On Wednesday, California’s Board of Education acknowledged that more than half of the state’s students in third through eighth and 11th grades failed Common Core math and English tests. The results of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments were announced for the first time, reported The Fresno Bee.
While 51% of girls and 63% of boys failed the Smarter Balanced English tests, 34% of both boys and girls failed the math tests. Michael Kirst, president of the state Board of Education, admitted, “They indicate we have a long way to go. We knew that, and our motto has been ‘patience, persistence and humility,'” according to KCRA. State School Superintendent Tom Torlakson defended the state’s overall performance, telling the Bee, “California is in the process of transforming its schools with increased funding, higher academic standards, more local control and additional support for students and schools with the greatest needs – and this will take time.”
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the scores were even worse: 75% of its students failed the math testing, and 67% failed reading. In Monterey County, approximately one-third of students passed the tests. Even in San Francisco, which had the best results in the state, about half the students failed both tests.
ABC30 in Fresno stated that most of the school districts they contacted said the results were worse than expected, but argued that the math scores fail because of the requirements for more writing and explanation.
Almost all California students, 99%, took the tests, as opposed to New York, where about 20% of third through eighth-graders balked at taking the tests.
The new tests differ from previous tests given by the state, a multiple-choice test that required pencil and paper. The Smarter Balanced exams use tablets and computers and require students to explain the reasoning used to find the answers. If their answer is correct, they are given a harder question. Boasting of the new tests, Kirst said, “It’s like no test you probably ever took as a parent. It’s a dawn of a new era.”
Yet the results reveal a differential among races and income classes that caused concern for some. Among blacks, 72% failed the English tests; among Latinos, 68% failed. As for the math tests, 84% of blacks failed, as did 79% of Latinos. Of English-learner students, 89% failed the math tests. Low-income students also did not do well, with 79% failing the math assessments.
Ryan Smith, executive director of Ed Trust-West, moaned, “If anything this underscores the need to continue to focus on equity and the importance of having Common Core to get our students college and career ready. We’ll need to continue to focus on implementation in order to narrow the gaps we’re seeing.”
LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines protested, “This is not a time to be pleased or displeased with the results. These assessments provide a roadmap for how we can better prepare our students to be college-prepared and career ready.”