Team Trump may give CA a break on double science testing

Team Trump may give CA a break on double science testing

(Calif.) It would appear that California has resolved its double testing of science curriculum with the U.S. Department of Education, according to a memo released Monday.

The state board of education, along with schools chief Tom Torlakson, has been in the uncomfortable position for more than a year of requiring schools to test students on outdated science curriculum standards or defy federal regulators.

Under the Obama administration, federal officials refused to accept an assessment program based on the Next Generation Science Standards adopted by the California State Board of Education in September, 2013.

But with the Trump administration taking office, the question got a new hearing in January as well as a conference call in March that resulted in a “recommendation” from the Department of Education that California submit a one-year waiver request.

State officials are circumspect about the potential outcomes, but a spokesman for the California Department of Education said Tuesday that they continue to engage in conversations with federal regulators and are “hopeful” that a new waiver will be approved.

In an April 28 letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from Torlakson and Mike Kirst, state board president, the wavier would allow California to:

  • Pilot testing aligned with the new Next Generation Science Standards, or CA NGSS, “without creating a double testing situation for all eligible students enrolled in grades five and eight and once in high school.”
  • Suspend the former science tests, “which are based on outdated science standards, and provide a signal to California educators to transition their daily classroom instruction from the previous science content standards to the new CA NGSS.”
  • Temporarily suspend the required reporting of individual student scores for the 2016-17 school year for the pilot. “California still intends to provide student participation rates at school-, district-, and county-levels for the pilot test to the U.S. Department of Education (ED).”

The dispute with the Obama administration centered on how the state would transition from the old science standards, adopted in 1998, to the new Next Generation Standards.

Last year, the state submitted a waiver request to terminate pen-and-pencil, multiple choice testing for fifth, eighth and 10th graders. Replacing the old tests, the state said, would be a computer-based assessment that would have been pilot tested last spring with another longer roll out this spring.

But the Obama administration rejected the plan. They argued that by piloting the tests over a two-year period violated provisions of federal education law–both the No Child left Behind Act, which was still on the books, and the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was soon to be adopted by Congress.

In a memo to the state board released Monday, Torlakson did not say that the issue was resolved, but he did note the fact that the Department of Education had invited another waiver application.

“A phone conversation about the science waiver was conducted between the California Department of Education, the SBE and ED, which resulted in the decision to submit a one-year waiver,” Torlakson said.