U.S. Dep’t of ED threatens to withhold $3.5 billion from California because state suspended tests outdated by Common Core

According to the San Jose Mercury News, U.S. Department of Education (ED) Assistant Secretary Deborah S. Delisle sent a letter to California education officials saying that the state risks losing more than $3.5 billion in federal funding because it decided not to administer out-dated standardized tests next spring.

ED’s threat to withhold funding is a reaction to the state’s manner of implementing the Common Core.  As part of the State’s transition to the new curriculum, it decided to suspend its current student performance tests (“STAR tests”), which were administered in grades 2 to 11 every spring.  Instead, next spring schools will test-drive the Smarter Balanced test, which succeeds STAR.  State officials said it makes no sense to use the old STAR tests, which were administered in grades 2 to 11 every spring, in the midst of a switch to a new curriculum.

The California Legislature decided that schools will only test students either in math or English, and the state will not release the results to schools nor to the public — because the trial run is as much a calibration of the test as it is a measurement of student achievement.

That limited testing, the elimination of the STAR tests, and refusal to release results has infuriated federal education officials.  On the eve of the Legislature’s vote phasing in the new tests, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan issued an unusual warning that the bill would violate federal law. Testing helps keep schools accountable, he said, and publishing results provides parents and the public needed information about school performance.  But the bill, promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown, passed easily.

California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst expressed surprise that ED had sent the letter.  He noted that he and California Department of Education officials have been meeting with U.S. officials about reconciling California’s new testing regimen with federal law

Source: San Jose Mercury News, 10/30/13, By Sharon Noguchi

[Editor’s Note: In June 2013, Legal Clips published a Sua Sponte article reporting that the National School Boards Association, the School Superintendents Association (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) had issued a joint statement urging that ”States need adequate time, professional development, and the technical infrastructure to properly transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the assessment requirements.” ] 

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