March 10, 2015
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson Starts New Era of Student Assessment
Online Exams Allow Students to Demonstrate Writing, Thinking, Problem-Solving
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson launched a new era of student testing in California today, providing online exams in English language arts/literacy and mathematics to more than 3 million students based on the state's more challenging academic standards.
Students in grades three through eight and eleven can now begin taking the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in the first statewide administration of new tests to replace the paper-based, multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The new tests allow students to demonstrate their ability to write analytically, think critically, and solve problems along with their knowledge of facts.
"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," Torlakson said. "And now, like an academic check-up, these tests will give parents, teachers, and schools the feedback they need to help students succeed."
The state's new assessment system is the next 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.
"This is about helping students succeed in the long run and realize their dreams of attending college and working in rewarding careers," Torlakson said.
Torlakson cautioned parents and the public against comparing the results of the new assessments with the old STAR exams, and acknowledged that many schools and students will need more time to become attuned to the state's new standards and the tests that go with them.
"The new tests are too different from the old exams to make reliable comparisons between old scores and new," Torlakson said. "This year's test results will establish a baseline for the progress we expect students to make over time."
California is among 21 states nationwide participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a state-led organization that developed new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which California adopted in 2010.
California PTA president Colleen A.R. You said the new tests will check to see if our students are on track to be college- and career-ready, but she cautioned that it will take time to get used to the new tests and reports.
She urged parents to stay informed. "We are encouraging parents to ask questions and talk to their child, their child's teacher and school district leaders to be more informed and engaged during this time of transition," she said.
SCUSD Superintendent José L. Banda said he is optimistic about the future. "Change is never easy," he said. "But I truly believe the shift in our classrooms toward more critical thinking, more problem solving, and a more integrated use of technology will lift a generation of students to higher levels of achievement."
Banda said he is "proud of our hard-working teachers, students, parents, and staff that are managing the transition to new standards and new tests with grace and persistence."
California students took part in both pilot testing of the exams in 2013 and field testing in 2014 in preparation for this year's launch.
Based on the results of field tests, many students will need to make significant progress to reach the standards set for math and literacy that accompany college- and career-readiness. Scores will not be used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade.
Torlakson said the new testing system was developed to help teachers. Since the assessments use computer-adaptive technology, they provide more accurate information about individual student performance and convey the information to teachers, schools, and school districts on a timelier basis.
Despite extensive preparations, providing the tests online for so many students poses technical and logistical challenges. Paper versions of the test will be available to schools without sufficient computers or online capacity. Other issues are bound to arise over the course of testing administration for such a large and complex state.
"It's going to take patience and persistence to help our schools succeed during this time of transition," Torlakson said.
Testing can commence today, but exact testing dates for each school are determined by a school's calendar and local officials. In addition to the CAASP exams in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, schools will also be administering other exams throughout the spring, including:
California Alternate Assessment (CAA)
A field test in English language arts/literacy and mathematics will be administered to all students who have a significant cognitive disability in grades three through eight and eleven. The computer-based field test will examine the performance of test items and will not yield individual scores. Items are aligned with CCSS and are based on the Core Content Connectors (CCCs) developed with three tiers of complexity.
The California Standards Test (CST), the California Modified Assessment (CMA) or the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) for Science
All students in grades five, eight, and ten will be administered a science examination. Students will either take the CST, the CMA, or the CAPA dependent on a student's individualized education program.
The Standards-based Tests in Spanish (STS)The STS is an optional assessment for Reading/Language Arts that may be administered to students who are Spanish-speaking English learners in grades two through eleven who have attended school in the United States for less than 12 months.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100