these questions first.

Questions to ask before adopting a computer-based test system
Assessments, like all things, are moving online. While this saves paper and creates possibilities for data and reporting, you are changing one set of problems for another. Before saying yes, make sure your vendor can work with you to answer the following questions.
Strategic
  • How well does this test fit with our district strategy?
  • How well will this help us realize our strategy?
  • How well will this fit with our existing IT infrastructure?
Accounts management
  • How will users be added and deleted?
  • Is it possible to extract user data from the SIS to set up accounts automatically?
  • What is the unique identifier for students within the system?
  • What is the unique identifier for teachers within the system?
  • How will the district manage user accounts?
  • How will teachers manage student accounts? Will they be able to print, access, and reset student passwords?
  • How hard is it to switch students to a different teacher the day of the test?
  • Can teacher/administrative users be associated with multiple schools within the assessment system?
  • What is the process for managing accommodations? Who can enter and manage students’ test accommodations? How many users per school will be able to do this?
IT Infrastructure
  • Is a secure browser available?
  • If no secure browser is available, which browser versions are supported?
  • When and how are regular system updates scheduled?
  • How are users notified of system downtime?
  • How do students begin a test session? Will they be able to switch computers mid-test?
  • For a recording component, how will teachers be trained to troubleshoot microphones?
  • Will schools need to purchase more computers to accommodate this test?
Interface
  • Does the teacher interface display the same way in all major browsers?
  • How will students be accommodated? Is there a built-in screen reader? Adjustable contrast and font size? Volume control?
  • If there is an audio component, will students be able to adjust volume during the test?
  • If there is a recording component, is there a scrubber so students can replay and re-record?
  • What tools will students be able to use within the interface? Highlighting? Flagging? Note-taking? Reference sheets? Calculators?
Data
  • What is the objective for this data?
  • Get we get large-scale data extracts or dumps? In what formats?
  • How will teachers access test results? District administrators? Students? Parents?
  • How soon the test results be ready?
  • Once the test results are ready, what is the plan or strategy for reporting on them or making use of them?
  • What user roles are available and what access to data does each role have?
Implementation and Training
  • How will employees be trained on this system? How many training opportunities before a live session?
  • What opportunities will students have to interact with this system before a live testing session?
  • How accessible is the Test Administration Manual to teachers?
  • Are user tutorials available within the system?
Cost
  • What is the cost per student? Per administration window?
  • What is the cost of related equipment: headphones, microphones, etc?
  • What is the cost of training and professional development?