Alison Yin/EdSource
Test scores varied across California, but on the whole, smaller districts that stayed open during Covid fared better on the 2022 Smarter Balanced assessments.

A Republican state senator and Gov. Gavin Newsom are both proposing to push up the annual deadline for releasing California’s standardized test scores, which last year the California Department of Education had withheld, then reversed course after a legal challenge by EdSource and public pressure.

Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and the Newsom administration disagree on the details of how soon the Smarter Balanced and other standardized test results would be released.

Senate Bill 293, which Grove is authoring, would set an Oct. 15 deadline for CDE to make the test results publicly available. Newsom’s proposal would move publication forward over three years, starting this year with a Dec. 1, deadline that would permanently become Oct. 15 starting in 2026.

Grove’s bill sailed through the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday morning with bipartisan support and no opposition from special interests.

“We need to know how our public school systems are performing,” Grove said at the hearing. By setting a deadline for publication of the test scores, the state will consistently receive “the data we need to make good decisions on education.”

Delaying the release of this information makes it more difficult for teachers, for academics, for researchers and policymakers to make decisions on investments to improve our student performance,” Grove said.

Committee members embraced the idea. 

“This is a very good and sensible measure,” the committee chairperson, Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton said. 

The move comes after EdSource raised objections last year to the California Department of Education’s claims that statewide test results would not be released until December or January — even though most school districts and charter schools had received their final and accurate results in late summer and early fall. Students took the tests the previous spring. The data, which includes test results by demographic groups, is used to determine which low-performing districts require assistance from the state and county offices of education. 

In a Sept. 21, 2022 letter to CDE, EdSource took exception to the department’s position that the statewide school and district test results were still in draft form and therefore not subject to release through a Public Records Act request. 

“Please know that EdSource considers delay tantamount to denial as it effectively robs the public of its vital role in overseeing the CDE and individual districts and in holding both accountable to its students and the public,” EdSource’s attorney,” Duffy Carolan, of the San Francisco law firm, Duffy Vick Carolan wrote in an email to CDE Director of Communications Maria Clayton. “This is especially important during what continues to be one of the most challenging and impactful times to our educational system due to the Covid pandemic.” 

The department did not respond to EdSource’s letter. However, it did announce in late September that it would accelerate the disclosure of the test results and subsequently did release them on Oct. 23. 

Doug McRae, a retired testing company executive, said school districts and teachers have always needed the results prior to the start of school in the late summer or early fall but that states have sometimes lagged in getting it out. 

“Idaho, Delaware and Connecticut have stayed the course” of getting data out as early as possible, he said. “Vermont is a laggard every year.” So, too, is California, he added

“It’s always political,” McRae said. “The best statewide assessment programs come out of the Legislature with a combination of Republicans that tend to be in favor of mandated (release date)” and school accountability-focused Democrats he said. “The union-oriented Democrats are against it. That’s the division that I see in many different states.”

Newsom proposed a gradual schedule for the data release in his budget trailer bill which he posted in early February. Test scores would be included with all school and district data that are elements of the California School Dashboard. 

The dashboard incorporates students’ performance not only on standardized assessments in math, English language arts, and science, but also data on chronic absences, suspension rates, graduation rates, college and career readiness, and progress of English learners in mastering English.

Brooks Allen, executive director of the State Board of Education, said that this approach is consistent with the state board’s position emphasizing a multidimensional look at student and school performance – and a shift away from the federal No Child Left Behind’s focus on test scores alone.

“It is best when you look at all in totality; then you see the linkage between chronic absences and test scores,” he said. 

Moving up all of the dashboard data is more complicated than shifting only for test scores, which are compiled by a single vendor, ETS, that works with school districts to see that they are accurate, Allen said.  The other metrics, like chronic absenteeism, require a broader range of data points across more grades, along with additional staff training at the district level, he said.

CDE and the state board had intended test results and the other dashboard indicators to be released sooner, Allen said, but Covid disruptions hampered data collection and led to the suspension of the dashboard for two years. But he also acknowledged that EdSource’s records request prompted the state board to accelerate the timetable. 

Allen said the state board recognized the value of releasing test results and the other dashboard data in the fall when districts are beginning to identify priorities and student groups that need extra assistance and resources as part of their Local Control and Accountability Plans. The lengthy planning process culminates the following June with the adoption of the LCAPs. 

Allen said that there had been unintended miscommunication last year about when individual districts’ test data become public documents. That point is after districts receive final, vetted test results from the state and begin to share them with school boards. That may occur weeks before the state has accurate data from 100% of districts and charter schools and releases the statewide dashboard update, he said. That latter date will be no later than Oct. 15 in 2026, if the Legislature passes the governor’s proposal, Allen said. 

He declined to comment on the administration’s view of Grove’s bill. 

A spokesperson for Grove, Brooke Sorensen, told EdSource shortly after the committee vote that “as of right now, Sen. Grove is not working with the administration. She intends to move this bill forward since the test scores are critical in assessing public school systems.”

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  1. Spencer Joplin 1 month ago1 month ago

    October 15 = after back-to-school night, so the principal doesn’t have to explain to a room full of parents why scores were so low.