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LAUSD asks to postpone student test scores, so what's next?



Third-grader Natalia Gonzalez raises her hand as students take quizzes during a computer lab session in 2013.
Third-grader Natalia Gonzalez raises her hand as students take quizzes during a computer lab session in 2013.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A decision on Los Angeles Unified School District's request that the state postpone use of test scores from this spring’s planned standardized exams may not come until March.

The state Board of Education is meeting this week, and members are talking about the Smarter Balanced exams, California’s new, computerized math and reading tests based on so-called Common Core standards that measure skills like critical thinking. 

But LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines and the school board expressed concerns that district students haven't had enough time to prepare. Students would take the tests on new tablets and laptops, and officials worry that they haven't sufficiently practiced on the new devices.

Because of these issues, Cortines asked state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in December not to use the spring test scores to measure academic progress. On Tuesday, the LAUSD board passed a resolution that backs the request and asks for relief.

“I am concerned that many of our students' lack of familiarity with the technology, testing platform and keyboarding skills will negatively impact their scores through absolutely no fault of the student, teacher, or school,” board member Monica Ratliff said in a statement. 

If the request for a delay is granted, it would be the second year in a row that test scores would not be used to gauge academic performance. Parents may still receive their students' individual scores, but the tests results would not count for such purposes as setting funding levels based on academic progress.

“I think this really puts the ball in the court of the state Board of Education," said Louis Freedberg, executive director of the research and analysis group EdSource. "When the largest school district in the state by far makes that kind of request, that is something that the state board is going to have to take really seriously.” 

The decision whether to suspend use of the scores wouldn’t come until the board’s March meeting, Freedberg said.

"They will have to make some kind of decision in March because these tests are going to be administered basically in March through June. So time is running out in terms of making this decision," he said.

Thousands of California students took portions of a pilot test based on the new exams in spring 2014. Results from those tests were not revealed to educators or the public.

Education researchers said the state will eventually need some results to serve as a foundation for tracking progress. First results are likely to be low, Freedberg said, given that students may be unfamiliar with the new concepts being measured. But he said that's OK.

“One might as well bite the bullet, go ahead. This is just going to be a baseline, and schools will have an opportunity to improve going forward, so you’re just postponing the inevitable," Freedberg said.