07/17/20 Update: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, SBAC testing was suspended and waived for the 2019-20 school year for all California Public Schools. As of this writing, SBAC testing and all other required state assessments are expected to resume for the 2020-21 school year barring any changes from the California Department of Education or US Department of Education. While testing did not occur last year, the principles of standardized testing and effects on students stated in this blog post are still relevant.
The transition to the New California Standards, formerly referred to as the Common Core Standards, has not been a smooth one by any means. Along the way, there have been strong advocates as well as equally strong foes. The education community has been divided, with many teachers and administrators on both sides of the spectrum as well as somewhere in between. Regardless of one’s point of view, it is clear that these new standards are here to stay… at least for awhile. For any parents whose children attend a California Public School, including California Public Charter Schools such as our IEM schools, these standards now form the basis for which our students are evaluated. Whether you love the new standards or not, getting to know what the new assessment system consists of and how you can help your student prepare for them will go a long way in reducing test-day anxiety and maximizing student success in navigating through the computer-based Smarter Balanced Assessments.
Math and Language Art Scores
Last Spring, California public school students took the first official run of the new Smarter Balanced Asessments, also known as CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance), which are aligned to the New California State Standards. This fall the scores were released. Overall, 44% of California students met or exceeded the New California State standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and 33% met or exceeded the standards in Math. This is much lower than performance on the previous multiple-choice based STAR tests, which averaged closer to 55%+ for ELA overall and up to 60% in the elementary grades for math.
As one might deduce from the overall test results, the New California Standards are considered more rigorous than California’s old standards, requiring students to possess a deeper understanding of the subject matter. We are also at the initial stages of transitioning to these standards and what it means to be proficient on the new test is different than on the old one. California is not the only state to find that the first year of this new testing system has reset perceptions of student performance and scores across the board and though the tests are quite different and not considered correlatable to each other, scores in general have been lower than in previous years.
Curricula based on the New California Standards and additional funding through the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) aim to improve outcomes for all students and close achievement gaps by addressing a deeper understanding of concepts. Multiple years of Smarter Balanced test results will be needed to monitor progress toward this goal, but these new higher standards are meant to improve academic achievement well beyond secondary schooling. The new curriculum and new funding should help get them there though only time will tell.
Practice and Training
As we plan for the second round of state testing this spring, we highly encourage all students to familiarize themselves with the testing format of the Smarter Balanced Assessments by making time to take the Practice and Training Tests offered by CAASPP. The practice tests are designed to simulate similar types of questions and problems students might expect to see on the summative CAASPP tests and the training tests help students master the tools needed to answer the question on the state tests. Accordingly, the Practice Tests are grade specific and the Training Tests are organized by grade-level bands. Students can easily sign-in as a “GUEST” and access the Practice and Training Tests at any time. We hope that parents will take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that their children are well acquainted with the types of questions students can expect to see on testing day as well as to prepare them to use the tools needed to answer these questions. A bit of time before testing can make all the difference between a stressful testing experience and a successful one for our students.