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By Beau Yarbrough, The Sun
Posted: 09/09/15 – 11:11 AM PDT |

Less than half of the state’s public school students passed new Common Core-aligned statewide tests, according to data released today.

Statewide, 44 percent of the 3.2 million students who took the test last spring met or exceeded the English language arts standard and 34 percent met or exceeded the mathematics standard on the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) standardized tests.

In San Bernardino County, the numbers were even lower, with 37 percent of the more than 210,000 students who took the test meeting or exceeding the English language arts standard, and 25 percent of students met or exceeded the math standard.

“I applaud our teachers, students, schools and districts for their hard work in preparation and conversion to the new testing requirements,” San Bernardino County Superintendent Ted Alejandre is quoted as saying in a press release. “These tests will serve as new barometers to prepare our students for college and careers.”

More or less across the board, the new scores are lower than what Californians are used to seeing for their local districts and schools. That’s not a surprise, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“By raising the bar, we’ve gone to higher, tougher standards,” said Torlakson in a telephone press conference Wednesday morning. “So it’s natural, in that case, that the vast majority of students will be in a different place than they were.”

Those higher standards were in response to feedback from the state’s universities and employers, Torlakson said.

“Higher standards in K-12 are the cornerstone on which California will build its future. By preparing more students to be both college and career-ready, the standards are directly impacting the fabric of our state, facilitating our transition to a knowledge-based economy which provides social mobility for all Californians,” State University Chancellor Timothy P. White is quoted as saying in a statement issued by the university system. “The test results signal the need for teachers, parents and local communities to work together to support students on their path to college and workforce success.”

Employers are demanding more of their employers today, according to David Rattray, senior vice president, Education & Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We need to have those same higher expectations of the state’s students,” he said. “These are the highest standards we’ve ever established for K-12.”

About 3.2 million third- through eighth- and 11th-graders statewide took the CAASPP tests last spring, a replacement for the venerable California Standards Test (CST), which was first approved in 1997 and phased out in 2013. (Less than 1 percent of California students have opted out of taking the tests, much lower than most other states.)
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The new tests are aligned to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which emphasize reasoning and deep understanding of topics.

The CAASPP tests are a modified version of the national Smarter Balanced tests, which were also taken by 17 other states. (A second set of Common Core-aligned tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers [PARCC], was taken in other states as well, and some states have developed their own tests.) In theory, it should be easier to compare how students are doing in one state with another.

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