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California Begins Testing New Student Assessment

California is preparing to implement Common Core education standards. As part of that change, the state is replacing standardized tests with new “assessments” meant to better judge students’ knowledge. But the state must first test the test.

In the media lab of an elementary school in Sacramento, fourth grader Aanyah Jacobs answers questions that pop up on a computer screen one at a time. She’s one of the more than three million California public school students testing out the state’s new assessment.

“I like it. It’s better than the other test where you just bubble it in," Jacobs says. "And it helps us to learn how to also work the computer.”

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson says this is the largest field test of its kind in the country. Between now and June all students in grades three through eight and some high schoolers will take practice tests. Torlakson says surveys and focus groups will then be conducted to see how the assessment worked. He says making sure schools’ technology is up-to-date is critical.

“I’m hopeful the state of California will provide some more money for more computer capacity," he says. "As we go forward we’ll understand, from the field test of today and the next few weeks, we’ll understand where there are shortcomings and how to address them and we’ll start investing in closing the gaps.”

The non-timed assessment will test kids on math, writing and comprehension. The format may be different from the traditional pencil and paper tests students are used to. But fourth-grader Aanyah isn’t worried.

“I’m very confident in me that I’m going to succeed and pass the test.”

California schools will begin teaching to Common Core standards next school year.

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