Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
September 10, 2015

  • Academic testing shows lackluster results
  • Poor, English-learner kids fare the worst
  • Will tests hold schools accountable?

It was no surprise that California’s first academic tests tied to new Common Core English and mathematics standards revealed lackluster achievement.

Overall, just 44 percent of the 3.2 million students in grades 3-8 and 11 met or exceeded standards in English, and that dropped to 33 percent in mathematics.

State education officials had warned that results of the “Smarter Balanced” tests would be disappointing, with competency levels lower than the state’s now-abandoned STAR tests had shown.

State schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson and his aides were so worried about the comparison that they even removed STAR test results dating back 15 years from the Internet, only to restore them later in response to an intense surge of criticism.

As he released the new test results on Wednesday, Torlakson cautioned again that data from the two testing regimes “cannot be reliably compared,” adding, “It would be like comparing an apple to a watermelon.”

That’s a fair statement. Not only are academic skills being evaluated much different, but so is the way tests are conducted.

The biggest question about Smarter Balanced test results is not whether they will be compared to STAR, but whether they will be compared to themselves – used effectively to chart academic progress, or the lack thereof, as California implements Common Core and a new system that gives extra money to schools for “high-needs” poor, English-learner and foster care students.

They make up nearly 60 percent of the 6 million-plus K-12 students, and their test scores are nothing short of abysmal.

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