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State moves toward Common Core testing

Posted: October 4, 2013 6:37 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2013 6:37 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA - Local school district officials are applauding a state effort to move away from traditional paper-and-pencil tests in favor of computer-based ones, saying the shift will help students become familiar with new national education standards that are expected to go into effect in the next few years.

These new language and math assessments are expected to be more in line with Common Core State Standards — a set of measurements that emphasize critical thinking and real-world application of classroom activities and are meant to standardize instruction across state lines.

“We’re looking forward to a change that will actually be a benefit to our children,” said Saugus Union School District Superintendent Joan Lucid.

California’s move was authorized by Assembly Bill 484, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday.
Under the provisions of the bill, California will suspend the long-held Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, tests and start moving toward the new assessments.

“I think it’s the right way to go,” said Dave LeBarron, the director of curriculum and assessment for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger said he too supported moving toward Common Core but is somewhat worried about accountability.

California schools will not be required to report standardized test scores as they get used to the new way of testing.

This means Academic Performance Index scores, used to measure improvement or decline in student proficiency, will also not be recorded, according to officials.

“I think we owe it to the public to let them know what and how we’re doing,” Winger said of the performance scores.

But he and officials in other districts say they have other, internal methods of gauging performance and progress in ways that are similar to STAR tests.

“The STAR test, quite frankly, is a large summary of the year,” LeBarron said. “We have assessments happening continually internally, and that’s not changing.”

Sulphur Springs School District Superintendent Bob Nolet said the district is still examining the implications of the bill, but that moving to familiarize students with Common Core is the right way to go.

“It’s very exciting for the state of California and for our students,” he said. “It allows us to really become far more familiar with not only Common Core Standards but how those standards are going to be assessed, and that can only benefit us in the long run.”

But not everyone in the education field is a fan of California’s move. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, for instance, threatened last month to withhold funding from the state, since California will not be reporting the standardized scores that largely determine funding levels.

Those scores are used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress, a component of compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, which sets performance goals for national schools.

Local officials also spoke favorably of abandoning No Child Left Behind, especially since the law requires 100 percent of students to demonstrate proficiency in tested subject areas by 2014.

“You’re not going to get 100 percent proficiency under any circumstance,” Nolet said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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