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LAUSD Won’t Participate In Statewide Testing For Second Straight Year

Desks spaced six feet apart in a classroom at Panorama High School in the L.A. Unified School District. The nation's second-largest school system hopes to welcome back middle- and high schoolers to campuses in late April.
Desks spaced six feet apart in a classroom at Panorama High School in the L.A. Unified School District. The nation's second-largest school system hopes to welcome back middle- and high schoolers to campuses in late April.
(Kyle Stokes
/
LAist)
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Los Angeles Unified school officials have decided that most students in the state’s largest school district will not take California’s benchmark standardized test this year.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said Thursday that high school juniors will still take the exams. However, the district will not require the tests — known as the Smarter Balanced assessments, or “SBAC” for short — for elementary and middle schoolers, as federal law demands in normal times.

Some advocates have called for using standardized tests in some form to measure whether the pandemic has thrown students off-course academically, and whether some schools fared better than others since last March.

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But after 13 months in distance learning mode, LAUSD students are only now returning to campus with only weeks until summer break. Beutner said there are better uses of this limited amount of classroom time than preparing for the Smarter Balanced exams.

“A summative test that one doesn’t know the result for six more months isn’t very helpful actually in terms of [helping] that student," Beutner said. “Maybe some researcher someday will want to do it and prove what we know — which is that students learn better in a school classroom. That’s why we want them back.

Beutner said LAUSD will continue to administer “interim assessments,” less-formal, lower-stakes check-ins on student progress. Unlike the Smarter Balanced tests, results of these tests are available right away, giving teachers information about a student which they can act on immediately.

THE BACKSTORY: MIXED SIGNALS ABOUT TESTING

This is the second year in a row that LAUSD has skipped the Smarter Balanced exams.

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The decision comes amid mixed signals from state and federal officials about whether statewide tests should proceed this year.

Last year, the pandemic hit right in the middle of the Smarter Balanced testing period, which in California usually spans a few months each spring. In March 2020, the Trump Administration waived the requirement under federal law that schools give the tests every year.

The new Biden Administration has signaled it wants states to resume testing this year. But federal officials have also bent the rules for many states to the point that it’s not clear whether the tests are really required anymore.

For example, California’s waiver from the federal school accountability law says there will be no penalty if not all students participate in the exams for math and English language arts.

“Instead,” a release from the California Department of Education reads, “any data collected will be used to inform local educators, parents, and the public and align resources to student supports."