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State revises school tests

STAR test canceled by state, no API scores will be issued for two years.

November 06, 2013|By Sara Cardine

In a community such as La Cañada Flintridge, where schools’ standardized test performance is a matter of personal pride, the idea of going two full years without Academic Performance Index scores can seem exasperating.

But that’s exactly what school officials are preparing for as guidelines for the new California Common Core Standards testing trickle down from the state — guidelines calling for a full season of field testing to replace the now-defunct STAR tests.

Anais Wenn, La Cañada Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, described the process as a learning curve that will likely span the next few years as everyone becomes accustomed to the new curriculum and tests.

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“I’m sure every year it’s going to get better and better as we learn,” she said Monday. “Once we have the strategies down, we will be back on our game and will continue to make improvements every year.”

The new Common Core standards for learning were adopted as of this school year and are already being used in La Cañada classrooms, but until last month, state lawmakers hadn’t decided how academic achievement would be measured.

Because the new standards — which aim to gauge students’ deeper understanding of content and ask them to dynamically apply their knowledge — are so different from the concrete, grade-specific benchmarks of the California State Content Standards adopted in the late 1990s, state testing officials hope the field test will help guide future evaluations.

“They’re different assessments measuring different standards,” said Jessica Valdez, administrator of the Statewide Assessment Transition Office of the California Department of Education. “There are going to be different scoring levels.”

When asked what the new scoring levels would look like, Valdez replied, “We don’t know yet.”

Signed Oct. 2 by Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 484 called for the suspension of this spring’s STAR test, the state education department’s main evaluation tool. The law outlines the means by which school districts will prepare for the new, computer-based Common Core evaluations set to begin in the 2014-15 school year.

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