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Los Angeles Requests Delay in Using New Test Scores for Accountability Purposes

Los Angeles Superintendent Raymond Cortines is asking the state not to use the results from students' performance on new common core-aligned Smarter Balanced tests for high-stakes accountability purposes next spring.

In a Dec. 12 letter to state Education Superintendent Tom Torlakson, Cortines said that while students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 participated in limited Smarter Balanced field-testing last spring, the district did not get the results and has no idea how its students performed—whether they struggled with the content or not, whether they had problems with the tests, or whether they had issues with the technology used during the tests.

Cortines' request was reported by the LA School Report.

"I fully support the transition to the Common Core and the release of  SBAC testing results," Cortines wrote in his letter. "However, I am concerned  that the students, teachers and principals in this district have not had sufficient time to practice the technological skills needed for the test this school year."

The district is asking that the schools, students, and parents still receive the test results, but that they not be used for calculating the academic performance index and other accountability measures for the 2014-15 school year.

Cortines is also asking that the district suffer no adverse consequences in state and federal funds due to the district as a result of any decision to forego the test results for high-stakes accountability purposes.

"While thousands of teachers and administrators are working very hard to prepare our students, we do not feel that students and schools should be penalized for the transition to new standards, new assessments, and new technology," he wrote. "It is paramount that all of our students, teachers and schools have a fair and equitable opportunity to be successful on the new state assessments, and I do not believe that the assessments this spring will be an accurate demonstration of what students have learned nor what our teachers have taught this school year."

Some of Cortines' concerns ring similar to that of another big-city schools chief.

Chicago CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in October asked Illinois state authorities for a one-year delay in the full-scale implementation of the common core-aligned PARCC assessments in her district.

Among the concerns cited were the lack of technology in all schools to accommodate the new computer-based tests; that not all test features were available during the field testing conducted at 10 schools in the spring; and uncertainty over whether the tests provided significant instructional feedback to teachers.

Byrd-Bennett is hoping to expand the field-testing to more schools and students this spring to get better data and feedback.  

Los Angeles' technology issues, particularly those related to the botched roll-out of its 1:1 laptop initiative that eventually led to the ouster of former superintendent John Deasy, have been widely reported.

The LA School Report says that some students still do not have computers—only about 44,000 of the 90,000 devices are in use. And some middle and high school students' parents' have balked at the responsibility (and attendant liability risks) associated with having such expensive equipment at home.

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