In the media lab of an elementary school in Sacramento, fourth grader Aanyah Jacobs answers questions that pop up on a computer screen one at a time. She’s one of the more than three million California public school students testing out the state’s new assessment.
“I like it. It’s better than the other test where you just bubble it in," Jacobs says. "And it helps us to learn how to also work the computer.”
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson says this is the largest field test of its kind in the country. Between now and June all students in grades three through eight and some high schoolers will take practice tests. Torlakson says surveys and focus groups will then be conducted to see how the assessment worked. He says making sure schools’ technology is up-to-date is critical.
“I’m hopeful the state of California will provide some more money for more computer capacity," he says. "As we go forward we’ll understand, from the field test of today and the next few weeks, we’ll understand where there are shortcomings and how to address them and we’ll start investing in closing the gaps.”
The non-timed assessment will test kids on math, writing and comprehension. The format may be different from the traditional pencil and paper tests students are used to. But fourth grader Aanyah isn’t worried.
“I’m very confident in me that I’m going to succeed and pass the test.”
California schools will begin teaching to Common Core standards next school year.
This week the Legislature — which had been considering a bill to make California the first state to require ethnic studies for high school graduation — backed away from creating such a statewide mandate, settling on a pilot program instead.
There's a raging debate over how California reports schools’ test scores to parents and the public. Advocates for struggling students say a "growth model" — measuring how students perform over time — is key to closing the achievement gap.
An alternative learning program based in craftwork just graduated its first class. The school is one of the few services available to adults with intellectual disabilities who are out of high school, but not ready for college or work.
After charter school supporters poured money into the California governor's race to support a longtime ally who failed to advance, the school choice movement may face uncertainty in a state with some of the most robust charter school laws in the U.S.
Attending a university in California can be a financial burden beyond the means of many college hopefuls. Rising tuition is compounded by the lack of affordable housing in the state and the high cost of living.