By Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.
In the span of a week, California launched a new era of online testing in public schools, and then suspended accountability for student achievement measured under the new assessments. It is understandable if parents find this confusing, even counter-intuitive. Keep in mind, however, that our public schools are undergoing one of the most dramatic periods of transition in recent memory. From a local perspective, the state Board of Education’s move to suspend accountability makes sense if it is intended to give teachers and students more time to adjust to the new standardized tests.
Suspending California’s evaluation system means test scores this year won’t be used to take corrective actions. Numerous parent, teacher and education organizations argued in favor of the delay at the state Board. The decision comes as state education officials are planning an overhaul of California’s accountability system in favor of one that uses multiple measures, rather than just test results, to determine how well schools perform.
While the Chula Vista Elementary School District was better prepared than many districts for the new online assessments, I welcome the decision of the state Board to allow our schools and others more time to ensure that everything works properly. This increased time will help our students better understand how to use the test.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently launched online exams in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, which will be given to more than 3 million students. California PTA leaders, staunch advocates of the new state standards, also lent their voice in support of the online tests. The new assessments include activities that more closely mirror what students are learning in class. They provide a more accurate understanding of student knowledge than previous tests because they ask students to show and apply what they know, instead of just picking the right answer from a multiple-choice question. The new tests allow students to demonstrate their ability to write analytically, think critically, and solve problems along with their knowledge of facts.
The new assessment system is an important step in California’s aggressive plan to improve teaching and learning in every school. The plan includes setting higher academic standards, giving local schools and communities more control over spending decisions, and providing more resources to students with the greatest needs.
In the words of Torlakson, “These tests reflect the exciting changes taking place in California classrooms. Instead of being asked to merely pick out multiple-choice answers, students are being tested on their ability to reason and think. They must draw logical conclusions and cite evidence from what they have read, and they must solve real-world math problems. And now, like an academic check-up, these tests will give parents, teachers, and schools the feedback they need to help students succeed.”
Here is a link of helpful information for parents about the new assessments from the California State PTA: http://capta.org/focus-areas/education/student-assessments/
Student Assessments | The California State PTA
The mission of the California State PTA is to positively impact the lives of all children and families.