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New Testing Unveiled for California Schools, Would Reduce STAR Testing

The state superintendent's plan would emphasize critical thinking skills. Some STAR testing may be suspended. Do you think this is a move in the right direction?

In the near future, California students will be thinking a lot more and filling in fewer bubbles when they take standardized statewide tests.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson  unveiled a new testing system for schools statewide.

The new tests follow the guidelines set forth in the Common Core State Standards. Those recommendations were put together last year by a task force that studied new testing methods under a mandate by the state Legislature.

If approved by state legislators, the new testing system would begin in the 2014-2015 school year.

The superintendent is planning to suspend STAR Program assessments for the coming school year unless the exams are specifically mandated by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or used for the Early Assessment Program (EAP).

This change would suspend STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course exams at the high school level.

Torlakson said the current testing system has improved student learning throughout the state, but it's time to move to a different kind of assessment.

"We moving to a new dimension, a higher dimension," said Torlakson.

Torlakson has made a dozen recommendations to the legislature for the Statewide Pupil Assessment System.

One of the keys is to move away from memorization of knowledge and focus more on students' critical thinking, analytical skills and problem solving.

State leaders said the new tests will measure the ability of students to understand and use what they have learned.

“Multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests alone simply cannot do the job anymore and it’s time for California to move forward with assessments that measure the real-world skills our students need to be ready for a career and for college,” said Torlakson.

"I'm very excited for what this will mean to our students," said state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), a former English teacher.

What do you think? Should the state testing system be revamped? Should we leave it alone? Should we be doing statewide testing at all? Let up know in the comments section.

Khandrola Dechen January 08, 2013 at 07:59 PM
As a teacher I have to agree, the end of course high school testing is a waste of money. I have often seen certain tests "mandated" for students who haven't finished the course or completed it years earlier - so what are we trying to deteremine with such a motley sample of test subject? Anyone going onto college will be taking SAT/ACT Tests anyway.
richard meyers January 09, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Reducing the amount of standardized testing is a positive move. Standardized tests do not offer an authentic means of testing what a student really knows and even more importantly, how a student thinks. There is no job in America, or anywhere else, that requires workers to bubble in circles. While standardized tests can measure "something," they do not accurately reflect a students ability to think and process information.
tm7 January 09, 2013 at 02:52 PM
I have seen a prototype of the new test: it is horribly imagined and executed. The people who must have written it must have not been in a classroom in years. To make the tests more meaningful, make students accountable for their scores.
Jenny at Berkeley Schools Report January 09, 2013 at 04:49 PM
I think that any assessment that moves towards more problem solving and critical thinking is an improvement, but I'd need to see the actual assessment before forming an opinion about its level of rigor and meaningfulness for students.
Susan Ford January 09, 2013 at 05:30 PM
If it ain't broke, don't try and fix it is my motto. If this also implies that "End of Semester" finals are going to be done away with then that is a bad move. When students take finals, the finals are a good benchmark that measures how well a student is doing, what progress the student has made towards learning the curriculum. I don't see any reason to change this, the only thing I would change is the date the finals are taken and much prefer students to take their finals in December rather than January.

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