Thursday, March 06, 2014



by Tom Chorneau | SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

March 04, 2014 (Calif.)  ::  Thousands of the state’s most severely disabled students face a double testing dilemma this spring as a result of the state’s complex transition to the Common Core curriculum – a problem lawmakers are scrambling to fix.

Legislation curtailing the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting or STAR program was signed into law last fall and also established field testing of a new assessment system based on the Common Core set to begin in the coming weeks – a move that ensured most students would only be tested once this spring.

But the law wasn’t changed for the state’s most cognitively disabled students – who are still required to take the California Alternative Performance Assessment or CAPA. That test, however, is not aligned with the Common Core and is scheduled to be phased out as soon as a replacement test is approved.

The problem that prompted AB 2057 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, is that more than 7,000 severely disabled students across the state face the prospect of taking both the CAPA as well as the pilot replacement test being developed by a national collaborative.

The political challenge, Bonilla said in an interview Monday, is similar to those debated during the fall when lawmakers approved AB 484, which ended the STAR program and launched the new Common Core assessment.

“The tension is the same that existed with 484 and that is the issues of accountability and the fact that we do want to make sure that students are getting consistent and high-quality services,” she explained.

Bonilla said she introduced the bill at the request of the state’s Advisory Commission on Special Education.

The double testing mandate caught many district and special education managers by surprise and sparked significant push back.

Some local officials have complained that keeping the CAPA testing this spring makes no sense since it is based on old standards that are no longer being taught. Further, taking precious class time to administer both tests creates a big burden on schools – to say nothing of the impacts on this vulnerable population of students.

Bonilla’s bill would simply prohibit local educational agencies from double testing their special education students in the 2013-14 school year, although it is not clear if the measure can clear the legislative process before testing begins.

SB 2057 would allow LEAs to choose to administer either the CAPA or the replacement test, known as the National Center and State Collaborative pilot test.

The bill also clarifies that, like the rest of the state’s students participating for the first time in testing based on the Common Core, the results from the National Center and State Collaborative pilot test will not be used as an accountability measure.

SB 2057 is also an urgency bill – meaning that it would take effect immediately if it receives support from a two-thirds majority in both houses and is signed by the governor.

The first hearing on the bill is scheduled for later this month before the Assembly’s Education Committee.

Bonilla said she is not aware of any formal opposition but acknowledged that any change in testing – especially when testing is scaled back – tends to generate concerns.

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