by Claudia Briggs
Test! A word that often sends chills up the spine of a young child, knowing that a big one is coming later this week or next. Well, there’s good news for California students, because those high-stakes STAR tests are not coming at all this school year.
Earlier this year, CTA members led the National Education Association in demanding a moratorium on high-stakes testing until the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are in place, curricula are developed, and educators have opportunities for professional development.
Thanks to Assembly Bill 484, authored by Assembly Member Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), and sponsored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, outdated tests mandated under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) are immediately suspended so students and educators can prepare for the new computer-based assessments aligned to the CCSS.
As signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 484 immediately suspends the current Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program and allows students and educators to fully prepare to transition to the state's new assessment program, the Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP).
“AB 484 gives students an opportunity to do a practice run this school year on the new computer-based tests. It makes no sense to test students on material they haven’t been taught or to force them to take two tests," says CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “Although our students are always more than a test score, the tests they do take must be relevant and meaningful. This law helps ensure we have an accountability system that works for California.”
Field tests of the Smarter Balanced assessments will be given in 2014 and are expected to reveal how prepared schools are to administer the new assessments and how students respond. The tests will be given to students in English-language arts and mathematics in grades 3-8 and grade 10. AB 484 lifts the state requirement of testing second-graders, which was never required under ESEA.
Because the transition will leave a lack of comparable data, AB 484 authorizes the state superintendent of public instruction to suspend the Academic Performance Index (API) for the first two years of the assessment, 2013-14 and 2014-15. The bill also restricts the use of data from field tests for development purposes only. This accountability holiday is in place to accommodate the needs of all school districts as they work toward full implementation of the CCSS.
California is committed to implementing CCSS and the required assessments correctly, even if it means upsetting U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Based on evidence and research, the new state standards are aligned with college and work expectations, and are more rigorous. They require critical thinking skills and are internationally benchmarked for comparison with other countries.
The Common Core State Standards completely change how teachers teach and what students will be expected to learn, and therefore require training, professional development, textbooks and instructional materials, along with time to get used to the new computer-based assessments in order for students to succeed under the new modernized standards.
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