California adopted the NGSS science standards and has been teaching them for the entire 2016-17 school year. California education officials submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Education asking for a waiver from federal testing laws so they could begin giving students a new statewide science exam based on the NGSS standards...what the students were learning in their classrooms. The U.S. Department of Education formally rejected that request last week, ruling that California Department of Education leaders will be breaking federal law if they move forward with their current plans to administer the new tests this spring. The US DOE also says California will not be able to determine whether student achievement in science is improving by administering the new tests.
In order to comply with federal laws, California would be required to give students its old science tests that are based on their old standards written in 1998. Since they would be testing against what is no longer being taught, one has to wonder exactly what this test data would represent in terms of student learning. The dilemma, and challenge, for any state that adopts new standards is to find a meaningful bridge between test data collected against one set of standards, to test data collected against a new set of standards. Because all states adopt new standards, they are likely watching to see how California addresses this issue with the US DOE.
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By: Larry Johnson