Are feds bluffing over school test issue?

Sep 15, 2013 by

Real estate agents tout them when selling homes. Parents rely on them when deciding where to send their children to learn. School officials consider them when making instruction and staffing decisions.

Love or hate them, test scores have become an increasingly essential tool for communities — one that could soon take a hiatus in California over the objections of the federal government.

The Legislature this week sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would overhaul the state’s standardized testing system and suspend the public release of test scores for up to two years while schools acclimate to the new assessment method.

The nation’s top education official threatened to withhold unspecified federal funds if California pushes ahead with its plan to halt reporting of test data. Brown has said he will sign the legislation, making the state’s testing overhaul all but inevitable.

Local lawmakers and educators are waiting to see if federal education officials are bluffing. Schools in California are just starting to come out of the state’s fiscal crisis, and reductions in federal money could set them back.

“The loss of federal funds would be fiscally devastating for many districts,” said Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District. “The question is, is that something that should happen to us? It’s not that we are shying away from accountability.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the person who made the funding threat, declined to say Thursday whether California schools are in jeopardy of losing federal dollars because of Assembly Bill 484.

“Anything is a possibility,” he said in a phone interview a day before visiting a school in Chula Vista. “We want to continue to work with the state. I have tremendous respect for Gov. Brown, he is working really had to raise standards. … We do think we need to have a sense of how children are progressing each year.”

Under AB 484, California would immediately suspend its current system of standardized testing, called STAR. Next spring, schools would be allowed to conduct trial testing of computerized assessments that are based on Common Core academic standards, which are set to take effect nationwide in fall 2014.

Results of the trial tests would be used to refine the final version of Common Core exams in California and help teachers prepare for the real deal. The legislation on Brown’s desk also would permit the state to not release test scores for a second year if officials decide more time is needed to adjust the Common Core testing system.

Some experts have suggested that the delay would allow California to avoid the bad press that came when New York released its grim test data last month. Educators had long warned that test scores would drop with the more rigorous Common Core standards. Still, New York’s sharp declines in math and English proficiency results shocked parents and others.

Duncan said New York’s results were “not disappointing at all” and didn’t come as a surprise.

“What happened in New York will happen around the country because when you raise standards, test scores will fall,” Duncan said. “We’ve been lying to parents about the performance of their kids. Its very important to tell the truth and to establish the new baseline.”

Meanwhile, school districts in California are scrambling to buy computers, upgrade technology and train teachers to administer the new Common Core exams.

“Some have more work to do than others,” said Steve Clemons, an assistant superintendent who oversees school technology for the San Diego County Office of Education. “The legislation has accelerated the schedule.”

via Are feds bluffing over school test issue? |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.