CA Testing Bill AB 484 Catches National Attention and Opposition

Assembly Bill 484 — authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla — passed the Senate floor on September 10 by a vote of 26 to 7 with 6 senators abstaining. The bill’s purpose is to overhaul California’s standardized testing system with new tests more aligned with Common Core standards.

However, the US Department of Education is denouncing California’s legislation. This is because AB 484 suspends the current standardized testing system for the 2013-2014 school year. The state’s new system, Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP), would replace Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) in the 2014-2015 academic year.

The reason for the one year gap is so that schools can make a smoother transition to the new tests. Standardized tests are also incorporated in the evaluation of schools’ Academic Performance Index (API) score. API is used to determine if a school is improving or not, but API scores would not be calculated if STAR tests are suspended.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the following comments on the bill in a press release Monday:

“A request from California to not measure the achievement of millions of students this year is not something we could approve in good conscience. Raising standards to better prepare students for college and careers is absolutely the right thing to do, but letting an entire school year pass for millions of students without sharing information on their schools’ performance with them and their families is the wrong way to go about this transition.”

“No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students’ achievement, you need to know how all students are doing. If California moves forward with a plan that fails to assess all its students, as required by federal law, the Department will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds from the state.”

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson replied to the federal government’s opposition:

“Our goals for 21st century learning, and the road ahead, are clear. We won’t reach them by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror with outdated tests, no matter how it sits with officials in Washington”

“We look forward to the opportunity to make our case to the Administration when the time comes. When we do, we hope they agree that withholding badly needed funds from California’s students would be a grave and serious error.”

California’s State Board of Education has the ability to hold off on implementing the MAPP system in the 2014-2015 school year if it feels that it is not ready.

California and the US Education Department have a history of butting heads in education policy. If federal assistance to the state’s education system is withheld following the passage of AB 484, the state could have a temporary hitch in its newly increased education budget. The state could possibly face the consequences now to create a more meaningful system to evaluate student performance.

Details on AB 484 can be downloaded here