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School officials propose overhaul of state standardized tests


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California State schools superintendent Tom Torlakson wants to revamp statewide standardized testing; instead of memorization driven, multiple-choice bubble exams, the proposed tests would assess critical thinking, problem solving, and essay writing skills.

Torlakson said the new test would be implemented in the 2014-15 school year at the same time as the state adopts national Common Core curriculum and phases out the current STAR testing program.

“We’ve been asking our kids to master new skills and so the assessments must change, too,” said Torlakson.

It will take more than a year to implement, so Torlakson is recommending suspending most tests not required by the federal government starting next year. This would put a moratorium on STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course-exams at the state level.

This will give schools and teachers time to implement Common Core standards without the pressure of performing well on soon-to-be-outdated tests, he said.

Another --the shift from paper and pencil tests to computerized test taking --was lauded by State Assembly member Susan Bonilla, who is drafting legislation to implement the new assessments.

She said computerized tests will allow teachers to get results faster and create a “robust feedback loop.”

Under the current system, results are delivered to schools over summer break. The new model test results will be available before school lets out.

UTLA president Warren Fletcher said LA Unified teachers welcome this element. “It’s information that teachers can use in real-time to be able to best serve students,” he said.

Torlakson’s report (Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System) was mandated by the legislature to bring school curriculum, instruction and the state assessment into alignment with new curriculum standards, known as the Common Core.

In all, Torlakson made a dozen recommendations compiled with feedback from focus groups, statewide surveys, regional public meetings, and public comments received through an email account.

California is one of 45 states that have adopted the Common Core standards for mathematics and English-language arts.