Alternative to STAR Proposed for 2014

Luther Kuefner, Staff Writer

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) released a list of 12 recommendations in order to improve the statewide assessment system. Among those recommendations, the SSPI has called for the removal of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, to be replaced with a new system for the 2014-2015 school year.

According to the California Department of Education website, the changes will “develop a student assessment system aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCS) and used for federal accountability purposes.”

These changes are a product of State Assembly Bill 484, introduced by Assembly Member Susan Bonilla. The bill proposes the dismantling of the STAR program, but is vague regarding how to replace it.

Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) may be the the form of testing to replace the STAR program. A consortium has been formed with 23 other states to develop a better way to incorporate CCS into standardized testing.

According to Superintendent John Nickerson, the Acalanes Union High School District are forming focus groups to identify what would work best for students.

“We have had a few teachers in the district sit on advisory type committees, where they were able to provide input on the CCS as well as the SBA” said Nickerson.

At this point, future tests may include an initiative to include more word problems in math sections. The aim of the new approach is to test math and literacy jointly in a single test.

According to Vice Principal Sharon Bartlett, CCS would emphasize students to interpret information, rather than recall it.

“With CCS, we would look at more critical thinking and literacy skills,” said Bartlett.

For the 2014-2015 school year, new tests may begin to utilize computers as a way to administer tests. Additionally, these tests may also be administered only to the 11th grade. At this point, details are scarce.

“We don’t have the specifics yet, so we’re waiting to hear,” said Bartlett.