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California Won’t Lose Federal Funds For Testing

Aired 3/10/14 on KPBS News.

California won't be sanctioned for forgoing its old, multiple-choice standardized tests in favor of pilot testing new online exams in the state's public schools this year.

California will not face federal penalties for its plan to scrap the state’s old standardized tests in favor of having students try out new online exams this year.

The U.S. Department of Education has given California the waiver from federal testing requirements the state has been asking for since the fall. As much as $3.5 billion was at stake.

The waiver comes just ahead of the March 18 start to the period for schools to test new online state exams.

Next year California will make the official switch to the new tests, which have open-ended questions and require students to cite evidence from materials they read or watch as part of the exam

“It gives schools and staff an opportunity to determine what they may need to do differently in terms of how they have students interact with technology in the classroom," said Deborah Sigman, deputy superintendent of the California Department of Education's District, School and Innovation Branch. "The purpose of the field test is to build an operational test for next year.”

Critics argue California is skirting school accountability by not publishing test results for this school year. Sigman says the online pilot tests won’t report student results, just information on how well each test item worked.

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