State schools chief wants to hold off on some standardized tests

A plan to suspend California’s standardized testing for certain grades while new computerized exams are developed could save $15 million, the state’s top education official said.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recommended to the state Board of Education last week that the savings be used instead to develop higher-quality tests linked to new uniform but voluntary academic standards. They have been adopted by 45 states, including California, which plans to roll them out in the 2014-15 school year.

The new standards are aimed at fostering more critical thinking, sophisticated writing and other higher-level skills.


“Rather than continuing to spend scarce dollars and precious class time on outdated testing, we can invest these resources in developing the next generation of assessments that will help students focus on critical thinking and problem-solving — the skills they will need in college and their careers,” Torlakson said in a statement.

But some analysts have estimated that it could cost as much as $1 billion for the textbooks, teacher training and technology needed for computerized tests related to the new standards. As a result of such concerns, state Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) has proposed delaying the suspension of current tests until 2016.

Torlakson has sponsored a bill by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) to suspend most of the standardized testing beginning next fall.

Torlakson has recommended suspending tests that are not required by the federal government, such as math and English in second, ninth and tenth grades, and those given at the end of high school courses in such subjects as world history and biology.

Tests to evaluate whether high school juniors are on track to meet the academic expectations of California State University would not be suspended.

“These new assessments will provide our schools with a way to measure how ready students are for the challenges of a changing world,” Torlakson said. “That’s why, despite the budget and other challenges, California must move forward now so that all children — no matter where they come from or where they live — receive a world-class education.”