Statewide computerized exam to replace STAR test in 2014-15 school year

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday officially replacing current statewide K-12 standardized testing with an assessment aligned with the new Common Core curriculum standards.

The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 484, will fully replace the current STAR testing system in the 2014-15 school year with a new statewide computerized exam that will assess students’ knowledge on an individual basis and the success of the new curriculum that many states are in the process of adopting nationwide.

“This is one of the most important and revolutionary changes to education policy, and California is the right state to lead the way,” said Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who drafted the bill, in a press release.

The testing system — Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress — differs from STAR in style and content, according to Frank Worrell, a professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education. Unlike STAR, which predominantly uses pencil and paper, MAPP is completely computer-based, allowing the test to adapt to the ability of the test-taker.

Worrell posed a hypothetical in which two students are given 10 questions and both students answer the first four questions correctly to explain how MAPP works.

“Then one student answers question five wrong, and the other answers it right,” Worrell said. “The first student will then get an easier question designed to figure out what that student doesn’t understand. The one who answers it right will get a more complex, challenging problem.”

Worrell added that the benefit of the test is “a more precise understanding of what students are learning and where their weaknesses are.”

MAPP also tests what students are learning in the classroom — namely, the new Common Core standard, which will be rolled out on a practice basis for some subjects in some grades for the 2013-14 school year.

The curriculum aims to make students think critically and conceptually, making them competitive for a globalized college and career environment, said Karen Hemphill, president of the Berkeley Unified School District School Board.

Hemphill added that the curriculum seeks to change the way schools teach English and mathematics. For mathematics, changes will help students gain a better conceptual understanding of arithmetic and algebra.

Meanwhile, English reading curriculums will feature less fiction. Hemphill estimates that students in middle school will read approximately 50 percent nonfiction, while high school students will read about 70 percent nonfiction.

While Hemphill said she was excited for the changes, she acknowledged there would be a districtwide learning curve as the new curriculum is implemented. To ease the transition, the district plans to host workshops for teachers and parents. It also plans to give intermediary tests this year to make sure students are prepared for next year’s MAPP.

Contact Savannah Luschei at [email protected].