November 9, 2020 – SACRAMENTO – Last week, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the use of shorter standardized tests in English language arts and math this spring, creating a path for collecting critical student data amidst COVID-19 uncertainties.
The Board’s action also recognizes the need for innovative solutions to support students, schools, and districts as they confront myriad challenges associated with the pandemic.
“Our schools and educators need flexibility, options, and ongoing support as they continue to navigate tremendous challenges and collect data across multiple measures to fully understand student learning,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
Like other states, California is required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to assess student learning as a condition of receiving certain federal funds. In a letter to state education chiefs, the U.S. Department of Education indicated they would not currently consider a waiver and that states should prepare to administer tests in the spring.
The State Board’s approval of shorter Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math for grades 3–8 and 11 reflects California’s commitment to supporting schools by providing testing options.
The shorter assessments will reduce student testing time, which now takes from seven to eight hours in total. Guidance regarding test administration will include flexible options to meet the unique contexts of each district or school.
The tests will cover all academic standards, which describe what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Spring testing will provide the first statewide snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on student learning.
“Because we have been supporting and encouraging districts to use formative and diagnostic assessments this fall, schools will have data to guide individual student learning. Meanwhile, a shorter summative test can provide a more manageable way to offer district and state-level information in these unpredictable times,” said State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond.
Now that the shorter tests are approved, CDE will work closely with districts and charter schools to strategize test administration, ensure student participation, and communicate with families.