November 13, 2013
Transitioning from California’s old standards to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) over the past three years has been both exciting and challenging. Implementing an assessment system that is aligned to the new standards is a critical next step in this process as it will provide both accountability and important information to our teachers and administrators.
To address this need, California’s Governor signed a bill last month that eliminates the multiple choice standardized tests in reading, math, and social science that California public school students have been taking since 1999. Assembly Bill (AB) 484 replaces these pencil-and-paper exams with new computer-based adaptive tests. The new assessment system, called the California Measurement of Academic Progress and Performance (CalMAPP), includes the Smarter Balanced CCSS-aligned assessments for English language arts and mathematics.
Although we applaud taking the leap to assessments aligned to the Common Core, AB 484 also limited administration of the assessments to either English or math. In other words, California’s more than 6 million students will only get the benefit of “test driving” half of the of the new Common Core-aligned assessments. With this partial pilot of the new assessments, California risks sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education that could lead to California losing millions in federal education funds. But even more concerning, our students will not get the benefit a full field test in both English and math would provide.
By taking this approach, California misses an opportunity to test our readiness and improve instruction aligned to the Common Core. These field tests won’t be used for accountability purposes, which is positive because this gives educators an opportunity to experience and understand the new expectations we have for 21st century teaching and learning without distractions and fearing negative consequences. But with a field test limited to half of our students in each core subject, educators won’t get a true picture of how instruction and student performance relates to the new assessments.
Rather than a limited field test of the new CCSS-aligned assessments, all students should have the opportunity to take both the math and the English language arts assessments supported by the state. A comprehensive statewide field test would also provide important information for school districts about whether they have the technology infrastructure in place to support computer-based adaptive assessments and much better prepare students and teachers for full CCSS implementation. While we don’t want to turn back the clock on the way we measure teaching and learning in California, we strongly urge California officials to appropriately prepare for the future by committing to a true statewide field test of CCSS-aligned assessments. We owe it to every student in California to have the full benefit of both the math and English language arts assessments.