State Board of Education seeks additional testing flexibility for schools

The state Board of Education is looking to give California school districts expanded options for assessing student learning this spring — including local tests that align with state standards.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, all states that receive federal funds for low-income students and English learners must annually assess progress in a number of areas including math, language arts and science. While the federal government allowed states to opt out of testing in 2020 because of the pandemic, it’s holding firm this year.

California Department of Education logoLast month, the state board voted to apply for the maximum flexibility offered by the U.S. Department of Education. It also announced that it would explore options that account for the impact of COVID-19 on educators, families and schools — including the reality that many test-takers are still at home.

A unanimous vote by the board this week builds on that effort by seeking permission from the federal government for districts to use the best assessment tool available based on their specific circumstances.

The state’s Smarter Balanced assessments and California Alternate Assessments for English language arts and mathematics would be among the options, along with other diagnostic, benchmark or interim assessments that:

  • Are aligned with California Common Core State Standards for English language arts and math
  • Are available to assess students in grades 3 through 8 and 11
  • Are uniformly administered across a grade span, school or district
  • Provide results that can be reported to families, educators and the public and be disaggregated into subgroups

“While school reopening momentum is growing and we expect many more students to return to class this spring, we realize that many more may still be learning remotely either some days or every day,” state board President Linda Darling-Hammond said. “The Board’s action today, coupled with our previous request for flexibility, will give local educators and state policymakers important data on student progress while recognizing the realities of a very challenging year.”

Federal guidance allows assessments to be taken remotely, and California has permitted remote testing since August. At its November 2020 meeting, the state board also approved shorter versions of the Smarter Balanced assessments, which are typically administered in the spring.

EdSource has more on the state Board of Education’s vote.