Nan Austin

April 23, 2014

State’s online testing bumps along on quest to get better

The dreaded online state testing is quietly underway and still having some bugs, particularly for administrators who lost their passwords.

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State testing continues quietly into its fourth week. This year “the test” happens for the most part without the frenetic rallies or frantic notes to parents to be sure Jane and Johnny sleep well and get to school on time.

These are the tests that Common Core critics are asking parents to opt-out of, through the form appears to forbid every other test in math and English as well. I don’t know any school that would allow students to get out of all chapter tests and pop quizzes, or surely every rebellious student would have tried it.

But I also wonder if folks understand that opting out of testing next year does nothing to change what is being taught, it just keeps anyone from knowing if their children are learning.

Some 1.1 million students so far have tried out the next generation of test taking online, according to the California Department of Education. Calls for help from administrators have dropped from 637 a day in the second week to 318 a day this week. Password resets and finding the right test were top topics. That’s a change from the first week, when frozen computers topped the charts.

For those whose kids are reporting they took the test, a reminder: Results won’t be reported this first year. No charts and numbers showing your child’s progress will be coming in the mailbox this summer. This first test is only to fix the test, so opting out won’t hurt a thing, except future tests.

“This ‘test of the test’ will serve multiple purposes—foremost gauging the accuracy and fairness of the test questions ahead of the new assessments becoming operational next year,” notes the department in a press release. It will also gauge school technology needs and how tech savvy students are in actuality.

“I am particularly interested in hearing teachers’ views on the questions and their appropriateness for the students they work with every day,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

He’s liable to get an earful. Lots of veteran teachers say they love the creativity and flexibility coming with Common Core standards, but see the test questions as impossibly hard for their kids. Only time will tell if students rise to the challenge or prove the doubters right.

Ceres fourth-grade teacher Jill Purdy bets on the kids. A longtime teacher at Walter White Elementary, Purdy said the new standards go back to the real life lessons she thinks work best. “It’s kind-of the way I’ve always taught. But you pretty much have to be a fearless teacher,” Purdy told me. “You have to trust. You believe they can do it. And they rise. They rise every time.”

For more information on the tests, including videos and practice questions, go to

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