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Next Chapter in Standardized Testing Aligns with Common Core, AB 484

by Michael Higham, published

Standardized Testing Changes in CA with AB484 Credit: Chad McDermott /

It is by law that California administers a form of statewide academic assessment. Standardized testing is criticized for futility, but Assembly Bill 484 attempts to put meaning into testing. By the 2014 school year, testing aligned with Common Core standards would be implemented.

The current system uses the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessment. If passed, AB 484 will replace STAR with CalMAPP21 as the new system for statewide assessment.

It is unclear at the moment how CalMAPP21 will differ from STAR substantively, other than the focus on Common Core. CalMAPP has not been written, because it is not yet law. AB 484 does not provide specifics on CalMAPP21 content because the Legislature does not construct tests. However, there is consensus that current assessments are aging.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, who sponsors the bill, believes STAR is outdated since the tests evaluate basic skills that are not enough for the modern workplace. In a Sacramento Bee blog post, Torlakson himself wrote about the need for new tests:

"To succeed these days, it takes much, much more. Employers want workers who can think critically, tackle problems, communicate and collaborate – the very skills the Common Core was designed to teach."

He also states the urgency of reforming California's testing system, which AB 484 would do in the 2014-2015 school year. What the bill also does is suspend the STAR assessments outside of English and mathematics for the 2013-2014 school year.

Schools receive money to fully implement the assessment, but will focus next year's funds on developing new tests:

"In the 2014–15 school year, school districts and charter schools shall receive the same [STAR] apportionment as was received for the 2013–14 school year with the requirement that school districts and charter schools use the funds on common core implementation. These funds may be used for common core professional development, technology to implement CALMAPP21, or other activities to aid in the common core implementation."
Common Core Standards is a new curriculum adopted by 45 other states and is said to reflect the demands of the modern world. It was developed by a consortium involving education experts and the National Governors Association (NGA). The standards are voluntary, but have been incentivized by the federal government. The California Department of Education adopted the standards in 2010. (Assembly Bill 484 can be read here. It's analysis can also be read here.)

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