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Legislature Passes Bill to Test Students with New Assessments

The California Legislature passed a bill to start testing students with new assessments next spring instead of using the existing standardized tests.

Assembly Bill 484, which has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, would replace the mathematics and English language arts tests for grades 2 through 11 with new assessments that focus on the Common Core State Standards.

The proposed Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress would have “field tests” designed by a multistate Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement last week.

“California’s shift to the Common Core is about helping students meet the challenges of a changing world, and AB 484 recognizes that updating the way we teach students also means upgrading the way we test them,” he said.

The Common Core curriculum standards get fully implemented in 2014-15, but districts are already starting to use them, Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent Dave Cash said. He thinks the idea behind AB 484 would help transition to the Common Core since teachers are already focusing their instruction to the new standards.  

“I’ve been watching the bill closely and think … we didn’t get everything I think we needed to have in it, but it’s a good place to start," Cash said. "I’m hopeful that the governor signs it.”

Despite the Legislature’s support, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made it clear that every student in grades 3-8 and 11 has to be assessed for the state to be compliant with No Child Left Behind — and AB 484 doesn’t seem to require that, Cash said.

Even if Brown signs it, there may not be any testing changes in spring.

“It’s unclear just because if we don’t get the waiver for the federal government, there will be no changes,” Cash said. “I don’t think the state will say it doesn’t need Title 1 money so, until we get a clear sign from the U.S. Department of Education that they are not going to withhold funds, then I think it’s kind of a stare-down between the State of California and the U.S. government.” 

Since next spring's “field tests” would not test every single student like the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) does, results would not be reportable back to students, schools or the state, which is the main criticism.

“It’s a fairly messy situation right now,” Cash said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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