- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Student scores on Utah’s computer-based proficiency exams dropped for the first time since the test was started four years ago, according to the Utah State Board of Education.

The data made public Monday showed that proficiency rates in 2016-17 fell at every grade level in nearly every tested subject. Subjects tested include language arts, math and science.

Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson said officials “will be looking deeper into the numbers to understand reasons behind the slight decline.”

He added: “One year of decrease does not annul three years of growth, particularly when we also have 2017 data from ACT that shows an increase in Utah high school student scores.”

Language arts proficiency rates went from 44.1 percent in 2016 to 43.6 percent last school year; math rates declined from 46.5 percent to 45.7 percent; and science rates dropped from 48.7 percent to 47.5 percent.

The data also shows the number of students opting out of the tests continues to increase and is up 216 percent since the testing program named SAGE was started in 2014.

Some of the highest rates of opt-out occurred at online schools. At Utah Online School, for grades K-8 based Washington School District, 93.4 percent opted out. In its offerings for grades 7-12, 85.2 percent opted out.

Mike Kelley, spokesman for the Utah Education Association union representing teachers, said he believes growing rates of students opting out of testing are linked to “test fatigue and overtesting.”

“There’s so many things that happen in schools and the progress students make that can’t be measured by these standardized tests,” he said. “The more we test, the more we have parents opting out and it takes time for learning away from teachers.”

There were increased scores in all subjects among students with limited-English proficiency and students with disabilities.

Specifically, there were improvements in language arts scores for students who are Hispanic and of multiple races, as well as mathematics scores among students who identify with multiple races.

The State School Board will use data from student scores to calculate school grading reports to be released later this month.

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