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Education Desk: May 27, 2015

New California Student Assessments Are Here

After a year’s hiatus, standardized state tests are back. The new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which had an un-scored trial run last year, replaces the 14 year-old Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests. The computer-based “smarter balanced” tests are based on the new Common Core State Standards for English and Math. The existing paper-and-pencil, multiple-choice tests in science will continue to be used until the 2018-19 school year.

The tests are called “smarter balanced” because instead of simply scoring right and wrong answers, the test will increase or decrease the difficulty of the questions based on those right and wrong answers. In this way the tests – called computer-adaptive tests (CATs) – are designed to more accurately measure student learning. Students are scored on both the number of correct answers and the difficulty of the questions completed.

The tests were developed by the UCLA-led Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), whose members are states that have adopted Common Core. The governing board includes state education officials, K-12 educators and representatives of state university, college and community college systems. The Consortium has been at work since 2012.

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Tests have two parts. The first part is standard test questions – with multiple choice or matching (“selected choices”) or written answers (“constructed answers”). The second part is an application problem (called a “performance task”) that involves skills in multiple areas.

Implementing the new tests has required a significant investment in new technology. These upgrades, SCUSD Director of Information Technology Joseph Zeligs reported in April include:

  • Replacing 1,000 obsolete computer lab and library desktop systems with remotely managed thin-client workstations
  • Building 16 new computer labs
  • Adding 528 gigabit network connections (1 billion bits per second, about 20x faster than a typical cable Internet connection)
  • Deploying 544 additional new and refurbished workstations
  • Installing a secure SBAC testing browser on 2,000 workstations

Many will naturally want to compare the results of the new tests with the old STAR results. However, since these are fundamentally different kinds of tests, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Instead of measuring them against previous scores (the last ones are from 2012-13), this year’s tests will establish new baselines.

To see examples of the new tests, visit tinyurl.com/caaspp-overview.

The $145,000 Trustee

SCUSD Trustee Christopher Stampolis is likely one of the most expensive trustees in the district’s history, judging from the legal bill for the Harris/Stampolis harassment case that started in August 2014. To date, legal fees in the case add up to $144,543.85. By comparison, the base salary for an entry-level teacher is $55,772.

In August Stampolis filed harassment and racism complaints against Peterson Principal Susan Harris after she tried to talk to him about his repeated lateness in picking up his child. Following an episode recorded by a school security camera that allegedly shows Stampolis making fists, pointing, and making a gun-like gesture with his hands, Harris filed a hostile workplace complaint and requested a permanent restraining order against Stampolis. The restraining order was issued last October. The district’s investigators found Stampolis’ complaints groundless.

Campbell Union Elementary Parcel Tax Passes

In a special election earlier this month Campbell Union School District (CUSD) voters approved a special eight-year parcel tax assessment of $49, the first ever for the K-8 school district. The money will help the district close the budget gap created by the state’s phased implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula. The measure passed in all of the district’s precincts, including those in Santa Clara.

“We are so grateful for the support from our community,” said Superintendent Eric Andrew in a CUSD news release. “Voters have provided the district with an additional source of stable funding to help ensure that we continue the academic success our students have achieved.”

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