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New Testing Unveiled For California Schools

State superintendent's plan would emphasize critical thinking skills. Do you think this is a move in the right direction?

In the near future, California students will be thinking a lot more and filling in fewer bubbles when they take standardized statewide tests.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson  unveiled a new testing system for schools statewide.

The new tests follow the guidelines set forth in the Common Core State Standards. Those recommendations were put together last year by a task force that studied new testing methods under a mandate by the state Legislature.

If approved by state legislators, the new testing system would begin in the 2014-2015 school year.

The superintendent is planning to suspend STAR Program assessments for the coming school year unless the exams are specifically mandated by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or used for the Early Assessment Program (EAP).

This change would suspend STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course exams at the high school level.

Torlakson said the current testing system has improved student learning throughout the state, but it's time to move to a different kind of assessment.

"We moving to a new dimension, a higher dimension," said Torlakson.

Torlakson has made a dozen recommendations to the legislature for the Statewide Pupil Assessment System.

One of the keys is to move away from memorization of knowledge and focus more on students' critical thinking, analytical skills and problem solving.

State leaders said the new tests will measure the ability of students to understand and use what they have learned.

“Multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests alone simply cannot do the job anymore and it’s time for California to move forward with assessments that measure the real-world skills our students need to be ready for a career and for college,” said Torlakson.

"I'm very excited for what this will mean to our students," said state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), a former English teacher.

What do you think? Should the state testing system be revamped? Should we leave it alone? Should we be doing statewide testing at all? Let us know in the comments section.

BobG January 14, 2013 at 04:58 PM
It is the ability to think critically, ask questions, and innovate that sets America apart from the world. Because of stark over crowding and the strong desire to get ahead through education you tend to see the central and eastern Asian countries be more memorization and test focused. I, for one, am pleased that the California school system in putting more emphasis on our strengths.
Speedie B January 14, 2013 at 07:10 PM
You nailed it. Anyone following the current scores can see the breakdown by category and know exactly where to focus extra attention. But that would be admitting there are racial and economic divides and we aren't suppose to talk about it that way. When we stop ignoring the 'elephant in the room' and create a meaningful strategy to engage these kids so they value an education, we will bring up the scores. Changing the scoring isn't fixing the problem. When there was a great economic divide in this country, you saw drive and innovation to have a better life. Now we have so many social programs so that 'everyone has a fair shot', it has devalued education. Why work at it if there is no penalty -- the State will take care of them regardless.
Tom January 14, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Bob, the problem is we have not one California school system. Look at the test scores at LA Unified. There we see a huge problem yet other schools we see schools working quite well. I agree that US has led in innovation but we have also seen may immigrants come here due to ease of capital and commerce compared to home countries. Google for example was NOT going to happen in Russia. Not because Sergey did not have the innovative idea until he stepped foot in the US. Many from China, HK and TPE have done same. When we lose our edge in math and science innovation will follow.
JoAnne January 14, 2013 at 10:18 PM
The ultimate goal of the California Department of Education is for students to be prepared and have the skills for the challenges of the future. When one considers the budget constraints, how does revising testing become a priority over providing resources to encourage and support an education rich with the knowledge to make critical decisions and innovations? Revised testing means money spent at the state level for test development; money spent at the district level for implementation; and money spent on teacher training so that the classroom resources support the test. It is very disappointing that in a time where budgets are limited while the demand and challenges facing education are growing that Superintendent Tom Torlakson perceives testing as a critical need.
Alan Heckman January 15, 2013 at 06:55 AM
Tom Torlakson's application for a federal waiver from "No Child Left Behind" was just rejected by Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr13/documents/addendum-jan13item11.doc The reason it was rejected is because California refuses to evaluate teachers based on measurements of student performance. In other words, the California Department of Education does not have the goal of being responsible for educating all California students. Right now testing is meaningful only to determine school performance. Less testing would only remove data points. What we need is for testing results to be a meaningful part of teacher evaluation. Unfortunately California is regressing.

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