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California Kids will Get a Head Start on This Important New Exam

Education tests 300x219 California Kids will Get a Head Start on This Important New ExamBy Kimberly Hefling

WASHINGTON — What’s on the new Common Core-based exams? More than 4 million kids in U.S. schools soon will have a clue.

Field testing begins in 36 states and the District of Columbia on assessments developed by two different groups of states. Participating students will be asked to sit for hours in front of a computer or use a No. 2 pencil to answer questions.

But there’s no need for kids to worry. The scores won’t count, this time. The actual exam-testing won’t be used for another year.

The Common Core standards spell out what math and English skills students should have at each grade, and are designed to develop more critical thinking skills than traditional school work. They were first pushed by governors concerned about the large number of high school graduates needing remedial college help and lacking basic skills. Most states have adopted them.

The field tests, to be conducted until June, are a big step forward in the push to more fully integrate the new academic standards into the school environment. They will give education officials a chance to judge things such as the quality of each test question and the technical capabilities of schools to administer the tests, which are computer-based but also will be available on paper. But they also come as the standards face political push-back in many states.

Common Core supporters hope the field tests provide an opportunity to highlight the best of Common Core.

“There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of planning and it’s actually happening, which I think generates some excitement and some reality, if you will, for the fact that this is moving ahead,” said Jeffrey Nellhaus, director of research, policy and design with the consortium Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Some students are participating in both the field test and taking a state exam. In response, the Education Department gave California permission to just give the field tests to all students in third- to eighth-grades, meaning they won’t be given the state assessment this year. Similar permission was given to other states, including Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota, according to the Education Department.

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