BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 476
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          AB 476 (Torlakson)
          As Amended  August 19, 2009
          Majority vote
          |ASSEMBLY:  |52-26|(June 3, 2009)  |SENATE: |26-13|(September 4,  |
          |           |     |                |        |     |2009)          |
           Original Committee Reference:   ED.  

           SUMMARY  :  Requires a one-time independent evaluation of the  
          Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program.   
          Specifically,  this bill  :  

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

             a)   Be based upon information gathered in field testing and  
               annual administrations of the assessments, all existing  
               reports and other studies of STAR, state and federal  
               requirements, a review of research-based alternative  
               assessment models, and a review of existing and emerging  
               practices in large-scale assessment from across the nation;

             b)   Include, but not be limited to, the STAR Program's  
               alignment to statewide content standards and the tests'  
               content validity, the standards' grade level  
               continuity/vertical articulation and the longitudinal  
               validity of the tests across grade levels, the use of  
               content standards from other core curriculum areas for test  
               items, pupil performance, compliance with testing  
               standards, usefulness as diagnostic or evaluative tools,  
               and the feasibility of alternative diagnostic testing in  
               new grade levels or content areas;

             c)   Make recommendations for improvements and revisions in  
               examinations and processes in the program, including  
               recommendations for improving grade level continuity and  
               vertical alignment in the tests, improving the ability to  
               produce scores that are longitudinally comparable,  
               increasing the integration of content from other core  
               curriculum areas into test items, using or developing  


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               diagnostic information on assessments, and developing  
               recommendations regarding alternatives to the current  
               testing format to allow the greatest aggregate base for  
               assessing district-wide performance on content standards;  

             d)   Be provided by the SPI to the Legislature, Governor and  
               State Board of Education (SBE) on or before November 1,  

          2)Requires the advisory committee advising the SPI on matters  
            involving the Academic Performance Index to advise the SPI, as  
            specified, on the evaluation of the STAR Program, and requires  
            the SPI to appoint four additional members, educators or  
            large-scale assessment experts, to the advisory committee for  
            the purposes advising the SPI on the evaluation.

          3)Specifies that federal funds made available under Title VI  
            pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), not  
            to exceed $150,000, be used for this evaluation.

           The Senate amendments  provide additional detail and specificity  
          regarding the evaluation and the information on which the  
          evaluation is required to be based, the analyses that the  
          evaluation is required to include, and the recommendations  
          required to be contained in the evaluation report.

           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.

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

           AS PASSED BY THE ASSEMBLY  , this bill was substantially similar  
          to the version passed by the Senate.


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           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, federal fund costs capped at $150,000 for the STAR  
          Program evaluation.  The Committee notes that the author has  
          worked with the California Department of Education to find ways  
          to narrow the bill's cost while maintaining key components of  
          the evaluation, and that the latest version of the bill is more  
          likely to maintain the $150,000 cap on expenditures than the  
          version originally analyzed in the Senate Appropriations  

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

          The STAR Program, initially authorized in 1997, requires testing  
          of students at specified grade levels in English language arts  
          (grades 2-11), mathematics (grades 2-8 and end of course exams  
          in grades 9-11), science (grades 5, 8, and end of course exams  
          in grades 9-11), and history/social science (grades 8-11) .  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 English language development test are components of  
          the STAR Program; each of those tests is separately authorized  
          in statute.  Results for STAR tests are 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.
          Many elements of the STAR Program are used by California to meet  


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          the assessment and accountability requirements of 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.

          This bill requires an independent evaluation of the STAR  
          Program.  According to the author, this bill "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 twelve years;  
          however, 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 results, but the  
          independence of contractors has been called into question by the  
          California Department of Education and the SBE over the lifetime  
          of the program.  A report by 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 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.


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          During this period of economic and budgetary crisis, the  
          imposition of a requirement for a new one-time evaluation and  
          the cost that it creates is a difficult proposal to consider.   
          However, since the cost of implementing a one-time evaluation of  
          the STAR Program is minimal and constrained to be not more than  
          $150,000, this cost will likely be offset by future savings  
          generated by the evaluation's findings that may allow the  
          Legislature to more efficiently use the state's resources to  
          support the reauthorized testing program. 

          Previous legislation:  SB 1448 (Alpert), Chapter 233, Statutes  
          of 2004, reauthorized the STAR Program.  SB 376 (Alpert),  
          Chapter 828, Statutes of 1997, established the STAR Program and  
          authorized testing in grades 2 through 11.

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Gerald Shelton / ED. / (916) 319-2087

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