State Board of Education approves shortened standardized tests for students

The California State Board of Education last week voted unanimously to adopt a shortened version of the Smarter Balanced standardized tests in English language arts and mathematics.

Each spring, California students in grades three through eight and 11 take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments; however in March, after the pandemic forced school districts to close, the U.S. Department of Education waived federal requirements for statewide standardized testing.

In September, federal education officials said a similar waiver would likely not be available this school year and that states should prepare to administer tests in the spring.

students in computer lab

According to a press release from the California Department of Education, the shorter assessments will reduce student testing time, which now takes from seven to eight hours in total.

“Our schools and educators need flexibility, options, and ongoing support as they continue to navigate tremendous challenges and collect data across multiple measures to fully understand student learning,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said.

The CDE says the tests will cover all academic standards and will assess student competencies at each grade level. State education officials are hoping that results from the modified standardized tests will help measure the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on student learning.

“Because we have been supporting and encouraging districts to use formative and diagnostic assessments this fall, schools will have data to guide individual student learning,” said State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond. “Meanwhile, a shorter summative test can provide a more manageable way to offer district and state-level information in these unpredictable times.”

CDE officials say now that the shorter test format has been approved, they plan to work closely with districts and charter schools to communicate with families and ensure student participation.