Bill would overhaul student testing in California

A key hearing is set today for consideration of what may prove to be landmark legislation that would replace the state's existing statewide student performance testing program with one that is designed to be taken online and is also aligned with the new common core curriculum standards.

The bill would also usher in another snappy new education acronym, the CalMAPP21 - or the California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress for the 21st Century.

AB 484 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla would implement key parts of the new assessment plan released earlier this year by state schools chief Tom Torlakson. The bill is scheduled to receive its hearing today before the Assembly's Education Committee.

But the elephant in the room is how the Legislature and the Brown administration intend on paying the cost of transition - the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for new textbooks, teacher training and technology upgrades - a question that is left unaddressed.

It comes almost three years after the California State Board of Education formally adopted the common core standards in math and English language arts and officially sets two critical dates that California schools will have to respond.

First, the suspension of the current Standardized Testing and Reporting program - called STAR - effective July 1, 2013. Second, the start date for when students will begin being tested in the new common core content, the 2014-15 school year.

The bill also establishes that all schools in California will use new computer testing being developed by a consortium of states aimed at measuring student progress toward college and career readiness. That testing in California will be known as CalMAPP21.

If adopted, testing in the second grade would be eliminated as well as testing now administrated to newly-arrived Spanish-speaking students.

While the bill enjoys significant support - including the California Teachers Association - it faces an enormous challenge mostly because of the one year transition that schools will need to make from the old STAR program to the new CalMAPP21.

A rival bill being considered in the state Senate, SB 247 by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, would give schools at least an additional year to make the change.

Districts have known since 2010 that the common core was coming - but the state has been unable as a result of the fiscal crisis from giving schools the millions needed to buy updated instructional materials and train teachers in the new content standards. That remains a big challenge.

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