State delays releasing Common Core-aligned test scores until September

August 11, 2015

As educators eagerly await the results of the new standardized assessments aligned with the Common Core standards that more than 3 million students took in the spring, state officials now say they plan to release the scores in early September, later than originally projected.

Parents can expect to start receiving their children’s scores about the same time.

As early as last month at the State Board of Education’s most recent meeting, California Department of Education officials anticipated that results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments would be released to the public sometime in August.

Officials say that because this is the first time results on the new assessments will be released, they want to take extra care to make sure everything is accurate and complete before the official release in September. A date has yet to be announced.

“We are taking an abundance of caution to ensure that the substantial amount of data we are receiving is properly collected and placed in new files on a new site,” said department spokeswoman Pam Slater. “Additionally, the department will be launching a new website to display the results and needs sufficient time to test the new site.”

The Educational Testing Service, which administered the new assessments on behalf of the state, plans to start sending parent reports to districts in mid-August, Slater said. Districts then have 20 days to mail the reports to parents.

In California, the Smarter Balanced assessments are part of  the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP program, replacing the old STAR program with its multiple-choice paper-and-pencil tests that students took each spring. The STAR results were usually unveiled in August.

One selling point of the new assessments, which are administered online, was that they could be scored more quickly than the old tests and would be available sooner to both parents and teachers.

“The tests are taken online, and results are available to teachers, schools and school districts much more quickly than results from previous tests,” the CDE website promised.

Another argument in favor of the Smarter Balanced assessments was that they could provide more information about a student’s academic abilities than the old California Standards Tests, and could be used to inform actual classroom instruction.

As the California Department of Education website explained, “the tests provide timely and actionable student information so that teachers and schools can adjust and improve teaching to ensure students have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.” But this year, at least, many schools  opened their doors before they receive final test scores, so that teachers will likely have to postpone making use of test results at least for the first few weeks of the academic year.

Next year, however, school districts are likely to get individual student results much more quickly – three to six weeks after completing the math and English language arts assessments, officials say.

Although official scores aren’t out yet, districts are not entirely in the dark about how their students have done. Most already have received preliminary results. Since May, the California Department of Education has been uploading individual student results roughly four weeks after they finished taking the tests, as scoring of the students’ responses are completed.

Those scores are considered preliminary because districts haven’t necessarily received scores for all of their students and for technical and other reasons. The department has advised districts that “preliminary results should not be shared with the public.”

School districts vary on how they are dealing with the preliminary results that they have already received from the state. Among six school districts that EdSource Today is tracking as they implement the Common Core, some have allowed only principals to see the preliminary results.  Testing coordinators at other districts have said they will wait to distribute scores to principals and teachers after all of the scores are in.

In Visalia Unified principals and teachers will start discussing their schools’ preliminary scores this week to make plans for the school year, which starts Thursday, said Phil Black, the district’s assessment coordinator.

As of Monday, Visalia Unified had received between 96 and 99 percent of its scores, depending on the grade level and subject.  “The thing that’s an advantage this time around is, we have a good set of scores before school starts,” Black said.

But Santa Ana and Fresno Unified officials say they won’t share results with individual schools until they receive a complete set from the state.

Michele Cunha, Santa Ana’s coordinator of student achievement, research and evaluation, said she is printing out schools’ scores for district administrators, but they will not share the information with schools until the official results are out. Santa Ana, where schools open on Sept. 1,  has between 96 and 100 percent of preliminary scores, depending on the grade and subject.

“We’re at the whim of (the California Department of Education) when they officially release them,” Cunha said.

Garden Grove Unified, where schools open Sept. 8,  also plans to wait to give the scores to teachers, said John Marsh, the district’s testing administrator. Now, without state or county scores, it’s hard to explain what the scores mean because they have nothing to compare them to.

“I think the biggest challenge is there is not any context to look at the score reports,” Marsh said.

San Jose Unified School District officials have only shared the preliminary results among the central staff. School started this week.

“While we eagerly await the results, we understand and appreciate the (California Department of Education’s) commitment to delivering a comprehensive and complete data set,” said Jorge Quintana, a district spokesman.

Catherine Foster, a spokeswoman for the Aspire Public Schools, with 35 California campuses, said while school officials are grateful for the preliminary results, they were expecting to get their own results earlier. So far, Aspire has about 98 percent of its results. School resumed this week.

“(The) delays made it impossible for teachers to use this data to get a sense of their current students’ strengths and challenges on (Smarter Balanced Assessments) before school started or reflect on their performance from the prior year,” Foster said in an email.

 Staff writer John Fensterwald contributed to this report.

Sarah Tully covers the Common Core and early education. Email her or Follow her on Twitter. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.


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