Bill to suspend STAR next year comes as CA schools pilot new testing
The first large-scale pilot testing of new assessments based on common core curriculum standards got underway Wednesday, a key milestone in which a handful of California schools participated.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium opened a three-month window for pilot testing aligned to common core standards in math and English language arts that is expected to attract as many as one million students from the 24 member states.
The intent is to gather information about the performance of the test items and the delivery of the assessments under real-life conditions. The consortium is working toward release of a final product for use in 2014-15 - although it is far from clear if California schools will be able to join the program that soon.
Two types of schools have agreed to test the system this spring. One, the scientific sample group, was specially recruited to undertake the trial run because of demographic or other characteristics that the test designers needed. The second, the voluntary group, is open to any school that wants to be included in the program.
California has about 1,100 schools entered into the scientific sample and another 1,700 in the voluntary group.
The test window opened Wednesday for the sample group with the volunteers set to begin in early April.
The deadline for joining the volunteer group has been extended to March 27.
In a related development, legislation that may dictate the next steps in revising statewide testing in California was introduced late Tuesday - AB 484 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.
The bill, as currently drafted, would take the first of multiple recommendations contained in a plan from state schools chief Tom Torlakson for rebuilding the state's assessment system.
That first step is to suspend the current Standardized Testing and Reporting system beginning in 2013-14 except for assessments required to meet federal mandates or those used in the Early Assessment Program.
A rival proposal, from state Sen. Carol Liu, would delay the suspension of California's existing Standardized Testing and Reporting system until July, 2016.
Neither bill clarifies when new testing should begin, although Torlakson's plan calls for use of the Smarter Balanced assessments based on the common core in the spring of 2015.
Many school districts and education advocacy groups have expressed concern about meeting the aggressive schedule proposed by Torlakson - largely because of the lack of state funds so far to provide the new textbooks and teacher training to go with the new curriculum standards.
Finally, the Smarter Balanced Consortium announced last week that Deb Sigman, deputy superintendent at the California Department of Education's District, School & Innovation Branch, was elected co-chair of the organization's executive committee.
Sigman was elected to the executive committee itself last July after California became a governing state within the consortium. Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to join the group in 2010.
The pilot testing, which began on Wednesday, targets grades 3 through 11 in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.
Test administrators noted that while the pilot testing will all be conducted online, the trial run does not include the computer adaptive feature designed for the operational assessment in 2014-15.
Computer adaptive testing provides an interactive platform for student testing in which a response to a question determines what the next question would be, scaling up or down in difficulty based on that first answer.
Smarter Balanced officials said the results from the pilot testing will allow initial scaling that will be used to program the adaptive test engine.
Participating schools will not receive student test scores.
To learn more about the program visit: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/