California Goes Digital: Will New Form of Testing Be Implemented Smoothly?
On October 2nd, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a suite of bills that effectively reorganized California’s educational system. One of the most notable changes made was the switch from traditional standardized testing to digital standardized testing proposed in Assembly Bill 484.
Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord), the author of AB 484, believes that California’s current education system is outdated. According to Bonilla, California’s current education system puts too much emphasis on memorization and should be more focused on problem solving. She believes that a new digital testing system would better prepare state students by giving them “knowledge needed … to succeed in college and careers”. The new law will get rid of California’s traditional standardized test and replace it with computerized test. For the first few years of digital testing, test scores will not be recorded and cannot be used for evaluations. These new testing methods are part of curriculum mandated by the Common Core State Standards initiative. AB 484 passed with 79% of the vote in the California Senate, 69% of the vote in the California Assembly, and wide support from Governor Brown and California school district officials.
The new bill effectively rids the state of any standardized measurement of educational development until the 2014-15 school year. No Child Left Behind mandates the reporting of standardized tests for each academic year. In order to comply with both the new law and NCLB, the state would have to fund both written and digital math and English exams. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson has already said that California cannot pay for two different tests. To further complicate the situation, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated the he would be willing to withhold federal funds, up to $ 1.5 billion, if California did not properly assess of its students.
What will happen next?
The conflict here is between two institutions, California’s legislature which wants to adopt the new Common Core Standards and The Department of Education. If schools have to pay for additional testing, then the preferences associated with adopting a new testing system will change. Without the resources to pay, many schools districts would try to opt out or delay the implementation of the new digitized testing system. Some school district superintendents are putting their faith in Gov. Brown to find a resolution to this looming problem. If schools must pay for traditional testing of math and English, it will be interesting to see how the changing electorate preferences will alter the decisions of Gov. Brown and the California Legislature.
The path taken by AB 484 in the California Legislature: