Sunday, September 22, 2013


From the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update Week of September 23, 2013 |

AB 484 + COMMON CORE TESTING - An Overview


Sept 19, 2013 :: The California Legislature has passed AB 484, the controversial bill sponsored by Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which aims to overhaul the state’s student assessment system.

Governor Brown has said he will sign it, thereby placing the state, in what has been called by the media, a showdown with the U.S. Department of Education.

Essentially, the bill would end the STAR testing in reading, mathematics and social science for students in grades 2 - 11 and replace it with field tests of new assessments based on the Common Core State Standards in the spring. Its purpose is to help the test developers create a valid assessment on the new standards in 2015, when California will formally implement them. This would be a trial run in English and math and only districts that have the computer equipment available and want to administer the tests would be involved. Neither schools nor teachers would be held accountable for the trial run results, therefore leaving districts without assessment data as they move into the next school year.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy was initially a key backer of the legislation, which is also supported by the state’s two largest teachers’ unions, saying it was a grand bargain that would result in better preparation for the new curriculum. Yet, when he learned that the state would only pay for half of the students to take the practice tests in English and the other half in math, the bargain was no longer so grand. He has since, along with the rest of the CORE districts, withdrawn his endorsement and is troubled that students cannot take the entire test and the District will be losing its ability to see and analyze test scores. However, truth be told, it would only cost the District about $1.7 million to pay for students to take both tests  not too much when the District is spending a billion dollars on iPads without keyboards!

To make this issue even murkier, Arne Duncan , U.S. Secretary of Education, decided the day before the Senate vote to notify California that he opposes the legislation saying, “...if the state proceeds with the plan...the department will be forced to take action...(including) withholding funds...” He said that he cannot support allowing an entire school year to pass without gathering information on students’ and schools’ academic performances. The federal Department of Education expects that all students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 take a test in both math and English, regardless of the type of assessment. Since AB 484 requires that every district capable of administering a computer - based test give students a Common Core field or practice test next spring, it puts California out of compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Governor Brown is standing firm in his support for the bill indicating that it would be okay if schools went a year without test results for accountability purposes. The chairman of the state Board of Education, Michael W. Kirst , has suggested that the state may accept the penalty of losing federal funds and will only be technically and temporarily out of compliance. The war of words continued with Tom Torlakson issuing a statement virtually calling the feds backwards and miserly and warning them that holding badly needed funds from California’s students would be a grave and serious error.

Dr. Deasy is now saying that he will ask the Board for the $1.7 million so all kids can take both tests and then bill the state, adding, “...If they don’t reimburse us, we’d have to look at legal action.” While Arne Duncan does appear to be moderating his stance, California is moving forward. It is inconceivable that its largest district is not supporting a statewide effort to proceed with the Common Core field tests because of $1.7 million.


Sept 19, 2013 :: The Board of Education held a special meeting on September 17, 2013, to finalize the budget for the use of one-time state funds earmarked for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This was the third Board meeting during which this budget was discussed. In previous meetings Board members asked numerous questions about the purpose of the proposed expenditures, debated how best to help schools transition to the Common Core and suggested various revisions. Dr. Judith Perez, AALA President, made the following comments at the meeting.

AALA members are delighted that after years of bare-bones survival, this District is receiving state funds to help schools transition to the Common Core State Standards. We support the current Common Core budget because it offers a balance between the use of educational experts for professional development and the allocation of funds directly to school sites to shape site-specific teacher training. To be clear, in our view both administrative and teacher leadership are essential.

We believe that high-quality professional development is critical to making this initiative work. Long-term, in-depth professional development with ongoing support and feedback is the most effective approach as opposed to the trainer-of-trainers model where teachers end up with diluted information. Nevertheless, we do have three recommendations:

1. We urge you to continue implementing a broad-based instructional program as opposed to narrowing the curriculum to English Language Arts and Math. The Common Core standards are supposed to be both rigorous and multidisciplinary. Let’s make sure that the broader curriculum is part of the professional development program.

2. Summer school and summer bridge programs that engage and prepare students are needed. Parent education is important, as well. But it appears that the summer school budget is greatly diminished, and parent education has been eliminated from the Common Core budget. We urge you to find the money elsewhere for these programs. I daresay few parents really know what the Common Core standards are, and they do need to be well informed.

3. Effective implementation of Common Core will rest largely on the shoulders of principals who are responsible for students’ academic success, students’ social and emotional growth and their schools’ culture and climate. Site administrators are accountable for all new initiatives including teacher evaluation. Their workload keeps on growing, yet our District’s administrative ratio is near the bottom nationally. It’s certainly worse than I’ve ever seen in my 44 years in this District. It’s imperative to improve administrative ratios at schools to make sure this work is done well.

The Board did approve the Common Core Budget. You may find it in the Stamped Order of Business for September 17, 2013, available on the LAUSD website under the Board of Education tab.

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