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Testing Bill Taking Shape, Would Suspend API For Two Years

Hillel Aron | September 4, 2013

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52175279A bill moving through the California State Assembly would suspend nearly all of the old standardized tests to free up money and student energy to “field test” the new computer-based Common Core assessments.

But testing data from those field tests won’t be used for accountability purposes – they’ll simply be used as practice for students and school districts. That means that school districts would go through a year — this year — without testing data that is often used to judge how well schools and even teachers are doing — LA Unified’s new teacher evaluation system uses testing data, in part, to evaluate teachers. And schools would be without Academic Performance Index scores for the next two years.

“We’re essentially pressing reset on our current system,” says LAUSD lobbyist Edgar Zazueta. 

Only students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 would take the new Common Core tests – also known as the “Smarter Balanced test,” so named for the consortium developing assessments that align with Common Core. The tests are designed to deemphasize memorization while pressing students for a deeper understanding of the material. For some, that’s simply not enough testing.

“There will be only one assessment in high school,” says Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of Education Trust West, bemoaning the lack of testing for 9th and 10th graders. “You’re going to wait until 11th grade until you know if your child isn’t doing well in English language arts or mathematics.”

Perhaps most controversially, there are currently no plans for standardized tests in a whole host of subjects, including history, biology, physics, algebra and geometry.

“Their intent has been to terminate all of the end-of-course exams, which to me is very bad public policy,” says education consultant John Mockler.

Zazueta says that could change in the future.

“The plan is to have new assessments in various subjects,” he said. “That’s at least the objective.”

The proposed law, Assembly Bill 484, introduced by Assembly member Susan Bonilla, a northern California Democrat, was largely the brainchild of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, who said in a press release, “It’s time for a clean break from assessments that are out of date and out of sync with the work our schools are doing to shift to the Common Core and help students meet the challenges of a changing world.”

According to several sources, the newest version of the bill was crafted with input from Governor Jerry Brown, which indicates he’s likely to sign it. There may, however, be some amendments offered by the State Senate.

Under the original version of the bill, only 20 percent of California students would take the new Common Core tests. The newest version says that students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in every school district will take either the English or the math section of the new tests.

An amendment may be coming out of the Senate that would allow some districts to field test both English and math. A number of district superintendents, including John Deasy of LA Unified, are said to be pushing hard for that change.

A recent poll by PACE/USC Rossier  found that nearly two-thirds of Californians feel that students should be tested in every single grade.

Previous posts: New USC Poll: Public Approval for Testing and EvaluationsCalifornia Could Face Year With No Meaningful Testing DataLA Unified Getting $113 Million for Common Core Transition*Slim Gains, Slight Drop in English for LA Unified in CA Test Scores

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