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New Testing Unveiled for California Schools, Would Reduce STAR Testing

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.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson recently 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 state 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're moving to a new dimension, a higher dimension,” said Torlakson.

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.

Officials in the Arcadia Unified School District welcomed the new testing system with open arms.

"We are excited to see the new smarter balanced assessments and hope that the state and the consortium will be able to implement them on time in 2014," AUSD Superintendent Joel Shawn said. "Our school district is committed to the use of student performance data as a part of the systems we use to ensure that students are receiving the instruction they need to make progress toward rigorous standards. The alignment of the new smarter balanced assessments with the recently adopted Common Core Standards by the state of California, which required a higher level of performance by students, in my mind is a good thing. We need students who will graduate from high school prepared for careers that have not yet been invented and to matriculate to university where they will continue their learning and achievement of 21st century skills. We think the new assessments are a critical part of the continuing improvement of our educational system."

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