After California originally planned to skip state testing this year, a federal mandate threatening cuts to educational funding required California to administer a standardized test on English and math for juniors and a test on life science for sophomores.
“This year we’re going to be field testing the Smarter Balanced Assessment for juniors in math and English,” CHS Principal Rick Lopez explains.
According to CHS English department chair Whitney Grummon, juniors will pilot the new Common Core test in English and math. They may also be mandated to take the California Standards Test in math and English in order to gain Early Assessment Program credit.
“It becomes a placement test for them,” CHS English teacher Barbara Steinberg says.
The EAP, a voluntary section of the CST, acts as a placement test in Language Arts and Algebra II. According to Steinberg, the EAP allows a student to skip remedial language arts and math when starting at a California State University.
Because the EAP is connected with the CST, the EAP cannot be administered without also taking the CST. What will happen next year, when CHS ditches the CST, is still unknown.
Yet despite the academic challenge of juniors taking two tests, the Common Core adds a new dynamic to testing.
“The new test will be online, computers only,” CHS math department chair Dawn Hatch says. ”Kids have to be able to answer in sentences and explain their reasoning. They can’t just guess a bubble.”
“You can get credit for wrong solutions if you can justify your path,” Steinberg explains.
Grummon is confident in CHS’ success for an assortment of reasons.
“Our scores will definitely look better than many schools’ because we have been working on the Common Core longer than most schools, and we have more technology than many schools have,” Grummon says.
Another concern is how this affects other districts without as many computers.
“Is it going to create an economic divide between who does well and who doesn’t do well…given the resources they have?” Steinberg questions.
Either this will force all California schools to purchase computers or divide the districts even more.
Another potential of an online test is increased cheating, but Steinberg explains the test is given in a closed circuit, restricting the use of other sites during the test.
Sophomores will also be taking part in testing this year.
“The only thing we have is a No Child Left Behind test for the 10th grade,” CHS science department chair Brian Granbery states. “They’ll all be tested in life science.”
According to Granbery, Next Generation Science Standards will be rolled out during the 2017-18 school year.
In addition to the NGSS, a Common Core test is being drafted for social studies, but AP Government and Politics teacher Bill Schrier expresses his doubts.
“I imagine it’s going to be extremely difficult to come up with a nationwide set of social studies standards,” Schrier explains. “More difficult than any other discipline…. How the Civil War is treated in the Deep South is far different from the northeast.”
CHS social studies chair Nora Ward expresses her doubt as well.
“Until education is controlled federally,” Ward says. “I don’t think there will ever be a consensus in social studies.”
Despite snags in Common Core, work is being done by the Carmel High staff to ensure this year’s transition is a smooth one.