Standardized testing has made so much headway in schools around the country that seeing a state backing away from it, even if only for one year, is surprising. But that is what may happen in California, where legislators have introduced a plan to suspend the state's STAR tests in mathematics and English.
Suspension of STAR testing would not, of course, mean that students and teachers will be excused from all forms of state assessment. Administrators will instead be given the option to opt into the computerized assessments based on Common Core Standards a year before they become mandatory.
Suspension of STAR exams will also mean suspension of collection, analysis and publication of student performance data.
The one-year lift on public reporting requirements comes after statewide declines on English and math STAR tests last school year. The state Department of Education attributed those declines to years of budget cuts and teacher preparations for new Common Core teaching methods.
"This is going to give all the students in California the opportunity to do a trial run on the new testing system without there being any high stakes involved," said Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a former high school teacher from Concord, who is carrying legislation to implement the change.
Bonilla said there was concern that teachers would be expected to teach according to Common Core standards but be held accountable for results on outdated STAR tests.
According to Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee, the first draft of the bill that would suspend STAR initially called for only 20% of the schools to switch to the new assessment pilot program. The latest version lifts the cap and leaves the decision up to each district.
Supporters welcome the measure, introduced as House Bill 484, because, as teacher John Ennis explained, it makes no sense to ask schools to teach to the new standards while continuing to test the old standards.
However, not everyone is on board with the immediate STAR suspension.
Bill Lucia of the education advocacy group EdVoice said suspending accountability methods will make it difficult for school districts to show their communities they are serving their students well.
"It's a lot of flexibility with little leadership," Lucia said. "It would have been nice to have this conversation back in the spring."
Gov. Jerry Brown's office offered strong support of Bonilla's bill Wednesday.