BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 476
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          Date of Hearing:   April 1, 2009

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                                Julia Brownley, Chair
                AB 476 (Torlakson) - As Introduced:  February 24, 2009
           
          SUBJECT  : The Standardized Testing and Reporting Program

           SUMMARY  : Eliminates testing under the Standardized Testing and  
          Reporting (STAR) Program in grade 2, and requires a one-time  
          independent evaluation of that program.  Specifically,  this  
          bill  :  

          1)Eliminates the requirement to administer STAR tests to pupils  
            in grade 2.

          2)Requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), on or  
            before July 1, 2010, to contract for an independent evaluation  
            of the STAR Program that:

             a)   Includes, but is not limited to, STAR's alignment to  
               statewide content standards and the tests' content  
               validity, pupil performance, compliance with testing  
               standards, usefulness as a diagnostic or evaluative tool,  
               and feasibility with respect to testing in new grade levels  
               or content areas.

             b)   Separately considers pupil subgroups and any  
               differential impacts STAR tests may have on those  
               subgroups.

             c)   Makes recommendations for improvements and revisions in  
               the program.

             d)   Is completed and reported to the SPI by October 1, 2010,  
               and presented by the SPI to the Legislature and State Board  
               of Education (SBE) by January 1, 2011.

           EXISTING LAW  

          1)Requires each charter school, school district, and county  
            office of education to administer designated achievement tests  
            to each pupil in grades 2 through 11, inclusive, as part of  
            the STAR Program until July 1, 2011.









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          2)Requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the  
            State Board of Education to undertake activities in support of  
            STAR testing in grades 2 through 11, inclusive, as part of the  
            STAR Program until July 1, 2011.

          3)Makes all grade 2 requirements under the STAR Program  
            inoperative July 1, 2011.

          4)Repeals statute authorizing the STAR Program, the state's  
            content and performance standards, and other related elements  
            as of January 1, 2012.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Estimates in previous years suggest that a  
          General Fund (Proposition 98) savings in excess of two million  
          ($2,000,000) will be generated by the elimination STAR testing  
          in grade 2.  Contracting for the independent evaluator will  
          create unknown state costs.

           COMMENTS  :  California's state assessment program is comprised of  
          three major testing components, the STAR Program, the California  
          English Language Development Test (CELDT), and a high school  
          exit examination (the California High School Exit Examination,  
          CAHSEE, is currently the designated high school exit  
          examination).  The program also includes a number of smaller,  
          more specialized assessments.

          The STAR Program, initially authorized in 1997, requires testing  
          of students in English language arts, mathematics, science and  
          history/social science at specified grade levels.  In 2003, the  
          California Standards Tests (CST) replaced a nationally published  
          "off the shelf" test as the primary battery of STAR tests; the  
          CST include only questions written specifically for California's  
          content standards.  Today, the STAR Program includes the CSTs,  
          the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA)  
          administered to students with significant cognitive  
          disabilities, the California Modified Assessment (CMA)  
          administered to students whose disabilities preclude them from  
          achieving grade-level proficiency on an assessment of the  
          California content standards with or without testing  
          accommodations, and a national norm-referenced test in Spanish  
          that is administered to Spanish speaking English learners who  
          have been in school in the U.S. less than 12 months or who are  
          receiving instruction in Spanish.  Neither the high school exit  
          exam nor the CELDT are components of the STAR Program; each is  
          separately authorized in statute.  Results for STAR tests are  








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          reported for the individual pupil, but no accountability  
          attaches to these individual results; the state and federal  
          accountability systems are primarily based on the aggregated  
          STAR test scores from all pupils in a school or school district.

          The following table summarizes testing requirements under  
          California's STAR Program.

           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |           |         Assessment         | Grade Level Tested   |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |STAR       |English Language Arts       |         2-11         |
          |Program    |(Reading)                   |                      |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |English Language Arts       |         2-11         |
          |           |(Reading) CAPA              |                      |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |English Language Arts       |         3-11         |
          |           |(Reading) CMA               |                      |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |Mathematics                 |2-8 and EOC in grades |
          |           |                            |        9-11          |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |Mathematics CAPA            |         2-11         |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |Mathematics CMA             |         3-11         |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |Science                     |   5, 8, and EOC in   |
          |           |                            |     grades 9-11      |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |History-Social Science      |         8-11         |
          |-----------+----------------------------+----------------------|
          |           |Primary Language Assessment |2 -11                 |
          |           |(Spanish)                   |                      |
           --------------------------------------------------------------- 
          EOC = End-of-course exam

          Many elements of the STAR Program are used by California to meet  
          the assessment and accountability requirements of the federal No  
          Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). NCLB requires each state  
          to administer a standards-aligned achievement test in reading  
          and mathematics to all students in grades 3-8 and grade 10; it  
          also requires science testing in grades 5, 8, and 10.  Testing  
          of grade 2 students is not necessary to meet any of these  
          federal requirements.  According to information provided by the  








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          Education Commission of the States, as of 2005 only seven other  
          states tested grade 2 students in any of the content areas  
          tested in the STAR Program.

          This bill has two components, the elimination of STAR grade 2  
          testing, and the addition of an independent evaluation of the  
          STAR Program.

          Grade 2 testing: Grade 2 testing in the STAR Program was a  
          controversial issue in 1997 in SB 376 (Alpert), that initially  
          authorized the program, and in the subsequent reauthorization.   
          The reauthorization of the STAR Program in 2004, as implemented  
          by SB 1448 (Alpert), represented a negotiated compromise that  
          pivoted on the eventual elimination of grade 2 testing. This  
          elimination was to be accomplished over a three year period with  
          the grade 2 testing requirement becoming inoperative on July 1,  
          2007.  AB 1353 (Huff), held in Assembly Education in 2007,  
          proposed to extend this sunset date by three years; later that  
          year, a four year extension of that date was made in budget  
          trailer language in SB 80 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal  
          Review), Chapter 174, Statutes of 2007.  Current law keeps STAR  
          testing in grade 2 operative until July 1, 2011, and repeals the  
          STAR Program and related statute on January 1, 2012 unless  
          additional legislation reauthorizes the program.

          Grade 2 testing has long been controversial in the testing  
          community.  In a position paper, the National Center for Fair &  
          Open Testing (also known as FairTest), a research center that  
          works to promote fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial  
          evaluations of students, teachers and schools and to end misused  
          and flawed testing practices, presents six arguments for  
          opposing or eliminating grade 2 testing.

        1)Tests of children in grade 2 are likely to be invalid and/or  
          unreliable, since research has shown that for children below  
          grade 4, the mechanics of taking tests and answering on  
          specialized answer sheets can prove more difficult than the  
          cognitive tasks the tests are asking them to address.

        2)Standardized tests are scary for primary school children, bad  
          for their morale and confidence, and often do not show what the  
          student knows and can do because the student is overwhelmed by  
          the test situation. 

        3)Most seven-year-olds are still in the process of acquiring the  








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          complex skills involved in learning to read and write.   
          Premature testing is discouraging to the learner in the same way  
          that having a work-in-progress exposed to summary judgment would  
          be.

        4)Differences in background show up most vividly in the early  
          years of schooling: some children arrive in school never having  
          actually handled a book or in some cases seen one close up;  
          others have had books read to them since infancy. These  
          differences tend to diminish in later years in the face of their  
          common school experience.

        5)Primary grade teachers know to build evaluation into daily  
          instruction as a built-in function. However, when an outside  
          agency takes over the responsibility for evaluation, the risk  
          arises that teachers looking for information to guide their  
          instruction begin to rely on the relatively thin, out-of-context  
          and delayed information contained in the test results, rather  
          than on the immediate feedback provided by classroom  
          evaluations.

        6)In order to prepare students for testing, teachers may use more  
          work sheets, and drill students on skills and vocabulary out of  
          context. The curriculum may become dry and mechanical with  
          little time given to the kinds of rich reading and writing  
          experiences that can make students life-long readers and  
          learners; this can have a greater impact on low income students  
          who may be less likely to have had substantial early pleasure  
          reading experiences.

          Supporters of eliminating grade 2 testing in California cite the  
          compromise agreement that lead to the reauthorization of the  
          STAR program, and argue that tests given to young pupils should  
          be for diagnostic or placement purposes only.  They also argue  
          that the loss of instructional time to testing and the resulting  
          narrowing of the curriculum are particularly damaging in the  
          early grades.  Educators also question the developmental  
          appropriateness and psychometric validity of testing in the  
          early grades.  Teachers in opposition cite numerous examples of  
          negative impacts on individual grade 2 students, including  
          crying, acting out, loss of self-esteem, and hair loss due to  
          stress.  The National Association for the Education of Young  
          Children has been opposed to standardized testing of young  
          children for a number of years for these reasons.









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          According to the author, "Standardized test instruments require  
          skills that most second graders have not yet mastered, and thus  
          impairs an accurate assessment of a child's learning.  
          Considering the current budget crisis, an investment of state  
          funds in a test that does not yield useful data is unnecessary  
          and should be eliminated. It is the author's intent that the  
          STAR evaluation required in this bill will provide direction on  
          a more useful, diagnostic exam for second grade students."

          Opponents of eliminating grade 2 STAR testing would argue that  
          providing information to parents and teachers early in a  
          student's educational career is important for making adjustments  
          to that student's instruction.  However, to the extent that the  
          validity of the scores and information produced by the tests  
          administered to grade 2 pupils can be questioned, the validity  
          of the educational decisions made using that information also  
          comes into question.  For example, if a grade 2 reading test is  
          measuring something in addition to or other than reading (e.g.,  
          measuring the pupil's anxiety, lack of understanding of how an  
          answer form is filled in, lack of ability to sit still for a 45  
          minute testing session), then any decisions about the pupil's  
          reading abilities or about restructuring the pupil's reading  
          instruction may be misplaced; what appeared to be low reading  
          achievement may actually be the result of those other dimensions  
          that were unintentionally being measured by the test.  Many of  
          these factors tend to diminish or disappear as the student ages  
          or gains more experience in classroom assessment situations.

          The independent evaluation of the STAR Program:  According to  
          the author, "This bill would require the Department of Education  
          to establish a STAR advisory panel that would authorize an  
          independent evaluation of the current STAR program's  
          effectiveness in measuring student progress on California  
          academic standards and meeting the requirements of NCLB. This  
          evaluation would also examine the feasibility and cost of a  
          state-wide diagnostic testing model, to achieve both a  
          classroom-focused diagnostic tool and a state-wide data tracking  
          function. This independent evaluation would inform the STAR  
          reauthorization discussion."

          Given the sunset and potential reauthorization of the STAR  
          Program in 2011, the Legislature's need for an evaluation of the  
          program is clear.  The STAR Program has tested millions of  
          students in multiple content areas annually for eleven years  
          (the twelfth year of testing is currently in progress), however,  








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          no independent evaluation has been required or completed.  A  
          technical report on the test is completed annually by the  
          testing contractor responsible for administration, scoring, and  
          reporting the test and test results, but the independence of a  
          contractor has been called into question by the California  
          Department of Education and the SBE at times over the lifetime  
          of the program.  In addition, a report to the Legislature and  
          the Governor from the SPI and SBE regarding the status of  
          implementation of the STAR Program was required and provided in  
          2001; an annual report of test scores from the SPI to the  
          Legislature and SBE is also required.  Neither the annual  
          technical reports nor any of the SPI/SBE reports were completed  
          by an independent entity, and none of those reports examine all  
          of the issues that the Legislature should examine prior to the  
          reauthorization of the STAR Program.

          By contrast the California's high school exit examination,  
          authorized in 1999 and first administered in 2001, has had an  
          ongoing independent evaluator that has issued both annual and  
          biennial evaluative reports since 2001.  These evaluations are  
          contracted for separately from the contract issued to the vendor  
          or vendors responsible for the administration, development or  
          any other facet of the test, and have been conducted by a firm  
          and staff with backgrounds in measurement, and specializing in  
          research and program evaluation.

          During this period of economic and budgetary crisis, imposing  
          the requirement of a new one-time evaluation and the cost that  
          it creates will be difficult for the Legislature to consider.   
          However, as a whole this bill's proposals would result in net GF  
          savings to the state, since the cost of implementing a one-time  
          evaluation of the STAR Program would certainly be more than  
          offset by the larger savings generated by the elimination of  
          grade 2 testing.  In addition, the evaluation may allow the  
          Legislature to more efficiently use the state's resources to  
          support the reauthorized testing program.  

           Committee amendments:  Committee staff recommends, and the  
          author has accepted, the following amendments.

          1)Change the timing of the evaluation to both lengthen the  
            period of me available to the evaluator and provide the  
            evaluation to the Legislature and SBE at an earlier date, by  
            requiring the contract to be in place by April 1, 2010 and the  
            evaluation to be provided by November 1, 2010.








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          2)Specify that funding for the evaluation be redirected from the  
            savings generated by the elimination of STAR testing in grade  
            2, and place a cap on the cost of the evaluation with the cost  
            of the contract not to exceed $150,000.

          3)Delete the new advisory panel proposed in this bill to advise  
            the California Department of Education on the independent  
            evaluation, and instead place the existing advisory committee  
            advising the SPI on issues related to the Academic Performance  
            Index (API) in that role.  Also augment that advisory  
            committee, only for the purposes of advising on this  
            evaluation, to include four additional members, to include  
            educators and other individuals having expertise with multiple  
            forms of assessment and reflecting the diversity of  
            California.

          Related legislation: SB 800 (Hancock), pending in the Senate  
          Education Committee, eliminates grade 2 STAR testing and makes  
          conforming changes to dates by which related sections of law  
          become inoperative and are repealed.

          Previous legislation: SB 80 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal  
          Review), Chapter 174, Statutes of 2007, keeps STAR testing in  
          grade 2 operative until July 1, 2011.  AB 1353 (Huff), held in  
          the Assembly Education Committee in 2007, would have required  
          grade 2 testing under the Standardized Testing and Reporting  
          (STAR) program to continue after July 1, 2007 and until July 1,  
          2010.  AB 1695 (Goldberg), held in Assembly Appropriations in  
          2005, would have required a school district to select and  
          administer an existing diagnostic reading test for  
          administration to each pupil in grade 2.  SB 1448 (Alpert),  
          Chapter 233, Statutes of 2004, reauthorizes the STAR Program and  
          implemented a compromise over the eventual elimination of grade  
          2 testing; this elimination was to be accomplished over a three  
          year period with grade 2 provisions becoming inoperative on July  
          1, 2007 and repealed the following January 1.  AB 356 (Hancock),  
          held on the Senate floor in 2004, would have provided for a  
          diagnostic assessment, rather than standardized testing, in  
          grade 2 as part of the STAR program.  SB 376 (Alpert), Chapter  
          828, Statutes of 1997, establishes the STAR Program and  
          authorizes testing in grades 2 through 11.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   









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           Support 
           
          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,  
          AFL-CIO
          California Alliance for Arts Education
          California Business Education Association
          California Federation of Teachers
          California Mathematics Council
          California Science Teachers Association
          California Teachers Association

           Opposition 
           
          None on file
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Gerald Shelton / ED. / (916) 319-2087