May 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 9

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson Proposes New Statewide Testing System

Posted: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Common Core Assessments to Focus on Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today recommended shifting the focus of standardized testing in California to require students to think critically, solve problems, and show a greater depth of knowledge—key tenants of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In a report to the Governor and Legislature, Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, Torlakson made a dozen recommendations that would fundamentally change the state’s student assessment system, replacing the paper-and-pencil based Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program assessments with computerized assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) starting in the 2014‒15 school year.

“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,” Torlakson said.

“As a teacher, what’s most exciting is that these new tests will serve as models for the kind of high-quality teaching and learning we want in every classroom every day,” Torlakson continued. “The concept is simple but powerful: if our tests require students to think critically and solve problems to do well on test day, those same skills are much more likely to be taught in our classrooms day in and day out.”

Torlakson’s report was mandated by Assembly Bill 250 (Brownley, D-Santa Monica), which the State Superintendent sponsored, to bring school curriculum, instruction, and the state assessment system into alignment with the CCSS. The state’s existing STAR Program assessments are scheduled to sunset July 1, 2014.

California is one of 45 states and three territories that formally have adopted the CCSS for mathematics and English‒language arts. The proposed revisions to align the state’s assessment system with the new standards mark a key milestone in implementing the Common Core.

California serves as a governing state in SBAC, a multistate‒led group that has been working collaboratively to develop a student assessment system aligned with the CCSS.

The SBAC was designed to meet federal- and state-level accountability requirements and provide teachers and parents with timely and accurate information to measure and track individual student growth.

Among the 12 recommendations is the suspension of particular 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 would suspend STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course exams at the high-school level.

Torlakson also recommends that the state provide formative diagnostic tools developed by SBAC to all schools, which would provide teachers and schools with the option of receiving continuing informal feedback on the progress of students throughout the school year.

As required by AB 250, Torlakson’s recommendations reflect an assessment system that would meet the requirements of the current ESEA. But the report also puts forth several different approaches of assessment and urges policymakers to question the current regimen of testing all students, every year, in English‒language arts and mathematics.

Through work group meetings, focus groups, regional public meetings, a statewide survey, and an e-mail account specifically for public comments, thousands of stakeholders provided input to the California Department of Education regarding the state’s transition to a new assessment system.

“I extend my gratitude to the many teachers, school administrators, parents, students, business leaders, and higher education faculty for their expertise and experience that contributed to the formation of these recommendations, Torlakson said.

Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System can be found on the Statewide Pupil Assessment System Web page. More information on California’s efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards can be found on the California Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards Web page.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Science Is in the Air – So Much Going On!

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

It’s May and with that comes AP exams, science fair, science Olympiad, NGSS Rollout Symposium, plans for summer professional development opportunities for us and our students. There are so many things happening in our regions and around the state. It’s hard to keep up on everything, but try we must!

Springtime is when our students show us what they’ve got!

Springtime is the culmination for a wide range of year-long or semester-long science activities. Congratulations and thank you to all of our members and science friends who helped with Science Olympiad, Science Fairs, academic decathlon, AP exams, robotics competitions, science or STEM fairs and more. We all recognize that it takes a lot of time, work, energy and passion from teachers and kids to get to the point where kids are able to share what they know, apply their knowledge and skills, be competitive, and shine. Those long after-school sessions, Saturday work sessions, the time away from family, the extra hours… they are worth it. You do make a difference and the opportunities that you are providing to your students will be remembered long after the event(s) are over.  Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

Computer Based Testing for Science – Coming Soon Plus Sample 2015 Individual Student Reports for 5th and 8th Grade Science CSTs

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

updated May 6, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015 the California State Board of Education voted to approve Educational Testing Service (ETS) as the contractor to develop the new science assessments that are required to meet federal testing regulations.  The vote is not without controversy and was preceded by a closed session of the the State Board. As reported in the Sacramento Bee on April 5, Pearson School was dissatisfied with the results of the bidding process and threatened a lawsuit.

Partial view of the sample 5th grade student report. Click the image to access a full copy of the sample report.

Partial view of the sample 5th grade student report. Click the image to access a full copy of the sample report.

Additionally, this week the California Department of Education also released the final version of sample individual student reports that will be sent home to parents this summer. These reports will include the science assessment results in grades 5 and 8. The sample report of the grade 10 life science test has not been posted and CSTA has requested more information about what information this report will contain. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

Science Framework Delay Passes First Committee While Standards Implementation Funding Stalls in Appropriations

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

A Teacher’s Journey: NGSS Is NOT an Add On

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

Students looking at a beaker containing 55.85g of iron-

AHearn_Photo_1

“That is one atom of iron.”

Huh… Umm…Sinking feeling… I hope nobody who knows anything about science walks into my room right now.

My students were looking at a mole of iron (602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms more or less) and concluding that they were probably looking at one atom of iron. And this was after two weeks of learning about the periodic table and structure of the atom. My formal observation lesson that year had been about how to figure out the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom based on the periodic table. My principal gave me all “3s” and told me it was one of the best lessons he had observed that year. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District, Co-Chair of the 2013 Conference Committee, and a member of CSTA.

NGSS – Next Generation Science Students

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Leah Wheeler

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In years past, students would moan, “Oh no, science!” and, “This is so boring just reading out of a book,” but not this year.  This year students are enthused about learning science and thrilled for the opportunity to explore something new.

We started out our school year exploring Earth’s systems and the human impact on those systems.   Learn More…

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.