California lays a not-so-golden egg on state testing

California lays a not-so-golden egg on state testing

By Dale Chu

Last Friday’s news dump by the California Department of Education was as disappointing as it was woefully overdue. Student tests scores in the state plummeted, as did the number of students who took the assessments at all. Indeed, less than a quarter of California students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced tests last spring. Among those who did, about half did not meet state standards in ELA; two-thirds were not proficient in math. What’s more, the numbers for low-income and minority students were even worse.

The dismal results come months after the exams were half-heartedly administered on an optional basis—via computers, no less. Most of California’s large urban districts—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco—were among those who sat things out. Following the announcement, state education officials went through the obligatory handwringing to explain away the lousy scores.

As a reminder, California was ground zero for testing confusion in 2021, so the lackluster showing from the golden coast is perhaps a comeuppance of sorts for being dead last in the nation with regard to providing in-person learning. Testing opponents there have also had a field day using Covid as a smokescreen to obscure the state’s faceplant on testing. But setting all of the mischief aside, the federal government has no one to blame but itself for allowing states to get away with murder on annual assessments.

The Golden State’s poor example is one of several for why the feds must take a firmer stand in holding states to the letter of the law. While California has publicized plans to resume testing this spring—albeit with a shorter version of the exam—mum is still the word when it comes to Uncle Sam. With Omicron raging and districts toggling between in-person and remote, this data and measurement advocate, for one, is waiting with bated breath for the other shoe to drop.

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