California’s Brown Signs Bill Replacing STAR Tests

California is moving ahead with plans to implement new schools testing standards despite a threat by the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to withhold federal grants if the state replaces its traditional standardized tests.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that replaces Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests administered by public schools in California with new assessments standards, according to Sharon Noguchi of San Jose Mercury News.

The Assembly Bill 484, which was authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would end the pencil-and-paper, multiple-choice the standardized STAR tests and replace them with assessments called Measurement of Academic Progress and Performance.

The new assessments were designed with other states to align with Common Core standards, and Brown supports matching tests to Common Core sooner rather than later.

The STAR tests have been administered by state's public school since 1999.

"I've said from the beginning, California needs tests that measure how ready our students are for the challenges of a changing world," said California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who championed the rapid shift away from the STAR tests. "Today, we have taken a huge step in that direction by creating an assessment system focused on improving teaching and learning and by sending a clear signal about our commitment to this urgent work."

The state has been giving the STAR tests to all students in grades 2-11. Under the plan approved by Brown, only the science portion of the test would be given to fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders next spring before being dropped altogether a year later.

Because the new tests are still under development, schools will be required to give them on a practice basis in grades 3-8 and 11 this spring, with students taking either the math or language sections but not both. Also, no individual student scores, school performance reports or statewide results would be generated from the rollout.

Previously, California had planned only to sample the new tests with about 20% of its 3.3 million public school students this spring.

Torlakson still is planning to seek Duncan's permission to follow the accelerated timetable called for in the bill Brown signed, and state officials have said they might be willing to implement it even if it costs the state federal dollars.

According to supporters of new assessments, it does not make sense for schools to give the old tests when teachers already are gearing their lessons toward Common Core, which calls for more in-depth teaching of fewer subjects and emphasizes real-world applications of material in an effort to prepare students for college and careers.

"This is one of the most important and revolutionary changes to education policy, and California is the right state to lead the way," said Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. "With this new law, our schools can move away from outdated STAR tests and prepare students and teachers for better assessments."

In addition to Bonilla's bill, the governor also signed 13 other education bills, including a measure authorizing the state Department of Education to develop tests and materials for students who are learning to speak English and matched to Common Core.

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