New assessment will ‘get kids to think’

Jasmine Santos, Editor-in-Chief & News Editor

A new assessment method attempts to put America on par with other countries in terms of education. The California Standardized Test is being replaced, effective in the school year 2013-2014, by the new Common Core Standards Test.

The new assessment requires students to complete the exam electronically with all questions in short answer form.  Math questions must be solved and then explained in words.  The same applies for science, social science and reading questions.

No longer will bubbling and scantrons be used in the evaluation of American education.

At Bear Creek, department heads have been preparing for the transition by attending workshops and meetings to learn more about the new Common Core standard.  However, some are apprehensive about what the next few years will bring.

“I think that this test is phenomenal because it’s going to make the kids think,” social sciences department head Kathy Scott said, “but it’s going to be terrible for the first five or six years until the kids get used to the format.”

Though there are yet to be Common Core standards created for Social Sciences, Scott anticipates drastic changes in the curriculum.

“Right now we memorize,” Scott said. “All of the answers are regurgitated over and over again in class so that the kids remember them and spit them out during CSTs. But with this new test, we have to get the kids to think, which is a good thing.”

The purpose of having one standard for all states is to be able to efficiently compare the academic abilities of students all over the nation.  However, Bear Creek math department head Tammy Naylor, like Scott, argues that the first few years with the new test will be a rough ride.

“I don’t think a sudden transition was the best way to do it,” Naylor said, “But historically, in education, that’s how things work. Because the new test will not be asking questions that require recall but rather questions that require analysis and prediction, California scores for the first few years will be shockingly poor.”

What is unique about the Common Core is that it will be implemented nationally in an attempt for uniformity.  Although no state is forced to make the changes immediately, and not all states have agreed to changing to the Common Core, California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed AB484 which eliminates the CST and replaces it with the new test.

Controversy looms over the newly signed bill because it is a direct violation of the No Child Left Behind law created by former Pres. George Bush. The law states that all students are required to take reading and mathematics assessment tests at the end of the school year. The new bill does not require students to take both of the new Common Core Tests for reading and mathematics for at least this school year because it only allocates funds for one or the other.

Gov. Brown explained that his goal is to have a transition year in which the students will not receive the results of their tests, nor will teachers be evaluated by the students’ scores. Schools will be able to choose if their students will take the reading or the math section of the test.

However, Education Secretary Arne Duncan was reluctant to agree to the bill because of the controversy.  Duncan even threatened to withhold education funds from California before the bill was signed, but his warning was ignored and Gov. Brown signed the bill in early October.

As of now, there has been no real move to withhold federal funds from California.