View EdVoice AB 484 release as a PDF.

View a coalition letter opposing AB 484.

Sacramento, CA ( September 9, 2013) --  EdVoice applauds Secretary Duncan’s statement in response to the latest version of AB 484 and the State Board of Education’s request for a waiver.

EdVoice remains opposed to this legislation, which in its current form, along with the recent decision of the State Board of Education (SBE) to request a waiver from all English/Language Arts and Math testing required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), will undermine California’s ability to implement the Common Core effectively and provide meaningful information on student learning to parents, educators and policymakers.

AB 484 and Waiver Enact an Indefinite Moratorium on Assessment & Accountability.  
Originally school districts and parents were told that the plan for 2013-14 was to test the federally required minimum of tests in English and Math in grades 3-8 and 11, while conducting the ‘final’ field testing of new Common Core assessments.  Now that plan has changed and the state would eliminate all of these tests in 2013-14, except for field tests which don’t produce information for parents or teachers.  And, the door is wide open for the SBE to authorize statewide “field testing” well beyond the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. On this alone, Secretary Duncan should deny the waiver request.

Without valid and reliable statewide assessment data, there will be no accountability, at the local or state level - no information on whether public schools are closing achievement gaps of disadvantaged students.  LCFF, the Governor’s plan for massive local flexibility begins this year, creating a new era, in which parents, civil rights organizations and community leaders would be the eyes and ears, and arms and legs of accountability to make sure poor children, English Learners and Foster Care children have an equitable opportunity to learn in public schools. AB 484 makes these new partners blind and deaf and severs their appendages. How can they do this when AB 484 eliminates all their information about student achievement?  And how is a district to set baseline targets for future academic growth, the states number one priority in LCFF, when AB 484 explicitly outlaws the state or districts from comparing STAR test result with the new MAPP results and explicitly prohibits field test data to be used for accountability?  

A Commitment to Common Core or a Head-Fake?
By proposing to eliminate testing and information for parents while hiding behind an empty waiver request, California is conceding it has no substantial Common Core implementation plan.  Instead of leadership, California is signaling it is willing to gut accountability and eliminate the ability of local school districts to use relevant information to gauge the progress of students in public schools and track achievement gaps.   Prohibiting the use of information of student performance from multiple measures over time undermines the 48 year history of ESEA, the first federal legislation on the war on poverty.  

Despite claims that this effort demonstrates a commitment to lead on Common Core implementation, it perpetuates a lack of leadership that we have seen from the State for the last three years. California adopted the Common Core English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards in July 2010, but since then there has been little substance to assist educators with their work to help students meet grade level, career, college preparation, and graduation readiness goals.   Although the state recently provided $1.25 billion, for a state as big as California, that amounts to only $200 per pupil for districts to move forward with Common Core implementation.  And worse, the funds were disbursed with little instruction on effective professional development, no guidance on specific instructional materials, and no specifications for technology needed to succeed in the use of digital tools for either formative or high stakes summative assessment.  

After the failure of the state leaders to provide any leadership in ensuring that all California teachers and school leaders are prepared to help children master the Common Core, they are allowing their success to hinge in large part on an incomplete plan to indefinitely delay fully implementing the new assessments. This is not leadership, particularly with all the old and now new questions that remain with the language of AB 484.

Why would the State further narrow the curriculum?  California’s history-social science standards have not changed and there are no new assessments being considered for this subject. Why would the state eliminate history assessments and send the message that this is not an important area of study for California’s students?  Algebra is still a California statutory high school graduation requirement. Why would the state eliminate that end of course assessment? And, what message does it send to eliminate all high school assessments, except for the High School Exit Exam, which is not aligned to the Common Core standards.

Will the State provide the formative and interim assessments that have been promised as the key to improving and personalizing instruction? The bill still does NOT guarantee that districts will have access to a robust system of formative assessment tools. The bill makes the acquisition of these tools subject to being “provided though consortia membership,” creating a convenient loophole. Also, though promised by the author and sponsor, the bill does NOT provide for a comprehensive program of computer-adaptive assessments; the author and sponsor now admit that out of grade level computer adaptive testing is NOT being offered by the consortia assessment program.

How much will districts have to pay for these “field tests”? The legislation mandates districts to pay for unfunded costs to administer assessments in excess of the contracted amount. How much more will districts have to pay if they want to know how all their students are doing, and will their students’ tests even get scored?