Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Every Student Succeeds Act

What States Can Learn From a Rejected California Push to Streamline Testing

By Evie Blad — October 15, 2019 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A recently rejected proposal to streamline standardized tests for California 11th graders has insights for policy makers in other states as they navigate a complicated accountability environment and a public push for less testing.

A coalition of California lawmakers and education groups championed a bill this year that would have allowed school districts to use high school juniors’ scores on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams to meet state testing requirements.

Doing so would allow already college-bound students who already take the ACT or the SAT to take one fewer test by avoiding the state-mandated Smarter Balanced test, those proponents said. And for students who may not have considered college, taking entrance exams at school might show them its possible, they said.

Despite those pitches, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vetoed Assembly Bill 751—known as the Pathways to College Act—on Sunday. The bill would have required the state’s education superintendent to approve a “nationally recognized high school assessment” that a district could opt to use in place of Smarter Balanced starting in the 2012-22 school year.

In a veto statement, Newsom said the bill’s primary aims of cutting back testing and promoting college access are “laudable goals.” But he fears the use of an entrance exam could “exacerbate the inequities for underrepresented students” because performance on the ACT and SAT often correlates with factors like parental income.

“It is important to remember that over the last several years California has made great strides towards establishing a coherent accountability system,” he said. “Measuring how students throughout the state perform on our state’s assessments, including the grade 11 assessment, provides critical information to students, families, educators, and our state.”

In other words, adding another test to a state’s accountabililty system, approved to meet the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, may be more complicated than it sounds.

ESSA allows for “locally selected, nationally recognized” assessments.

ESSA, the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, anticipated proposals like the one Newsom vetoed. A provision in the law allows states to approve an alternative that schools can opt to administer to high school students, instead of the state’s summative assessment.

What kind of tests? The law says any alternative must be an assessment “that is administered in multiple States and is recognized by institutions of higher education in those or other States for the purposes of entrance or placement into courses in postsecondary education or training programs.” (Think ACT, SAT, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate exams.)

But as Education Week wrote in 2018, very few states have taken the feds up on that flexibility, and some have sought to ease testing burdens in other ways.

That’s because states can’t just rubber-stamp new tests. Any changes to the exams they use for accountability are subject to peer review, and they must be prepared to prove they align with their standards, and that they have appropriate accomodations for students with disabilities and English-language learners. These requirements are outlined in this report from the Council of Chief State School Officers.

And comparability is a big concern. Student test scores are used to judge schools’ performance, with high stakes implications. So states want to be sure comparing schools that administered different high school tests isn’t like comparing apples and oranges.

As a recent report by FutureEd at Georgetown University notes, some states have taken a more direct path to streamlining testing by bypassing the “locally selected” provision and using the ACT or SAT for ESSA accountability.

Why not cut out the ACT and SAT altogether?

The PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests were developed by multi-state consortia to align with states’ learning standards, and to measure how well students are prepared for their colleges and universities. So why not cut out the traditional admissions tests and just use the consortia-developed exams instead?

As Newsom noted in his veto message, California officials are discussing the feasiblity of this idea.

“This would be a better approach to improving access to college for underrepresented students and reducing ‘testing fatigue,” he wrote.

Of course, even if California’s public university system begins accepting Smarter Balanced for admissions, private schools and out-of-state schools may still stick to more popular measures, like the SAT. And some private scholarship programs would still rely on SAT and ACT scores as part of their applications process. So a change in state admissions policies might have little practical effect for some students.

Photo: Getty


Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Every Student Succeeds Act Republicans Tell Miguel Cardona His Plan for ESSA Waivers Seems to Violate the Law
The Every Student Succeeds Act doesn't permit the education secretary to seek certain data he's asking for, the two GOP lawmakers say.
4 min read
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Every Student Succeeds Act How Will ESSA Hold Up During COVID-19? Pandemic Tests the Law's Resilience
Lawmakers designed ESSA to limit mandates covering issues like how tests are used. Will that affect how well the law survives the pandemic?
6 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Betsy DeVos Tells States Not to Expect Waivers From Annual Tests
The tests required by federal law are crucial to helping schools respond to the coronavirus pandemic and help vulnerable students, the education secretary said in a letter to chief state school officers.
3 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Top DeVos Deputy: Our 'Instinct' Is to Not Give States Testing Waivers Next Year
"Accountability aside, we need to know where students are so we can address their needs," Assistant Secretary of Education Jim Blew said during remarks at the Education Writers Association's National Seminar.
3 min read