State Legislature Sends Governor AB 484, Would End Current CA Standardized Annual School Tests And Academic Performance Index Scores As Students "Field Test" New "Common Core" Test Not Yet Fully Field Tested/Developed

  • U.S. Education Sec'y Threatens Cut-Off Of Some Fed'l Funds
  • LB School Board Let LBUSD Mgm't Support AB 484 Without Publicly Voted School Board Approval

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(Sept, 26, 2013) -- As we publish, CA Governor Jerry Brown has on his desk -- for either approval or veto -- AB 484, a bill passed by a majority of CA Assembly and state Senate, that would end CA's current standardized school testing program (STAR tests), eliminate annual Academic Performance Index school scores, suspend nearly all STAR tests in the current school year and permanently next year and instead implement "field testing" of a "Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress" (MAPP) test now being developed that is supposed to mesh with new "Common Core" standards and could be taken on computers but hasn't been fully developed or field tested yet.

The measure received "yes" votes from Assemblywoman (now declared Mayoral candidate) Bonnie Lowenthal (D., Long Beach-San Pedro) and state Senator Ricardo Lara (D., Long Beach-Bell Gardens).

AB 484 would eliminate the STAR standardized tests and the API scores that are currently used by parents, taxpayers and home buyers in judging the performance of neighborhood schools. provides:

  • The full text of AB 484 as enacted
  • Background Assembly legislative analysis (here) and state Senate legislative analysis (here)
  • Assembly final recorded vote (here) and state Senate final recorded vote (here) has learned that the Long Beach Unified School District took a position in support of AB 484 without the publicly voted approval of LBUSD's School Board. LBUSD's elected School Board members, who set policy for management implementation, effectively let Superintendent Chris Steinhauser (non-elected management) advocate passage of the legislation without a Board vote [at which public testimony pro and con would have been required in addition to the recorded Board vote.]

LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou told

The board did not take a vote to support 484 because this is a management issue, not a policy-setting issue. We're required to implement the rigorous and internationally benchmarked Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by the state, and it is our superintendent's view that one of the best ways to transition to these standards is to test our students widely with the aligned assessments this school year. In fact, our district is committed to administering these tests widely in the spring whether or not the state fully funds the effort.

Mr. Eftychiou also adds for context:

Our school board on Aug. 20 approved a Common Core Implementation Funding Plan...which includes a reference to expenditures necessary to support the administration of computer-based assessments...[O]ur superintendent is committed to switching to the new assessments, whether the state fully funds them or not. While the school board didn't specifically take a vote on 484, they did approve related expenditures at a public meeting.

Prior the state Senate's final vote on the bill, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (whose office was AB 484's sponsor/key advocate) issued a release quoting LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser as saying, "The Long Beach Unified School District supports AB 484 because we plan to administer Smarter Balanced assessments in grades three through eight and eleven this school year, giving teachers the opportunity to fine-tune their practice relative to this new assessment environment. This approach also provides students the chance to experience the new tests before the results are used for accountability purposes."

On September 9, prior to the state legislature's final votes, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement (Sept. 9) indicating that if CA implements the new system, it may lose certain federal education funds.

[U.S. Education Sec'y Duncan Sept. 9 statement] 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.

On Sept 10 (state Senate) and Sept. 11 (Assembly) both gave final voted approval to AB 484. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson issued a press release praising state lawmakers and included a second supportive quote from LBUSD Superintendent Steinhauser. The release stated in pertinent part:

[CA Dept. of Education release text]...[SB 484] suspends most Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments and authorizes new Common Core-aligned assessments known as the Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP).

"California's shift to the Common Core is about helping students meet the challenges of a changing world, and AB 484 recognizes that updating the way we teach students also means updating the way we test them," Torlakson said. "Lawmakers see that our students must graduate with more than knowledge, but with the ability to apply that knowledge to work collaboratively and solve problems."

The MAPP testing program will be made up of assessments being designed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two multistate organizations formed to create the next generation of assessments aligned to the Common Core. Field tests of the new assessments, set for the spring of 2014, are designed as "tests of the tests." The consortium developing the assessments recently announced that the field tests will be widely available, allowing states to offer them to more than a representative sampling of students.

Brown has already indicated his support for the measure, as have education leaders around the state. Statements of support include:

Vernon M. Billy, California School Boards Association Executive Director: "On behalf of the California School Boards Association, which represents nearly 1,000 school districts and county boards of education statewide, we are pleased to support AB 484. The bill will ensure that California's schools can spend the 2013-14 school year focused on teaching and learning the new core content standards in mathematics and English language arts. Without this focus and without suspending the current assessments for 2013-14, we will end up over-testing students and testing them on old standards. This will cause confusion for students and will not benefit them academically. It's a much better use of our teachers' and students' time and effort to begin learning the Common Core curriculum and preparing for the new Smarter Balanced assessments so that problems can be identified and solved prior to full implementation in the spring of 2015. AB 484 makes this possible."

Dr. Darryl Adams, Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent: "The Board of Trustees, students, staff, and parents of the Coachella Valley Unified School District give our overwhelming support to the State Superintendent, the State Board of Education, the Legislature, and the Governor in suspending the STAR test and expanding field testing for the Smarter Balance of Assessment examinations.... The passage of AB 484 will give our students the opportunity to experience the new assessments and allow our teachers to prepare our students for the real Smarter Balanced Assessments in 2014-15."

Wesley Smith, Executive Director of the Association of California School Administrators: "AB 484 is supported by thousands of California superintendents and principals because it helps ensure a smooth transition for students and schools to Common Core State Standards. It just makes sense to give schools and teachers the opportunity to fully implement our recently adopted standards rather than focus on the California Standards Tests, which are not aligned to the instruction we are implementing in our classrooms. We urge lawmakers to approve AB 484 because it allows our students, teachers, and school communities to focus on what matters to them now."

Randolph Ward, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools: "AB 484 will allow us to prepare our students and staff for success rather than set them up for frustration. To do otherwise -- to maintain two testing systems each of which requires very different instructional techniques and looks at very different skills -- will result in a schizophrenic environment in our schools that isn't in anyone's best interest. Suspending the STAR tests and expanding field testing of new assessments allows time for educational leaders to prepare students for a completely different manner of demonstrating knowledge while ensuring districts have the means to provide accountability to the public."

Christopher Steinhauser, Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent: "The Long Beach Unified School District supports AB 484 because we plan to administer Smarter Balanced assessments in grades three through eight and eleven this school year, giving teachers the opportunity to fine-tune their practice relative to this new assessment environment. This approach also provides students the chance to experience the new tests before the results are used for accountability purposes."

Other supporters of the bill include:

  • Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (Co-Sponsor).
  • San Diego Unified School District.
  • Torrance Unified School District.
  • Whittier Union High School District.
  • Franklin-McKinley School District.
  • Riverside County Superintendent of Schools.
  • Los Angeles County Office of Education.
  • California Federation of Teachers.
  • California Teachers Association.
  • California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.
  • Californians Together.
  • TechNet.
  • TechAmerica
  • Bay Area Council has learned that this is the second time within roughly the past year that LBUSD's School Board has let LBUSD management take a significant policy position on behalf of the District without the Board's publicly voted approval.

Earlier this year, in a high visibility action, LBUSD joined a number of CA school districts (including Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Oakland) in seeking and obtaining a waiver from the U.S. Dept. of Education from federal "No Child Left Behind Act" requirements that the rest of CA school districts are still obligated to meet. LBUSD's school board has been on record for some time urging Congress as a legislative to amend the "No Child Left Behind Act," an action that would be applicable nationwide. However that is arguably considerably different than LBUSD seeking to become one of only a handful of CA school districts to be exempted from the law. The U.S. Dept. of Education has previously granted waivers to some entire states but, until recently, not to a few school districts in one state.

Further to follow on

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