Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Florida to pay Utah $5.4M for Common Core test rental

By Benjamin Wood, Deseret News

Published: Mon, April 7 4:17 p.m. MDT

 The State Board of Education has approved a plan to lease materials from the state's new computer adaptive testing system to Florida for roughly $5.4 million. The board also approved licensing with other interested states in the future.

The State Board of Education has approved a plan to lease materials from the state's new computer adaptive testing system to Florida for roughly $5.4 million. The board also approved licensing with other interested states in the future.

(Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's new computer adaptive testing system is set to generate as much as $5.4 million for the state through a licensing agreement with Florida approved Friday by the State Board of Education.

The test, commonly referred to as SAGE testing, is currently being used in schools for the first time and was developed specifically for Utah to align with the Common Core State Standards, a series of national academic benchmarks adopted voluntarily by all but six states.

But Florida officials have requested the use of Utah's test materials for one year while educators there continue work on their own state-specific assessment.

"Florida is developing their own assessment so this is just to get them started," Associate State Superintendent Judy Park said.

The board also gave approval to the State Office of Education to pursue similar licensing agreements in the future.

Park said funds from the licensing agreement will be used primarily to generate additional test materials and expand the bank of questions in Utah's SAGE system.

Some test materials will also need to be replaced, Park said, due to intentional release for practice materials or in the event that a question is compromised, such as a recent incident where a Utah student took photos of a testing screen and posted the images to anti-Common Core websites.

Park said the material shared by the student will have to be eliminated from SAGE testing and the cost of replacing a single test question, she said, is between $5,000 and $10,000.

More than 11,000 individual questions have been developed for SAGE. Park said that while officials have not yet determined a target number for assessment materials, the state will need to develop "a whole lot more" questions for the testing system.

"With a larger bank (of questions), that means that if a question is compromised you already have other items to fill in the hole," she said.

Utah's SAGE testing has generated vocal criticism largely due to its perceived connection to the Common Core, which is seen by some as a federal takeover of education despite being developed by a consortium of state leaders.

The test has also generated angst due to its unfamiliar 21st-century format, which requires computers in place of a paper and pencil and which adjusts in difficulty based on correct and incorrect answers, resulting in a unique set of questions for each individual student.

Those concerns have led to an increase in the number of parents refusing to let their students participate in year-end testing. The State School Board recently revised its policy on test participation, allowing parents to opt-out their students from SAGE testing without penalizing a school or teachers under state accountability systems, such as school grading.

Federal accountability reports continue to require that 95 percent of a student body be tested each year in core subjects, meaning that students who opt-out could potentially hurt Utah's performance when compared with other states.

Park said the amount of money Utah receives from Florida will depend on the total number of items licensed and students who participate in the testing. At this point no other states have expressed interest in licensing Utah's test questions.

She also said that education officials are pleased with the first wave of adaptive testing.

"We're very pleased with this initial roll-out," Park said. "It's gone much smoother and much better than we anticipated."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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1. worf
Mcallen, TX,
April 7, 2014

See! It's not the lack of funding which causes low teachers pay.

It's the obsession of standardized testing, assessments, and accountability.

Non of these have improved learning. Poverty,and dependency has increased.

If standardized testing, assessments, and accountability worked, we would have a nation of geniuses.

2. Steven S Jarvis
Orem, UT,
April 8, 2014

If they want a steep discount on that 5K per test question, I will do it for $50 per test question and likely do it better than what they currently have. The amount of money they are wasting to generate one question is staggering. Knowing we as teachers will not have any information about how are students have done for this first year as they "determine" validity makes the whole process a waste of time.

3. worf
Mcallen, TX,
April 8, 2014

If all these standardized testing promotes good learning.

Why are we giving out tens of thousands visas per year for highly skilled workers of other countries?

4. Steve Cottrell
Centerville, UT,
April 8, 2014

The cost per test question is not given in the article. The price to replace a question and integrate it into the computer administered material so that the use of that question is determined by the student response to prior questions may well cost the $5000 per question.

5. RedShirtCalTech
Pasedena, CA,
April 8, 2014

I had to chuckle when they said that the test is not part of Common Core just a few paragraphs after stating that the test is designed to show how Utah aligns with Common Core.

Which is it? Do we have Common Core standards or not? Based on this article, I would say Yes, Utah has Common Core standards and no matter what they rename them they are Common Core standards.