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Reported SAGE scores largely unchanged from 2017, but fewer students opt out

By Marjorie Cortez, KSL | Posted - Sep 14th, 2018 @ 7:45am



SALT LAKE CITY — The percentage of Utah public school students proficient in language arts and mathematics was largely unchanged from 2017, according to 2018 SAGE test data released Thursday by the Utah State Board of Education.

However, the number of students who opted out of the end-of-level Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence tests dropped slightly from the previous year, with 4.5 percent of students in school districts not taking the test compared to 5 percent a year ago. Also, 11.6 percent of charter school students opted out, down from 13 percent in 2017.

Statewide, the opt-out rate dropped from 5.9 to 5.3 percent, which is an improvement but still below federal accountability standards, which require states to test 95 percent of their students.

Among demographic groups, English learners had some of the lowest proficiency levels, with just 14.8 percent proficient in language arts and 17.5 percent proficient in mathematics.

Asian students had the highest proficiency in mathematics — 54.8 percent — compared to 46.3 for all students. White students had the highest proficiency in language arts, 50.75 percent, compared to 45 percent for the state.

Students who are white, Asian or multiracial outperformed other minority groups. There were small gains in proficiency among all racial and ethnic groups.

"Students who are economically disadvantaged also struggle more with proficiency than students who are not, but again there were small gains in proficiency here, too," the state press release states.

Overall, mathematic proficiency held steady at 46 percent of public school students and increased slightly in language arts from 44 percent to 45 percent.

The data showed strong results in some of the state's most rural places.

For instance, 73 percent of students at Belknap Elementary School in Beaver School District were proficient in math in 2018, up from 64 percent the previous year. Seventy-one percent of Belknap students were proficient in language arts, compared to 67 percent a year ago.

Math and language art proficiency was up in the Cache School District, with 64 percent proficient in math in the 2017-18 school year, up from 60 the previous year.

In Salt Lake County, Granite School District's Oakridge Elementary School experienced significant gains in proficiency over the previous year, with 81 percent of students proficient in math compared to 64 the previous year. In language arts, 78 percent of students tested proficient in language arts, up from 68 percent a year ago.

Two charter schools that specialize in math, science and engineering also posted impressive scores.

Seventy-seven percent of students at the Academy of Math, Engineering and Science in Salt Lake County were proficient in language arts and 64 percent in math, both improved from the previous year.

At the Utah County Academy of Sciences, 78 percent of students were proficient in language arts, according to new results, slightly down from the previous year. But 69 percent of student were proficient in math, the latest results show.

To see how your neighborhood school performed, visit datagateway.schools.utah.gov/Assessment/SAGE/2018.

The report does not include science proficiency scores for grades six through eight nor growth scores in science for any grade, but science scores are expected to be released later this fall.

In December 2015, the State School Board updated Utah's science standards. After a year to train teachers on the new standards, updated assessments that match the new standards were introduced during the 2017-18 school year.

Those assessments are in a "validation process" to ensure they match the new standards, according to a State School Board Press release.

SAGE testing, which has been administered to students in grades three through 11 since 2014, is being phased out because the state's contract with the test maker has expired.

RISE tests will be rolled out for students in grades three through eight later this year, while students in grades nine and 10 will take the Utah Aspire Plus exam. High school juniors will continue to take the ACT exam.

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