By Len Feldman
The California Teachers Association is sponsoring newly introduced legislation — SB 800 authored by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) — that would bring California testing requirements in line with the federal government’s by eliminating statewide testing for second-grade students.
“Second-grade students are forced to undergo statewide testing each year that does not help them and does not assist teachers in assessing their performance, development and learning needs,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “Eliminating these second-grade tests will preserve precious instructional time for these students, and it saves millions of dollars at a time when schools are reeling from unprecedented funding cuts.”
Teachers complain bitterly that the testing — specifically, the second-grade Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exam — steals a significant amount of instructional time from students. The requirement also uses up more than $4.5 million annually and does not align with the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind), which does not mandate second-grade standardized testing.
The controversial second-grade testing program was slated to phase out June 30, 2007. But a 2007 deal between the governor and legislative leaders on the state budget included language extending the expiration date of second-grade testing until 2011.
Teachers and the bill’s author point out that testing generally provides only one component of a comprehensive plan to assess students’ development and learning needs. They argue that second-grade tests create harmful, unintended consequences for our youngest learners because the tests are not age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate. Experts say that data provided by the second-grade testing have not proved to be valid or reliable enough to inform teaching and learning.
Says Sanchez, “Our schools should not be allowing testing to eliminate valuable classroom instruction time for our youngest students.”