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California joining efforts to overhaul student testing

September 2, 2010 |  2:19 pm


California is joining a new effort to replace year-end English and math tests with new national exams that will more accurately assess students, federal education officials announced Thursday.

The national tests, funded by $330 million in federal grants, are expected to be like nothing ever approached on such a scale: smarter, asking harder or easier questions based on students' responses with detailed measures of critical thinking.

Exams would cover a wider range of subjects that students ought to pursue — not just basic math and English. This is part of a conscious movement away from familiar, reliable but limited fill-in-the-bubble tests.

The No. 1 complaint of teachers, said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, has been that “bubble tests pressure teachers to teach to a test that doesn’t measure what really matters.”

The change comes amid growing debate about student testing. The Times produced an analysis of how effective Los Angeles Unified School District teachers have been at improving their students' performance on standardized tests.

Also on Thursday, the Los Angeles Board of Education formally directed its superintendent to include test score data as part of teachers' evaluations.

-- Howard Blume and Beth Shuster

Photo: Fourth-grade students study at Romero-Cruz Elementary School in Santa Ana. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times