Say goodbye to those old “Scantron” bubble tests. California’s new standardized school testing program is officially under way. The tests are on computers now - and the questions are open-ended.
I’m sitting in front of a Mac Book Air laptop in the Sutter Middle School library in Sacramento, checking out one of the new tests – for Math, grades six through eight.
Here's one of the questions: “Micah constructs a rectangular prism with a volume of 360 cubic units. The height of his prism is 10 units. Micah claims that the base of the prism must be a square. Use the connect line tool to draw a base that shows Micah’s claim is incorrect.”
Turns out there are several possible answers to that question – including the one I drew, 3-by-12. It took me about two minutes to figure that out and use the computer to draw my answer.
“You’ll see a lot less rote memorization,” says State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson. “You’ll see a lot less of that multiple choice kind of testing that’s been in the past.”
Torlakson says the new tests – formally called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress – are based on the state’s new education standards, including the national Common Core Curriculum. Pencils, paper and multiple choice questions are out; computers and critical thinking questions are in.
But the use of computers troubles some parents.
“Unfortunately, our kids don’t get to use the computers every day,” says Maria Haro-Sullivan of Sacramento. “So there’s a lot of our kids – because of our 75 percent demographic of free and reduced lunch poverty – they don’t have computers at home. They don’t necessarily know how to use the computers.”
Some districts are beginning their testing this week; others will start soon. Results will come much more quickly now – in weeks, not months. But Torlakson cautions against comparing new test scores to old ones, since the tests are so different.