Superintendent's Monthly Message


May/June 2015

For the past several weeks, students in grades 3-8 have been taking the new state tests, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. These tests were developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to provide better and more consistent measures of student progress in mastering the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The CCSS have established more rigorous expectations for students, and the new tests are very different from the former state tests.

 All of our students are taking these tests on laptop computers rather than using pencil and paper as they did formerly. Additionally, the new tests are adaptive, with the difficulty of each question adjusting based on how the student responds to the previous question. Some questions are open-ended with more than one correct answer. Adaptive testing is designed to provide more definitive information on what students know and what they still need to master. The new standards and the new tests involve critical thinking and problem solving and a deeper understanding of core academic content.

 The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is developing a system of formative, interim assessments in addition to the annual end of the year state test. These formative assessments, given at various times throughout the year, will help teachers identify specific areas of support needed for each student to master the standards. The focus of this assessment system is learning rather than testing.

This is the first year that scores will be available for students who have taken the test. In states which have preceded California in administering these tests such as New York and Kentucky, student scores were much lower than they were on the previous tests. Because the Common Core State Standards require a more rigorous and complex understanding and application of academic content than were previously required, and because the new state tests are now computer based and adaptive, requiring an additional skill set of technological proficiencies, it is predictable that our scores will be lower than they have been in the past.

 The shift away from multiple-choice tests focusing on facts and the regurgitation of information is a much needed reform. Providing students with opportunities to demonstrate their deeper understanding of the concepts they learn in class is critical for their success both now and certainly in the future. I am hopeful that although the scores on the new state tests may not be as high as we have seen in the past, we do not rush to judgement about the standards and the assessments. We need to focus on challenging students to think critically, problem-solve real-world concerns, and communicate effectively. We need to focus on the learning and not on the test results.


 Dr. Jacqueline M. Horejs, Superintendent