November 21, 2013
State Expands Field Tests of New Common Core-Aligned Assessments
California Submits Waiver Application to Federal Government to Avoid "Double Testing" Students
SACRAMENTO—State officials are expanding an upcoming field test of modern, computer-based assessments so that hundreds of thousands of students may test in both math and English-language arts, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said today.
California is also applying for a "double testing" waiver from the federal government, which would allow students to avoid wasting valuable learning time by taking both the field test and a separate end-of-year state test. Assembly Bill 484, which Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., signed into law last month, ended most of the California Standards Tests and other assessments that had comprised the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting program (STAR) for the past 15 years.
"This move to up-to-date new assessments marks a major step forward in California's work to ensure that every student graduates equipped to succeed in college and careers," Torlakson said. "These field tests simply make good sense, and expanding them to include both subjects for most students makes even better sense—in contrast to ‘double testing' students, which makes little sense at all."
Field tests serve as "tests of the tests," allowing experts to gauge the accuracy and reliability of individual test items before finalizing the assessments for full-scale use. As such, no field test scores will be produced or reported. AB 484 requires field testing students in only one subject area, either math or English-language arts, but Torlakson informed local educational agencies (LEAs) this week that the vast majority of students will be tested in both subjects this spring.
In California, all students in grade three through eight and grade eleven as well as small sample of grade nine and ten students will participate in the Smarter Balanced field test. Originally, those students would have taken either mathematics or English-language arts. After hearing from LEAs of their interest to field test both content areas, California worked with its contractor Educational Test Service (ETS) as well as the Smarter Balanced contractor, American Institute for Research, to develop a California solution to include both content areas.
"Expanding the field test for hundreds of thousands of students to take both sets of assessments will mean more hands-on experience for them and their teachers, as well as more opportunity to identify any technological needs," said Mike Kirst, president of the State Board of Education. "All of that means that California will be starting from a solidly built foundation when these assessments become operational next school year—and that's good for our students, our schools, and our state."
Ninety-five percent of the students will take a sampling of test items for both content areas, plus one performance task from one content area. The remaining five percent of students will focus on one subject or the other. The field test will take place between March 18 and June 6, 2014. The new assessment system goes operational in the 2014-15 school year.
The new assessments will be computer-based, allowing for a much broader range of test questions than the multiple-choice exams given under STAR. They will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving, modeling the kind of teaching and learning needed to prepare all students for the demands of college and the modern workplace.
Part of the assessment system, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, also will be computer adaptive, so that a student's prior responses affect the difficulty of subsequent questions, allowing a far more precise measurement of student skills and knowledge than the former tests. The Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. These state-developed standards, which California and 45 other states have voluntarily adopted over the past few years, are designed to provide all students with the deeper learning, critical thinking, and other skills they need to prepare for college and a career. The Smarter Balanced assessments were designed to meet federal- and state-level accountability requirements and provide teachers and parents with timely and accurate information to measure student performance and progress.
"As I have said, I believe everyone—from educators to parents and from Sacramento to Washington—shares the same goal: a modern assessment and accountability system that supports teaching and learning in the classroom and prepares every child for a bright future," Torlakson said.
For more information on the waiver request, go to California Department of Education Public Notices and for additional information on the field test, go to
Spring 2014 Smarter Balanced Field Test [Note: the preceding link is no longer active].
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100