UPDATE, September 19, 2013: As reported yesterday on EdSource, the U.S. Dept. of Education made it clear on Tuesday that it will not grant California a waiver to suspend standarized testing in order to move more rapidly into the world of Common Core. CA's education leaders, state supe of public instruction Tom Torlakson and president of the state board of education, Michael Kirst, stood by AB 484 (see below), which is awaiting Brown's signature into law. The ed authorities, in a joint press release said "...downplayed the potential conflict and indicated they’d do damage control to minimize unspecified penalties the state may face for failing to follow testing requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law.," according to EdSource's John Fensterwald.
September 10, 2013: The California State Senate voted 25-7 late this afternoon to pass the California Teachers Association-backed bill, AB 484 regarding the suspension of the current state administered student assessment tests. The legislation, authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, drew strong opposition from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday, and, earlier today, an equally strong statement in support from the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson.
Duncan [emphases ours]: “A request from California to not measure the achievement of millions of students this year is not something we could approve in good conscience. Raising standards to better prepare students for college and careers is absolutely the right thing to do, but letting an entire school year pass for millions of students without sharing information on their schools’ performance with them and their families is the wrong way to go about this transition. No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students’ achievement, you need to know how all students are doing. If California moves forward with a plan that fails to assess all its students, as required by federal law, the Department will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds from the state.
“In states like California that will be field-testing more sophisticated and useful assessments this school year, the Department has offered flexibility to allow each student to take their state’s current assessment in English language arts and math or the new field tests in those subjects. That’s a thoughtful approach as states are transitioning to new standards. While standards and tests may not match up perfectly yet, backing away entirely from accountability and transparency is not good for students, parents, schools and districts.
“California has demonstrated its leadership by raising its standards, investing in their implementation and working with other states to develop new assessments, and I urge the state to continue to be a positive force for reform.”
Torlakson: “This legislation will continue to be guided by what’s right for California’s children—moving forward with instruction and assessments reflecting the deeper learning and critical thinking our students need to compete and win in a changing world. Our goals for 21st century learning, and the road ahead, are clear. We won’t reach them by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror with outdated tests, no matter how it sits with officials in Washington. We look forward to the opportunity to make our case to the Administration when the time comes. When we do, we hope they agree that withholding badly needed funds from California’s students would be a grave and serious error.”
Most interesting comment on the websites -- this one from EdSource -- from the professionals in the field. This, from Chris Stampolis, Governing Board Member, Santa Clara Unified School District:
...The real crisis in AB 484 is in proposed 60648.5.(a) “The first full administration of assessments aligned to the Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics shall occur in the 2014–15 school year unless the state board determines that the assessments cannot be fully implemented.”
No honest educational leader in California expects new assessments to be “fully implemented” in 2014-15. So, we’ll strettttcccchhhhh out the number of years before “new” tests are “fully” administered. The “unless” clause means there will be no new tests in 2014-15. AB 484 is a stalking horse to suspend standardized testing for many years in California – at least at the secondary level.