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New statewide Common Core field tests coming in March

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 9:56 am in California, Education.

Many school districts are still adjusting their instruction to implement new Common Core standards that require more rigor, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. But, starting next month, 3 million students throughout the state will be tested on the new standards in pilot assessments that are being called “tests of the tests.”

No scores will be released for students, schools, district or counties. Instead, the Smarter Balanced test developers will use the results to work out the kinks before they are administered in earnest next year.

To help prepare the community for the radical testing changes ahead, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson outlined plans for the assessments slated to take place in every district from March 18 through June 6, in a recent news release.

“It’s an exciting time for our students and our schools as California prepares to usher in assessments that reflect more of the real world than a bubble test ever could,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “From individual classrooms to school district offices and certainly at the state level, the preparations that have gone into this have been immense, and I’m looking forward to incorporating what we learn from this year’s field test into next year’s inaugural assessments.”

Assembly Bill 484, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, ended most of the state’s Standards Tests and other assessments that made up the California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR program, over the last 15 years. The new tests are aligned with the Common Core standards in English-language arts and mathematics, adopted by the California Board of Education in 2010.

Administering the tests on computers will allowing for a broader range of questions than the previous multiple-choice STAR exams. New questions will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving, reflecting the kind of learning necessary to prepare students for college and 21st Century careers.

The California Department of Education has worked with the Educational Testing Service testing contractor, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and other in the education community to develop school and parent outreach and resources.

These include:

- A Smarter Balanced website with information on the pilot test, including practice tests, at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/Sa/smarterfieldtest.asp.

- A clearinghouse of testing information for local school and district testing and technology coordinators, with forms, instructions, videos, and a schedule of workshops about administering the tests at http://californiatac.org/index.html.

- A Smarter Balanced Field Test Questions and Answers website, which is often updated with frequently asked questions and answers touching on issues such as whether a paper-and-pencil version will be available and what technology is required, at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/smarterftqa.asp.

n A technology readiness tool to help schools determine the status of their computers and bandwidth is at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/sbac-itr-faqs. asp.

n Assessment workshops for schools and districts are at http://www.startest.org/workshop.html.

n Information about the K–12 High Speed Network created for the test is at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/et/st/highspeednetwork.asp.

For middle and high school students, two new videos provide information about the test, including the role they will play in helping to prepare for the real deal in the 2014-15 school year. The high school video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXd451e580&feature=youtu.be

The middle school video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKerb7NsDUE&feature=youtu.be.

More information about Common Core standards is available by visiting: www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc.

Do you think your school and students are ready for the pilot tests?

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  • Jim

    I wonder if ANYONE is ready for these assessments. I hope parents and teachers will follow the weird series of links and dummy registration requests from the Smarter Balanced link above to finally get to the practice tests. For English Language Arts, one will find long informational passages and other sources that students must review, followed my multiple essay questions and then other items that are more multiple-choice like. I understand that these tests are designed to assess deeper understanding of the topic. And I suppose, if they were carefully administered and graded by a competent educator, they could be quite valuable.

    But now picture these computerized assessments being given, graded, and of course reformulated for the following year, every year for 6 million students in CA. Are real, qualified human beings going to score all of this? Or will they resort to computerized scoring of the essays — relying, say, on word-frequency algorithms that guess whether the student has addressed the topic based on whether s/he included the right words (regardless of syntax and usage — hey this is only a “Language Arts” test!). Or will they attempt to use the often-flawed writing evaluation software that does purport to assess spelling, grammar and usage, but often with hilarious results?

    If this were just another one of those irrelevant fads being pimped by the educrats and consultants who thrive on overseeing (non)change, we could all have a good laugh. But we’re actually supposed to be helping kids learn. This looks like a train wreck.

    For all those folks enamored of the slight variations in school APIs (“My school has an 875!” “Well, my school has an 885!”), you may find, like the parents in NY State, that the bad ol’ state assessments weren’t so bad after all!