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New Testing For California Schools; STAR On Way Out

The state superintendent's plan would emphasize critical thinking skills. Some STAR testing may be suspended. Do you think this is a move in the right direction?

In the near future, California students will be thinking a lot more and filling in fewer bubbles when they take standardized statewide tests.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson  unveiled a new testing system for schools statewide.

The new tests follow the guidelines set forth in the Common Core State Standards. Those recommendations were put together last year by a task force that studied new testing methods under a mandate by the state Legislature.

If approved by state legislators, the new testing system would begin in the 2014-2015 school year.

The superintendent is planning to suspend STAR Program assessments for the coming school year unless the exams are specifically mandated by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or used for the Early Assessment Program (EAP).

This change would suspend STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course exams at the high school level.

Torlakson said the current testing system has improved student learning throughout the state, but it's time to move to a different kind of assessment.

"We moving to a new dimension, a higher dimension," said Torlakson, a former science, math and history teacher at Mt. Diablo High in Concord.

Torlakson has made a dozen recommendations to the legislature for the Statewide Pupil Assessment System.

One of the keys is to move away from memorization of knowledge and focus more on students' critical thinking, analytical skills and problem solving.

State leaders said the new tests will measure the ability of students to understand and use what they have learned.

“Multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests alone simply cannot do the job anymore and it’s time for California to move forward with assessments that measure the real-world skills our students need to be ready for a career and for college,” said Torlakson.

"I'm very excited for what this will mean to our students," said state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), a former English teacher.

What do you think? Should the state testing system be revamped? Should we leave it alone? Should we be doing statewide testing at all? Let up know in the comments section.

Jason Schmidt January 09, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Sounds more like: not enough people are passing, so we need to create a dumbed-down test with answers subject to discretion of the graders, so once again everyone who shows up can be given a high-school diploma, even if they cannot read or do simple math. Funny how very difficult assessments of critical thinking and skills can still be tested with multiple choice, as they are with graduate school screening tests, yet somehow Mr Torlakson thinks those won't be necessary for college. Unfortunately, college classes are still going to be giving tests, so anyone headed in that direction better be able to answer basic test question formats.
Bailey Lee January 09, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Wow! What a great idea, moving from a fact based objective test to one where the results are subjectively assessed by test givers who have a personal stake in the outcomes! No worries bec as everyone knows, teachers and administrators (like politicians) never cheat and lie. Wonder why it took so long for this to pop up. If you can't pass the test, ditch the test. Brilliant!
Jim January 09, 2013 at 04:17 PM
The problem will remain, testing methodology is not the issue, students are stuck in an inefficient and unfair system. Here's the problem -- students must proceed in the curriculum regardless of understanding... by example, if a 3rd grader gets 3 or 4 wrong answers out 10, to stay in step with the rest of the class, they must proceed to the next section anyway. What if there's a family problem at home? What if they are not so passionate about that particular subject, they learn it's okay to do poorly, the class will move on, and the student thinks everything is fine. It's like reading a book, except skip 30-40% of the pages! You don't realize until toward the end that you have little understanding. No time to go back...lost cause.... Blended learning can fix that. Blended learning is the concept where a student is allowed to proceed on their own, with the help of an online or standalone computer, they don't proceed to the next section until they reach a certain level of comprehension. The teacher would still work in the same manner as they do now, except there is more time to focus on problem areas, as other students are free to proceed. Students become empowered, and proud!!!! Blended learning started in inner city schools and has much success. Along with the individualized custom computer curriculum, the students also work in small groups, and there still is time for class wide discussion. For more information, simply search "Blended Learning".
Chris Holton January 09, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Good riddance to bad rubbish. STAR testing does not enhance the educational experience of our children and is not pertinent to a high performing district such as Acalanes.
Lawrence Risner January 09, 2013 at 04:51 PM
What ever happened to the 3-R's that the older generation went through? It used to be that in the first school years students were taught to socialize and play together first and then learn the arithmetic and basic skills needed for living in a society. The youth of today are being taught to be competitive and defensive from the get-go and when they finish their schooling requirements don't even know what they need to do to support themselves and their own society. What is to happen when this working generation all hit retirement age and the following generation doesn't know how to be responsible for their own support? Using iphones and ipads is not helping them with social skill and by itself won't pay the bills!
Kelly January 09, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Having two children currently in the system taking this test every year, it is obvious that they are teaching the kids how to pass the STAR test. PERIOD. It has zero reflection in my opinion on how well the kids are doing academically. It is short term memorization. I welcome a new test, provided it isn't subjective and it evaluates the kids critical thinking and thought process.
Robinson Crusoe January 09, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Seriously they teach the test. I used to answer in a zigzag pattern just so I would finish faster because I knew it didn't matter. If you want standardized people put them in standardized classes with standardized tests and you can have all the slaves, err, cogs for your machine. Read the 7 things school teaches by the ny state teacher of the year. School makes people who only know how to repeate the answers they are given and disciplines individuality and creativity. If we still taught the trivium we would have a much much more inteligent society, although much less controlable and that's not what our masters want.

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