January 30, 2015 Smarter Balanced “interim assessments” finally released
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has finally released the
"interim assessments" schools can use to gauge how well their students are doing in math and English language arts instruction aligned with the Common Core standards. Districts that are using the assessments will now have access through a secure browser on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress website (caaspp.org). Article February 12, 2015 Third-graders take on keyboard challenge
For the first time in California’s history, millions of students will take the Smarter Balanced online assessments that will measure how well they are doing on curriculum aligned with the Common Core, the new academic standards in math and English language arts being implemented by California and 42 other states.
Commentary March 1, 2015 Gina Dalma: New standards and tests are worth the effort "The new tests, known as the Smarter Balanced assessments, will be significantly different from what our students are used to – and much more interesting than the tests students have been taking until now. Standardized bubble tests will be replaced by tests that allow students to show much more precisely what they know and are able to do." Article March 8, 2015 Hand scorers sought for online Common Core tests
As millions of students prepare, for the first time, to take a battery of assessments aligned with the Common Core using computers, at least portions of the tests will have to be scored the old-fashioned way: by humans.
That’s because the so-called Smarter Balanced tests, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, include essay questions designed to measure critical thinking skills. Even the math tests require students to explain how they reach their answers.
March 10, 2015 Students start taking Smarter Balanced test
Between now and mid-June, approximately 3.2 million California students will take new online tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards, marking a new era in California’s multi-decade efforts to establish an accountability system to assess student performance.
Precisely when students will take the tests will vary from district to district and from school to school, according to each district’s instructional calendar. Districts typically provide schools with windows of time in which the tests may be given, and then allow schools to set the exact dates for them.
Article March 10, 2015 For parents, a new way to view test scores
The vocabulary has changed, and so have the numbers and the format. The two-page report that parents will receive later this year describing their children’s results on the new Smarter Balanced tests on the Common Core State Standards will be very different from what they’ve seen in the past.
That’s intentional. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the State Board of Education are using multiple cues to send a uniform message: Parents shouldn’t compare the new results with scores on past state standardized tests; this year’s English language arts and math tests are, they say, more difficult, and are based on a different set of academic standards. They mark a break from the past.
Article March 15, 2015 Educational Testing Service testing contract proposal disputed
The State Board of Education last week endorsed the current contractor’s three-year, quarter-billion-dollar bid to continue administering the state’s standardized testing system – but only if it agrees to extensively involve teachers in scoring the parts of the new tests on the Common Core standards that can’t be done by machine.
Board members voted unanimously to approve Educational Testing Service’s contract on the condition the company duplicate the teacher-participation model that a losing bidder, Pearson School, a division of the textbook and education giant Pearson, had proposed. Pearson’s plan was closer to the original vision of educators such as Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Education, who, in pitching the Smarter Balanced test to California education officials, had said that involving teachers in scoring “performance tasks” would improve classroom instruction.
Article March 24, 2015 Smarter Balanced interim assessments delayed for most students
As millions of California students prepare to take the new Smarter Balanced assessments this spring, most will not have had the benefit of taking a series of “interim assessments” that were supposed to help them and their teachers prepare for the new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
The interim assessments were supposed to give students a way to rehearse for the Smarter Balanced assessments and allow teachers to see how well students had mastered the math and English Language Arts curriculum tied to the Common Core.
That’s not how it has worked out, however. The interim assessments were supposed to be in the hands of educators last fall. But the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t complete them until the end of January, too late for most teachers or districts to use them extensively, according to interviews conducted by EdSource.
Article March 29, 2015 New tests to tell juniors if they’re college-ready
This is a transition year for the California State University’s Early Assessment Program, a decade-old early warning system that tells 11th-graders whether they are prepared for college-level work – and steps they should take if they’re not. Caught in the switch to a new test and new academic standards, more juniors may be told that they’re not yet ready.
Until this year, the Early Assessment Program’s test consisted of a combination of questions on the old 11th-grade California Standards Tests, plus a writing sample and 30 additional math and English language arts problems that CSU developed.
With the transition to the Common Core, California education officials pushed to replace the EAP test with the new Smarter Balanced tests to provide a common set of college readiness measurements that all member states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium could use. The other states agreed with this approach.
Article April 28, 2015 Half of juniors opt out of Common Core tests in affluent high school
More than half of the 11th-graders at an affluent high school in Los Angeles County are opting out of new tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards – an ever-growing issue nationwide, but rare so far in California.
Parents in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District are citing concerns about privacy over children’s data and the relevance of the Smarter Balanced Assessments that millions of California students are taking this spring as reasons for opting out.
May 6, 2015 State board awards disputed test contract to ETS
The State Board of Education awarded the Educational Testing Service a three-year, $240 million contract to administer the state’s standardized tests, despite a competitor’s call for reopening a bidding process that it called flawed and “arbitrary.”
Article May 12, 2015 School districts start receiving early results on Smarter Balanced tests
While most students are in the middle of taking the new Common Core-aligned tests, some early results of the first Smarter Balanced assessments are starting to trickle into districts.
District and school officials can begin looking at the scores and use them to make decisions about instruction, class placements and parent discussions, said Keric Ashley, deputy superintendent of the District, School, and Innovation branch of the California Department of Education. The first preliminary student scores for early test takers went out May 4.
Commentary May 18, 2015 Michael Matsuda: Going beyond testing to prepare students for college and careers "The question for us, therefore, is not how prepared are California’s public schools for the Smarter Balanced Assessments, but how prepared are our 6 million K-12 students for college, career and civic life as the next generation of Americans? Many educators who truly want to teach beyond the test are struggling with what college and career readiness really means." Article May 18, 2015 Gov. Brown calls for ‘balanced’ approach to testing and accountability
As millions of California students tackle new assessments aligned with the Common Core, Gov. Jerry Brown in one of his more expansive comments on testing and measurements last week called for a “balanced” approach to testing, and expressed skepticism about pressures to hold schools more accountable for achieving results, and on students to show constant improvement.
Article May 18, 2015 More students at affluent high schools opt out of Smarter Balanced test
Few California schools have reported high opt-out rates on the Smarter Balanced Assessments, new tests based on nationally developed Common Core State Standards that students are taking for the first time this spring.
But four schools in the state identified by EdSource Today with at least half of their students opting out have similarities: They are all high-achieving high schools in affluent areas. Many of the juniors, the only high school grade required to take the assessments, told school officials that they preferred to spend time studying for AP tests, SATs or other school-related activities because the Smarter Balanced tests don’t directly affect their lives. The high schools are Gunn, Palo Alto, Palos Verdes and Calabasas.
Article June 2, 2015 Schools face challenge of explaining Common Core test results to parents
As school districts wrap up administering new online assessments aligned with the Common Core, educators now face another challenge: how best to share with millions of parents how their children fared on the tests.
At stake is whether parents – and by extension students themselves – will be able to understand what the scores on the new tests mean. Without that understanding, test scores on the new online tests could raise anxieties among both parents and students, including whether students are being adequately prepared for the next grade, college and the workplace.
One special concern among educators is that they anticipate fewer students will meet standards compared to those who scored proficient on the California Standards Tests students took until the spring of 2013.
Article June 4, 2015 Students take online Common Core test with minimal interruptions
After the state invested nearly $27 million since January to help schools shore up their Internet connections, millions of students have been able to take new online assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards this spring with minimal technical interruptions.
That’s according to the California Department of Education. Officials in six school districts and a charter school organization EdSource has been tracking as they implement the new standards said they have had very few interruptions in testing of any kind.
By the time schools close for the summer, an estimated 3.2 million 3rd- through 8th-graders and 11th-graders will have taken tests in English language arts and math known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP.
Article August 16, 2015 ETS offers summer Smarter Balanced test scoring training to teachers
With California officials warning that scores on Smarter Balanced tests will likely be lower than those on previous standardized assessments, many teachers want to know how they can better prepare students.
To help demystify the Common Core-aligned tests, the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, is providing several scoring training workshops for teachers this month.
The first Summer Scoring Training for Educators in Sacramento attracted more than 100 teachers and district administrators interested in learning how portions of the tests that are not multiple-choice are hand-scored.
August 26, 2015 State removes 15 years of test results before releasing new scores
California Department of Education officials have repeatedly cautioned against comparing students’ scores on past state standardized tests with forthcoming results on tests aligned with the Common Core standards. The academic standards have changed and the tests are different, making comparisons inaccurate, they and others have warned.
Earlier this month, as the department got ready to send parents the initial student scores on the new tests sometime over the next few weeks, department officials deleted old test results going back more than 15 years from the most accessible part of the department’s website, impeding the public’s ability to make those comparisons.
The department has removed results dating back to 1998 in math and English language arts from DataQuest, the website where it posts education data it collects. That includes the database of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as STAR, which enabled the public to search results by district, school and student subgroups from grades 3 through 12 since 2003.
Article August 28, 2015 Amid criticism, state officials restore past years’ test data
The California Department of Education on Friday began restoring historical test data that it deleted from the most accessible part of its website earlier this month, following criticism that it did so to discourage the public from making comparisons to the results of new tests aligned to the Common Core standards.
The department plans to release scores from the new tests, known as Smarter Balanced, on Sept. 9.
The department’s decision came two days after EdSource first reported that the department took down 15 years of math and English language arts scores from the database of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as STAR, which enabled the public to search results by district, school and student subgroups from grades 3 through 12. The information was located on the department’s DataQuest website.
Multimedia September 3, 2015 Students speak out on the Common Core and Smarter Balanced test
In this feature, EdSource Today interviewed seven students who will be seniors in the 2015-16 school year to get their impressions of the standards. We focused in particular on their views of the Smarter Balanced assessments that they had just finished taking at the time.
The students came from six school districts and a leading charter school system that EdSource Today is tracking as a regular feature of our Common Core coverage. We chose them with help from officials at the largest school in each of the districts – Elk Grove, San Jose, Fresno, Visalia, Garden Grove and Santa Ana unified school districts – and from the Aspire Public Schools system, which comprises 35 schools in California.
Article September 7, 2015 California’s Smarter Balanced Assessments: A Primer
Do you have questions about the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced tests that California students must now take? Our frequently asked questions guide answer many of the important questions for you.
September 9, 2015 First-Ever Smarter Balanced Test Results Released
The California Department of Education releases the first-ever Smarter Balanced assessment results. First-year scores on the new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards showed that 34 percent of California’s students met achievement targets in math, and 44 percent met achievement targets in English language arts.
The results, however, also revealed wide disparities in achievement among student groups, with 65 percent of English language learners, 46 percent of African-Americans, 41 percent of low-income students and 39 percent of Hispanic students scoring in the lowest of four achievement levels. This compared with 23 percent of white students and 12 percent of Asian students who scored in the lowest level.
Multimedia September 9, 2015 Interactive database of Smarter Balanced test results
Explore the Smarter Balanced test score results by California school district and charter schools. Dig into the demographic disparities between groups.
Multimedia September 9, 2015 LIVE BLOG: Tracking the statewide reaction to Smarter Balanced test results
Smarter Balanced test results in: 67 percent of test-takers don't meet math standards, 56 percent don't meet English Language Arts standards. Follow EdSource's comprehensive coverage, along with additional resources to help the public understand what the scores mean.
Article September 10, 2015 Proceed with caution when comparing California test scores with other states
Comparing California scores on tests aligned with the Common Core standards to those in other states isn’t a straightforward process.
California students’ results are among the lowest when compared to the other eight states that have released Smarter Balanced assessment scores so far. But drawing conclusions may be difficult because California’s student population is much larger and its schools enroll more English learners and low-income students.
September 14, 2015 Lawsuit filed alleging schools failed to inform parents of opt-out rights
A parents group claims a Los Angeles County school district failed to notify parents of their right to opt their children out of Common Core-aligned tests in a lawsuit filed this week.
Concerned Parents of California filed the lawsuit against Walnut Valley Unified School District in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying that parent letters excluded information on opting out of Smarter Balanced assessments, according to the suit. Walnut Valley Unified, east of Los Angeles, has 14,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grades.
A second lawsuit by Concerned Parents of California was
filed on September 24 against Conejo Valley Unified. Article September 15, 2015 Test scores to be only one factor in measuring school progress
For months, California education officials have emphasized one message regarding the role that standardized tests will play in the future: Results from the Smarter Balanced tests, which were released last week, should be viewed as but one star, though a bright one, in a universe of metrics measuring student and school progress.
The state is in the middle of building a new accountability system to replace the Academic Performance Index, a three-digit number that has been the main measure used to evaluate how well a school or district is doing. But that effort is still evolving, and with many key decisions by the State Board of Education and the Legislature still to come, officials are clearer about the role that student scores on Smarter Balanced tests won’t play in the new accountability system than on how significant a factor they will play.
Commentary September 22, 2015 Achievement Gap Q&A with Christopher Edley, Jr. "I don’t believe there is any reason the reforms championed by Gov. Brown will move the needle or narrow the gap. It will only work if there is accountability for how it is spent, and if there is capacity at the local level for spending it well, as opposed to simply restoring the recession cuts." Commentary September 23, 2015 Achievement Gap Q&A with Sean Reardon "There is no real evidence that the whole school system has been able to effect a reduction in achievement gaps over last decade or two. I don’t think there is any evidence that accountability systems have been effective in reducing achievement gaps." Commentary September 24, 2015 Achievement Gap Q&A with Michael Fullan "In my view the reforms that have been used have been too driven by accountability and individual development, and not by the right strategies that we know to work." Article September 28, 2015 Test scores indicate more students ‘college ready’ in English language arts
The recently released Common Core-aligned test results show the percentage of California high school students identified as ready, or on pace to be ready by the time they graduate, for college-level English coursework increased.
The Smarter Balanced assessments for English language arts and math, administered to almost 420,000 juniors in California this past spring, now serve as the main tool for California State University and nearly 80 community colleges statewide for measuring student readiness in those subjects.
Article September 30, 2015 District officials want to avoid overreacting to new test results
As educators across the state examine the results of the Smarter Balanced assessments that millions of students took last spring, officials in several school districts that EdSource is tracking say they want to avoid overreacting to the scores and that they want to take more time to review the results before significantly adjusting what they are already doing.
“We’re not going to stop all activity and shut everything down and recalibrate right now, given that we’re coming into our third week of school. I feel good about some bright spots. But, candidly, I don’t know what they mean and why. It will take a few years to iron out.”
Michael Hanson, Fresno Unified Superintendent
Article October 2, 2015 Late parent notification of test results frustrates some educators
Although parents were originally supposed to receive their children’s scores on new Smarter Balanced tests over the summer, most school districts received reports to send to parents much later than anticipated.
Some educators say they are frustrated that parents had not received the reports earlier so they could discuss them at back-to-school and other beginning of the year events.
Commentary October 6, 2015 Achievement Gap Q&A with Linda Darling-Hammond "The fact that the state has put a couple of billion dollars into technology and professional development for the new standards, and has put in place the new LCFF formula that is beginning to give more resources to schools serving students with greater needs, will begin to level the playing field over the next few years." Article October 13, 2015 Educators try to come to terms with low math scores on Smarter Balanced tests
As parents across the state open the envelopes containing their children’s scores on the new Smarter Balanced assessments administered last spring, only a third of them will see that their children met or exceeded the math standard on the new Common Core-aligned tests.
In fact, only one-third of California students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 met the math standard – compared to 44 percent of students who met the standard in English language arts. That is also significantly lower than the percentage who scored at a proficient level in math on the old California Standards tests.
Commentary October 14, 2015 Achievement Gap Q&A with Marshall 'Mike' Smith "The accountability approach didn’t work at all, particularly since 2005, during the period when No Child Left Behind was being fully implemented. This is Newton’s third law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." Commentary December 13, 2015 Michael Moody: Four key areas in effective Common Core implementation "I see great potential for the Common Core to help California’s students succeed before and beyond graduation, but successful implementation will depend on listening to lessons learned from the field."