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LA Unified board to consider request to delay computer tests

Vanessa Romo | January 12, 2015

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In its first meeting of 2015, the LA Unified school board tomorrow will debate a range of issues, from students’ eating alone to farm workers’ pay. But it’s the issue of state testing that will have the most immediate and significant impact on more than 300,000 district students.

Adding a powerful voice to the growing opposition against using the Smarter Balanced computer test this spring as means of measuring academic growth, board Members Monica Ratliff and Tamar Galatzan have co-sponsored a resolution that asks the state to delay use of the test results for any official purposes.

“It would be patently unfair to use the Spring 2015 SBAC assessment results for high stakes accountability purposes with respect to the students, teachers and schools of the District and any other school districts in a similar situation,” they say in their resolution, which will be voted on during the afternoon session.

Rarely do Galatzan and Ratliff work together on an issue. If passed, their measure would put the state’s largest school district in opposition to the tests.

The primary objection is not that students are ill-prepared in the subject matter — the new Common Core standards — but rather, they have not had the sufficient time to become familiar with the testing devices on which the computerized exam will be administered.

Due to a slew of technical and organizational challenges, the district has been unsuccessful in getting tablets and laptops into the hands of all students taking the test. All students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 are required to take the exam.

If passed, the message from the board to the State Board of Education would echo the plea made by LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines in December. In a letter to State Chief Superintendent Tom Torlakson, Cortines wrote, “[W]e do not feel that our students have had adequate time practicing on the testing devices.”

As a result, he added, “I would like to ask that any data or scores derived from [testing] not have a negative impact on state and/or federal funds that are allocated for the students in LAUSD.”

The state Board of Education will take up the issue at its next meeting, on Wednesday.

“Only the State Education Board has the power to decide on that,” Pam Slater, a spokesperson for Torlakson’s office told LA School Report.

Slater says no decisions have been made on how districts will calculate academic growth, should the Smarter Balanced test scores be delayed, but it’s possible they could rely on the formula used this year: an average of the last three years worth of API scores.

“Again, it’s the State Board that will guide how this is going to look for the future,” she said.


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