June 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 10

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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My Last Words . . . Thank You!

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

This is my last column as your CSTA President. I thank you for the trust you placed in me to serve as President. It has been my privilege to serve the organization. I am most appreciative of the members who have taken steps to get more involved in promoting high quality science education in California.

Just two years ago, when I was taking over as President I challenged you to become more engaged and involved. This has been a rallying call of mine since I joined the Board of Directors. There are big changes happening to science education in California and we need lots of people involved if we hope to realize the promise of those changes. The CSTA Board of Directors does a great deal but they cannot do everything. As an organization, however, we can make a huge difference! In August 2013, in one of my first columns as President, I urged you to consider baby steps towards leadership. I revisited that theme again by encouraging you to see what you could do for CSTA and how to “lean in” and lead by example. Many of you accepted the challenge – thanks! Those of you who know me (or who have read my columns) know this is an important theme for me. A full twenty percent of my CCS columns were devoted to the topic, I talk about it in leadership forums, and I have been known to twist a few arms to get colleagues engaged. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

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

California STEM Learning Network Launches Policy Brief “Science Education and Local Control” and LCAP Toolkit for STEM Advocates

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Chris Roe

The California STEM Learning Network and the Lawrence Hall of Science have partnered to create a new toolkit to help educators, parents, students, community partners, and business leaders participate in the development of their school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

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.

Register for the 2015 California Science Education Conference!

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Casey Passmore

california_science_teachers_association_large_cropped

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (including Literacy in Science!) and the Next Generation Science Standards, science education is finally becoming more of a priority for many school districts. Now is a great time to start planning to attend the California Science Education Conference in Sacramento, Friday, October 2 – Sunday, October 4. Registration is open and hotel reservations can be made now. Learn More…

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.

Primary Science Comes Alive with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), California Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and English Language Development (ELD)

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Valerie Joyner

Join your primary colleagues for the wonderful opportunity to learn about Next Generation Science Standards. You’ll learn how NGSS aligns with 21st Century Skills, links to CCCSS and supports ELD. Teams of 3-5 teachers/administrators from your school/district are encouraged to apply for this amazing workshop. Space is limited so apply now!

As California educators strive to provide a twenty-first century education for all students, there is nothing more important than a strong foundation in science education. The time to nurture and develop this foundation is at the beginning, as students enter primary grades. It is essential for the youngest of our students to develop scientific literacy and interest from the start. As we focus priority on our youngest students, there are few missions more urgent to long-term educational goals than equipping primary grade teachers with science content knowledge and pedagogical strategies to kindle the love of science in their students and set a course for lifelong learning. Learn More…

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary Director.

Cup of Tea

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Leah Wheeler

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Instead of looking at science and engineering practices as only part of the three-dimensional learning of NGSS, I try to think of ways to incorporate them into other content areas, so I can create bridges for learning.  For instance, inspired by the Boston Tea Party after my students studied the American Revolution, students engineered crates to hold tea. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

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.